You will find excellent sub sandwiches in and around Philadelphia as well as in other locations throughout the Northeast, but once you’ve dined at The White House Sub Shop, everything else seems second best. Ingredients range from fancy white tuna fish to meatballs and sauce to the classic Philly cheese steak configuration. The signature “White House Special” is a tide of cold cuts — Genoa salami, ham, capicola, and provolone cheese — all tightly packed inside a long loaf, lubricated with olive oil, decorated with lettuce and bits of sweet pepper.
The ingredients are excellent, but submarine connoisseurs know that it’s what’s outside that counts. White House bread, obtained throughout the day from local bakeries, is robust and soulful, not nearly as dainty as the loaves used to make po-boys in the South, but similar to what’s used for Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago.
Like the cheese steak shops of Philadelphia, the White House likes to boast of a stellar clientele. Pictures of celebrity customers line the walls, inscribed with praise for the excellence of the cuisine. News clippings tell of the time the astronauts came to eat down subs, and of Frank Sinatra once having a bunch of them shipped from New Jersey to a movie location. For all its stardust, the White House remains a humble Naugahyde-and-neon sandwich shop with a row of booths along the wall and a counter up front. The lighting is harsh, the napkins are paper, and the service is lightning fast: it would be a sin to sell subs any other way.