Image: It may not look pretty, but it sure looks good!
Last Updated: August 2022
Current Status: Currently doing a take-out window with service from the sidewalk, though you can sit on Ozio’s patio. Note: they are closed Mondays.
This tiny shop makes Philadelphia-style hoagies, cheesesteaks, and other lunch items with an extraordinary level of care, placing it in an elite category for the District. There are a few reasons why it stands apart. First, unlike many sandwich shops, Bub & Pop’s has a head chef. Second, it is a family-run operation with all the charm, attention, and idiosyncrasies that go with it. Third, and a consequence of the first two things, they take pride in the product, using the best ingredients and preparing many things in-house. There are several shops that do a decent “cold-cuts-on-good-bread” around town, but this shop is in a different category.
Traditional sandwiches, like an Italian hoagie, roast turkey, roast beef, and tuna, make up the core of the menu. The standard versions generally come loaded with mayo, Provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, two kinds of peppers, pickles, vinaigrette and a sprinkling of Pecorino Romano. Do not wait too long to eat it, as the moisture of the toppings will start to work on the bread. A half sandwich is a meal, a “full” size is a commitment. Consistent with the family’s Philadelphia roots, they offer cheesesteaks (beef or chicken), and a roast pork with broccoli rabe. They also have vegetarian cheese-only options, salads, and soups. Sides like pickles and fries are available. Beverages are straight-forward, though when they are open for sit-down inside beer and wine is served.
They opened in 2013, with co-owner Arlene Wagner working the counter, and her son, Jonathan Taub as head chef. Bub and Pop’s is named for Wagner’s parents, who ran a grocery and deli in West Philadelphia. Taub is a classicly-trained chef who did stints at Art & Soul (before Art left) and Alain Ducasse’s Adour. In the Before Times, he started doing special tasting menu dinners to show of that side of his repertoire, and it looks like they might pop up again from time to time. This is not only one of the idiosyncratic things, but the fine dining approach carries over to casual. The Post review from 2014 notes, “Taub braises his own briskets, roasts his own porchetta, forms his own meatballs, whips up his own mayonnaise, fries his own addictive chips (complete with custom-made French onion dip, which I would lick off the sidewalk if necessary), pickles his own vegetables (the terrific kiwi with Napa cabbage faces East for inspiration) and bakes his own desserts. For bread, he worked with Lyon Bakery to develop a roll that delivers more flavor than your standard squishy Philly loaf.”
The personal nature of the place is clear in other ways. Most poignantly, there is space set aside to honor Arlene’s son Peter who died while serving with the Air Force in Afghanistan. He is also honored by his brother with “The Hebrew Hammer” sandwich. They closed their doors when Arlene’s mother, and the restaurant’s namesake, Bub passed away. They have been very cautious and protective of staff during Covid.
There is a pugnacious side to the shop too. It took on GrubHub for delivery fees. It engaged in a slightly joking spat with Washingtonian for not naming them in the Top 100 restaurants pre-2020 by claiming to be #101. For those of us who have spent time in Philly, it is not only the sandwiches that may induce nostalgia.
Washington City Paper: Best Sandwich Shop Readers’ Poll 2021. Laura Hayes put the Philly Special (pork) sandwich on one of her best sandwich lists (how could she not!?). Taub talked in this piece about staffing issues.
They have been featured on the Food Network.