Last week a brand new eatery called Dave’s Hoagies opened in New York’s financial district (aka FiDi). Dave’s is not a steak shop, and it’s not a deli that makes all kinds of sandwiches. At Dave’s Hoagies the only kind of sandwiches they make are…oh, you must be psychic. They also offer a limited selection of the world’s finest pastries, sometimes known as Tastykakes.
South Jersey (Bridgeton) native Dave Bagan first lived in New York when he was attending Brooklyn Law School. He was a practicing attorney for a few years after graduating, and then spent 11 years as a trader, most recently on the floor at Deutsche Bank on Wall Street, about a two-minute walk from where Bagan opened his shop.
If you’re not looking for Dave’s Hoagies, you won’t find it. And even if you are looking for it, you still might not find it. “Nestled” under a web of scaffolding (there’s no sign), the shop occupies all of 700 square feet on the narrow, almost alley-like, Cedar Street–a one-block affair wedged between Pearl Street and William. Look up to the left, and you’ll see the towering headquarters of Chase Morgan Bank.
Bagan said that while he was working at Deutsche Bank, he noticed the lack of high quality sandwiches that were available for lunch. “When I left Deutsche Bank in 2011, I knew there was a glaring hole here, and I knew the time was right to open up a shop.”
After spending more than a month scouring the narrow, sun-starved streets around Wall Street, he found his spot in a boarded-up space next to an Indian restaurant (which is next to a Chinese takeoutery, which is next to Koyzina, a popular lunch spot). There wasn’t even a For Sale or Rent sign there, but Bagan had a hunch about it. He turned out to be right, but the space had to be gutted. “The interior mirrored the exterior,” he said.
Already, Dave’s Hoagies has received good press in New York, from Grubstreet and
Gothamist, which wrote:
The size of the hoagies may surprise some Philadelphians expecting the footlong meat-warheads pushed by many shops down in PA. But while Dave’s rolls only run about eight inches, they are so packed to the gills with high-quality ingredients that we were left completely satisfied.
Comparisons to Philly are one thing, but Bagan is put off by comparisons to the slightly more ubiquitous Subway chain. “Our price points are completely different,” he said. “There’s a reason for that. We’re focused on quality and making food that we’d want to eat ourselves. All of our produce is sliced daily…if there’s any leftover onions or tomatoes at the end of the day, we throw them away. I don’t want to serve anything that’s not fresh.”
Having grown up on real Philadelphia hoagies, he knew the importance of finding a good source for his rolls, one that would deliver fresh bread every day. He contacted the usual suspects of well known hoagie roll bakers in Philly, but when he told them that he wanted them to deliver to New York, “they laughed.” Bagan noted that “a lot of people here advertise that they get their bread from Philadelphia baked fresh daily. That means it’s par-baked, which means they get it delivered 85 percent baked, and they finish baking it in their stores. I had a hoagie one time on a par-baked roll; when I bit into it, it was still under-cooked. That’s when I decided it was essential to get my rolls baked in New York.” Eventually Bagan found Parisi Bakery in Little Italy. They provide him with fresh-baked rolls that Gothamist describes as “the perfect blend of doughy and crunchy.”
As part of his marketing effort, Bagan has primed the pump by sending trays of hoagies to the trading floors at several financial institutions. All cooped up, forced to wear expensive designer suits, and in some cases earning barely a $1 million a year, these poor souls are unable to go out for lunch and have taken the bait. They now order in from Dave’s Hoagies. The word has also gotten out to “a surprisingly high” number of Philadelphia expats who have put their GPS’s to the test and found their way to 26 Cedar Street.
Bagan lives in Greenwich Village with his wife and daughter. When he visits Philadelphia he likes to get his hoagies at Sarcone’s or at Salumeria. He hopes to have a second shop opened “within the next couple months” and is eyeing locations in Lower Manhattan and Midtown.
The author of this post had a Dave’s Hoagie for lunch yesterday and found it to be delicious, especially the roll.