Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hoagie Hut - Bridgewater New Jersey

Hoagies, Subs, Grinders, Heros... there are many names, but they all translate to "really big sandwich." New Jersey is one of those places that has a long tradition of great hoagies/subs/whatever. The New Jersey style hoagie has a few distinguishing features- but they are probably not all that unfamiliar to people from other areas.

There are many examples of memorable subs/hoagies in New Jersey. The key is to find a sub shop that the locals flock to- they'll usually have a fairly long line and do brisk business, especially around lunch time. The best example of a New Jersey style sub shop in my local area is the Hoagie Hut in Bridgewater, New Jersey. They feature a selection of traditional Italian deli meats, fresh bread, and sandwiches of intimidating size.

My wife and I split a "#2" - Ham, Cappicola, and Provolone with lettuce, tomato, onion, with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and oregano.  This is pretty much a model Jersey sub- Italian cold cuts, good bread, and a salad all rolled into one. The cold cuts are good quality, and the bread is fresh, and the simple toppings hit the spot. The bread is one of the more important components- you need a bread with a chewy crust and a soft interior- Hoagie Hut gets it right- according to their website, they order their bread fresh daily- I'd be more impressed if they baked it themselves on premises- however, the bread they use is still on the money.

The real secret, and defining characteristic of the Jersey sub isn't in the bread, or even in the meats. It's all about the toppings and dressings. The shredded lettuce and tomato are important players, but the one that really shines are the onions- red onions to be specific- sliced thin. When you combine the oil and vinegar dressing, something wonderful happens- the dressing draws out the salt, pepper, and oregano flavors, and infuses them into everything it touches. When the onions are sliced thin, the dressing can penetrate them, and, if given enough time, will begin to pickle them slightly.  This is why I usually prefer to take my subs home rather than eat them on the spot- the longer the sandwich stays wrapped, the more time the dressing has to marinade the sub. The edges of the bread will probably get a little soggy, but that's part of the charm.

The Hoagie Hut's "#2" sub passed the ultimate test- after packing away just half of this over-sized monstrosity- I needed a nap. That's one of the hallmarks of a good comfort food in my book.

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