There is a war going on in South Philadelphia. Traditionally Italian neighborhoods, known for their sausage, priscuitto and tragic Philly sports fanaticism, are being invaded by skinny jean-clad leaf eating art students. The two camps don’t agree on much, but we think we have found a sandwich that can satisfy both sides at the negotiating table.
Chickie’s is an old school South Philly hoagie shop–not the kind of place that might spring to mind when thinking about vegetarian cuisine. Chickie’s does make a mean traditional Italian hoagie loaded with cured, salty, fatty goodness, but they also make what might be the best vegetarian sandwich in town. Their Original Veggie Hoagie is good enough that even self proclaimed carnivores make exceptions for it.
Let’s break this bad boy down. It all starts with a Sarcone’s roll–without a doubt the finest foundation for a hoagie. On the bottom side of the roll, we’ve got two slices of baked eggplant, brushed with a tomato paste of some kind and seasoned with breadcrumbs and spices. The flesh is soft, but the skin adds a bit of heartiness. Layered on top of the eggplant is a generous portion of garlicky sauteed broccoli rabe that makes up the bulk of a the sandwich. The other side of the roll has roasted red peppers, which add some wetness and lighten the flavor. In between the two sides is a helping of shredded sharp provolone. A smattering of herbs tops it off.
Chickie’s is the only hoagie shop we’ve been to that uses shredded provolone rather than sliced, and it works well with this sandwich. The shreds burrow into the pile of greens and nestle between the peppers, which allows the sharpness and flavor of the cheese to meld with the veggies. Combined with all the other spices and ingredients, the sandwich has great flavor and texture. This is a sandwich that can put an end to the South Philly culture wars.