Question: I'm heading down the Shore this weekend, and I'm thinking about lunch. Do you have any favorite sandwiches at the beach we can't miss?
Craig LaBan: The Jersey Shore is one of my favorite places to eat sandwiches in the entire region. It's the unique character, not simply because Shore places tend to call their hoagies "subs" (like most of the rest of America, in fact). It's also because of that stellar bread from Atlantic City's two legendary old Italian bakeries, A. Rando and Formica, which produce flavorful, long rolls with an unvarnished crust and one long cut that rides the length of the loaf like a cresting wave.
Old-timers rightfully praise the sandwiches at the 72-year-old White House Sub Shop (2301 Arctic Ave., Atlantic City), where the rolls are delivered warm multiple times a day from Formica across the street, and the cooks stuff their sandwiches with all the meats and cheese curled into a distinctive "S" that adds pockets of air for flavor. The White House's steak sandwich is also as good as you'll get at the Shore. (Even so, good luck detouring me from Pancho's Mexican Taqueria right next door, which happens to make one of the best tacos al pastor at the Shore. But I digress … there's time for them both.)
As a regular summer vacationer to Ocean City, I'm just as partial to the subs from the classic Italian takeout shop Voltaco's (957 West Ave., Ocean City), which uses bread from the 109-year-old A. Rando bakery and lots of oregano and pepper spread for its classic Italians. When I'm feeling "healthy," I go for the vegetarian Uncle Charlie hot hoagie stuffed with garlicky greens, peppers, and sharp provolone at the Sandwich Bar farther south down the Ocean City beach at 3255 Asbury Ave., where the lobster rolls are also legit.
For more retro comfort, the Sloppy Joe at Brown's Restaurant (110 Boardwalk) at the northern end of the beach has a secret seasoning we always try – but fail – to replicate when we go home.
The same could be said for the seemingly simple pleasure of the famous tuna at Dino's Sub & Pizza Shop (8016 Ventnor Ave.) in Margate. There is something so elusively good about the whipped tuna salad there that it's shipped to fans around the country. The real secret to the sub, though, is the crushed potato chips that line the bottom channel of the roll, just below the lettuce and tomato, resulting in crunchy, creamy tuna perfection.
Classics elsewhere at the Shore? Pop by the Holiday Snack Bar in Beach Haven (401 Centre St.) on LBI for the house-pattied burgers spread with freshly made Russian dressing and topped with crispy onion rings, but also a BLT so fresh that the bacon is still warm. (Dessert from their center shelf shrine to pies and cakes cannot be denied, so order a towering slice of the Lady Lord Baltimore.)
For something completely modern, yet still steeped in a genuine Shore swagger, visit Tony Baloney's in Atlantic City (300 Oriental Ave.). Tony's offers dozens of creative riffs that take old familiar flavors to the unexpected with scratch-cooked ingredients and a sense of humor – such as the mezcal-marinated Olé steak sandwich, or the "Shoobie" fried chicken cutlet with buttermilk ranch, bacon and mozzarella that's hand-pulled in house, or the fresh sausage sandwiches, the multiple vegan options, the "Indian Club," or Mexican-inspired brisket that roasts for eight hours in mole.
Lunch at the Shore – with these sandwich options – should never, ever be boring.