Secret stuff is always fun. And though House of Hoagie won’t be secret for long, you have to find it first.
We’ll give you a hand; this new sandwich kitchen is working out of what is basically a tiny cupboard in Mala, the ‘secret garden’ bar on Dale Street, the one with the trees growing out of it.
Run by chef Dom Horsfield and Steph Dawson, the pair met while working together at Hawksmoor, but are veterans of the Manchester food scene, working everywhere from Tattu to Evelyn’s.
You may already know some of their output – they also run House of Bun, the runaway hit burger spot at the buzzy Radcliffe Market.
“It’s a boring lockdown story,” Dom jokes. “The same as everyone else. We were at Hawksmoor, lockdown happened and we didn’t have a job, so we had to make one. We looked around the area, and we thought ‘what does this area need?’”
“A really banging burger,” Steph jumps in.
Setting up in a mate’s cafe, the burger business took off quickly. And now with an established team slinging patties at the North Manchester foodie hotspot, they were looking for a new project and the humble hoagie fitted the bill.
These are heavyweight subs, all with a classic US leaning. The ‘Chopped Cheese’, something you see plenty stateside but are hard to find on this side of the pond, lends itself to their previous incarnation.
They use their burger patty recipe – blended by celebrated butchers Littlewoods – and flatten it on the griddle, before chopping in burger cheese, peppers and onions, and loading it into the soft subs, supplied by local heroes the Bread Factory.
For the ‘Manny Cheesesteak’, a take on the Philly standard, they got Littlewoods to slice strips of steak as thinly as they possibly could. It’s then flashed on the griddle for 20 seconds with their own ‘Cheez Whiz’ style sauce, the processed US cheese generally used for the purpose of glueing Philly cheesesteaks together.
Their ‘Buff & Blue’ is a fried chicken thigh, marinated overnight in buttermilk before being dredged in flour seasoned with the legendary Old Bay, and then rolled around in classic Frank’s buffalo sauce.
Their take on the po’boy finds a homemade tartare sauce cuddling up with fried shrimp and more house sauce, the veggie po’boy using deeply savoury fried shards of oyster mushroom.
Do not, however, sleep on the ‘Cold Cuts’. Tony Soprano and Paulie Walnuts would be all over this like a flannel – lomo, bresaola and mortadella, with homemade pesto, homemade pickled vegetables, mozzarella and some garlic oil on the finish.
The little touches are the thing – on the ‘cold cuts’, there’s a layer of dressed parsley and tiny capers for little bursts of acidity. On the Manny Cheesesteak, the creamy cheese sauce is complemented with a reduced beef stock, giving it ‘french dip’ vibe but without the risk of getting gravy down your top.
Fries, meanwhile, are waffle style and come either straight up, cajun spiced or covered in that cheez whiz-style sauce, jalapeno relish and bacon bits.
These are some sandwiches, though meat from Littlewoods, Italian imported charcuterie, home pickling, beef stock gravies and homemade tartare sauces come at a price. The po’boy will set you back nearly £16.
Though they’re big – eat one yourself and you’ll be off to bed for the afternoon, and you could easily split one between two – that’s a premium price tag.
“They’re really good ingredients, and the price just follows that,” says Steph. “It’s hard, you can’t explain that to every single person, but hopefully people get that.”
House of Hoagie is open now, 12pm to 10pm, Wednesday to Sunday at Mala