College is a time of discovery, personal growth, and humiliating Dean Wormer. But what the hell is going to fuel all those things? Fortunately for students, a dizzying array of sandwich purveyors set up shop right on (or close to) campus in order to sate the need for gargantuan portions of meat and cheese and other stuff piled between two slices of bread. And, to honor these bastions of bulk, we talked to everyone we've ever known who went to college, and put together a definitive list of the best ones out there that you Otter visit:
You gotta get: Any "Fat" sandwich
Truly a place where sandwich dreams can come true, PJ’s Grill at (the) Ohio State University is the kind of joint you go to when you want a corn dog, Buffalo chicken tenders, “beer fries”, or potato skins between two buns. Their entire menu is a gut-busting blend of traditional combos and the purest, most calorie-laden greasy awesomeness ever to fall under the moniker of “Fat ______”.
You gotta get: The Autumn Sky
The main stop for anyone who lives even remotely close to Collegetown, this place serves practically every need you have, from breakfast bagels (get the Mexican) to somewhere from 30-40 different sandwiches, to pitchers of craft beer and sangria for enjoying in the, like, two months during the school year it's nice enough to be on the patio. Almost everything is mouthwateringly good, but you have to try the Autumn Sky, which is the perfect blend of sharp, tangy, and sweet with smoked turkey breast topped with bacon, spinach, apples, cheddar, and whole grain mustard on sourdough.
SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY
You gotta get: The Matt Cain
With an eclectic mix of influences that manifest in offerings like halal chicken, vegan meatballs, and ribeye with beer-battered onion rings, Ike’s Place in Santa Clara’s got a bunch of sandwiches named after football players who ostensibly have hefty appetites, because these sandies are enormous. Get pretty much anything (but especially the Matt Cain, with horseradish Dijon mayo, provolone, roast beef, salami, and turkey) on their Dutch crunch bread, and you’ll be in fatty heaven.
Cheese 'n' Stuff
You gotta get: Roast beef on Dutch crunch bread
Walls adorned with pictures of Cal athletes. 70 rules (like “no poking”) you must abide by within the shop. That’s just life at Cheese ‘n’ Stuff, presided over by local legend Sam Juha, who’s been adored by students and locals since he opened the place and started shilling out $4 sandwiches with fresh deli meats, bread, and toppings 27yrs ago. Find it tucked away inside a strip mall and settle into your food coma right.
You gotta get: The Fat Darrell
Some people joke that the Grease Trucks are the only reason they went to Rutgers. These people are not fools (but they might be missing the point of a four-year university) -- the 30-odd trucks that used to circle up on College Avenue (and have now moved to a new location) have been a meeting place for Rutgers students since the ‘80s, and serve up hundreds of iterations of stuffed sandwiches with every possible combination of meats, sauces, and other accoutrements, all named with the formula “Fat _____”. There’s really no guesswork involved in this one.
You gotta get: The Veggie sub
In Columbia, an unassuming white brick exterior belies a glorious comfort food haven where even the ostensibly healthy “Veggie” sandwich is piled high with cheese, mayo, and toasted to a buttery crispness. Their menu isn’t quite as prolific as some of the other joints on this list, but they make up for that fact by cooking every single one of their options to perfection. Generations of Mizzou alums have passed through here, and it looks much the same way as it did back in the '70s.
You gotta get: The gyro
Some of the best gyros in North America are on OU's Campus Corner, where a family of Greek immigrants started making deliciously greasy pita sandwiches for exchange students 40yrs ago. Naturally, the rest of the school figured out that they a) are not just for fraternity and sorority people, and b) are an absolute godsend when hungover. Now, even getting a seat at the Norman, OK staple's a victory in itself.
You gotta get: Garlic herb roast beef
Opened just North of campus in 2006 before immediately becoming too big for its britches, Fricano's now occupies a price piece of property within stumbling distance from both frat houses and freshmen dorms. The generously stacked meat is all Boar's Head, the vibe is as laid back as that one English professor you had who casually cursed a lot, and the employees seem to actually care how terribly your test went.
UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
You gotta get: The White Widow
Cheba Hut may be a chain, but the joint at the University of Arizona has been open the longest of any of its franchises, probably due to the fact that it has a steady stream of highly dedicated patrons who continue to flock there for gigantic chicken subs smothered in ranch dressing and bacon, as well as hemp cream cheese. There’s usually a line out the door, but you can surely find something recreational to do while you wait.
You gotta get: The Bradshaw; the Hammerin' Hank
It may be a tiny bit of a schlep from campus, but Legends Cafe is one of the select few local shops that delivers to Skidmore students -- although making the trek is highly worth it for their Hollywood star-named sandwiches and wraps, which just add to the joint’s dramatic mystique. The bread is fresh baked and inviting, and it's lavished with toppings like chicken cutlet, fresh mozzarella, and mushroom marsala sauce. And out in the boonies of Saratoga Springs, it’s an oasis of comforting familiarity.
Are U Hungry
You gotta get: The Fat Buffalo
Feeding the hungry hordes of Penn State is quite a feat, but Are U Hungry (another vendor of fine “Fat” sandwiches located in State College) has got it down to a science. When you enter through its doors, you can put any notion of healthiness out the window and just embrace the fact that this is neither a pre-game or a post-game spot -- it simply is THE GAME.
You gotta get: Pastrami w/ French fries
Primanti Bros. is a Pittsburgh institution, and these days is almost synonymous with the word “sandwich” due to the incredible reputation forged by their combinations of grilled meat, Italian cole slaw, tomato, and French fries. This legendary food alliance has attracted droves of Pitt students over the years, who flock to the Bros. at all times of day to stave off their munchies.
You gotta get: The Doctor
In the basement of the Castle (oh yeah, BU has a castle) way over on Bay State, tucked a few blocks away from the craziness of the main campus, sits the BU Pub. The only people who can get in are faculty, staff, alums, and current students over 21, and you just kind of feel cool and smart and handsome and clever every time you’re admitted. And that’s BEFORE you try their damn affordable, delicious sandwiches, like our personal favorites, the Failure (turkey, ham, bacon, cheddar, and hot sauce) and the turkey, bacon, cheddar, cranberry sauce, and pub spread-slathered Doctor.
Erbert & Gerberts
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
Erbert & Gerbert's
You gotta get: The Narmer
One of many locations of Erbert & Gerbert's in the Midwest, this one’s set apart by the fact that it delivers the chain’s signature fresh-baked Italian loaf sandwiches anywhere on campus, to the school’s over 50,000 students. Order the Narmer and you really can’t go wrong.
Essie's Original Hot Dog Shop
You gotta get: Chicken Parm sandwich
“The O”, as locals call it (better known as “the Dirty O”), doesn’t just serve up hot dogs (although those are pretty boss, too) -- it’s a fluorescent-lit shrine to huge, fill-you-up sandwiches like chicken Parms and cheesesteaks served with gigantic portions of French fries. Many CMU/Pitt students depend on it for a steady stream of subs, and, in the Summer months, it operates a take-away service that hocks six-packs of beer. Pretty much one-stop shopping at its finest.
SEWANEE: THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH
You gotta get: Skinny Bob's Meat Melt
This quick-service grill opened in 1974 in a blue, ramshackle 19th century building. (The structure actually leaned so far sideways that, until a renovation in 2010, it was held up by steel cables and the front door required an extra kick to actually open.) For most of its recent history, Shenanigans was also the only bar in the tiny college town -- the student body maxes out below 1,500 -- and students and teachers spent hours lounging on its front porch and squeezed onto its long, wooden benches inside sipping pitchers of beer from Mason jars. After 2yrs with its doors locked, the grill reopened in February, and is once again serving favorites like Skinny Bob’s Meat Melt (a whopping serving of roast beef, turkey, ham, Swiss, cheddar, and onions sandwiched between two buttered and griddled slices of bread) and the Griller’s Challenge -- an order that relies entirely on the griller’s imagination, and when the griller is a college student serving his friends, the sandwiches can become pretty inventive.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
You gotta get: Jon & Amy’s Double Dip
Yes, it is expensive for a college student. And yes, Maize and Blue is closer to campus, and still pretty damn delicious. But how many other campuses are in close proximity to a deli serving up world renowned, award-winning deli meats, and breads, and pickles? And how many of said delis have gone on to spawn a roadhouse, a bakeshop, and a damn creamery? If you’re visiting for the first time, it’s usually a good idea to get their famous Reuben, or you can damn the norm, and get the delicious double dip, with both corned beef and pastrami, Switzerland Swiss & Wisconsin muenster, and hot & regular mustard on pumpernickel & rye.
UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE
Newark Deli & Bagels
You gotta get: Egg and cheese with bacon on an everything bagel
When a bagel shop is located steps from the dorms, there's gonna be lines come Saturday and Sunday morning if your shop is worth anything. The lines here often snake through the entire restaurant, the hungry, sweatpants'd hordes clamoring for what are easily the best bagels in the state. Whether you get yours slathered in veggie or scallion cream cheese, or topped with an egg and cheese, you can't go wrong.
New York Sub
SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY
New York Sub
You gotta get: Anything with dressing
There are plenty of sub places in Dallas, but what sets New York Sub apart from the pack is the OV sauce (called “dressing”, it’s a mix of olive oil and vinegar that they’ve perfected over the years) that drenches all the enormous Italian sandwiches, and the fact that this place is super-inexpensive. Think $4.45 for a large sub, plus the addition of Fritos (which here refers to pretty much any type of chips) for about a dollar more.
You gotta get: The Drexel
It takes a rare sandwich joint to effectively and generously serve TWO huge student bodies -- in this case the double-headed beast of Drexel and UPenn -- but Koch’s Deli does just that, and they’ll remember you (and your order) forever if you talk to them even once. Their Jewish deli sandwiches are stuffed with approximately 45lbs of meat apiece, and feature some innovative combinations (potato salad and pastrami, anyone?) always dished out with a side of Borscht Belt humor.
Half Fast Subs
Half Fast Subs
You gotta get: Buff Chicken (chicken tenders, wing sauce, onions, Swiss, celery, blue cheese)
Located in the dumpy student neighborhood of normally picturesque Boulder, Half Fast is crawling with broke 21-year-olds staring up at the gigantic sandwich menu with nearly 100 delicious options. The menu offers everything from cheesesteaks to an incredible and varied vegetarian section that even carnivores pilfer from, and all sandwiches comes on bread so flaky and deliciously chewy that you wonder how they're able to import it so cheaply from heaven. To top it all off, they're open late, have a full bar, and, if you walk in with 10 bucks, you can walk out feeling full.
Lou & Harry's
Lou & Harry's Sports Grill
You gotta get: The sirloin steak sandwich
Lou & Harry's Five-Star Deli might have closed, but the place's signature, colossal sandwiches have remained, including the Mile-High Reuben, the loaded gyro, and E.L.'s best steak sandwich. It's a gigantic pile of charred sirloin stacked on a bun full of caramelized onions, aioli, and gouda that requires considerable strength to lift. Eating it is a much more sensible way to keep warm in the Winter than torching a cop car.
You gotta get: The Spicy TKO
Going to Chicken Lou’s is a rite of passage for many Northeastern students, who go there to challenge themselves by eating food coma-inducing sandwiches called the “Sex” (sausage, egg & cheese) and the “Cholesterol” (bacon, egg & cheese). But the undisputed king of all Chicken Lou’s sandwiches is the TKO (chicken, Swiss cheese, bacon, honey mustard), which you can make spicy and side with their legendary spicy fries. NU alums keep going back year after year, too, and the staff there never forget a face. Just don’t get upset when they reminisce to your family about all that Sex you had.
Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
UNC CHAPEL HILL
Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
You gotta get: Fried chicken biscuit
A drive-through chicken biscuit emporium boasting lines of cars so long they make apocalyptic movie highway scenes jealous, Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen’s got incredible fried chicken (or other meats) tucked between every possible iteration of flaky biscuits, cheese, and gravy. Real aficionados know that you don’t need a car, however, to access their secret door, through which bomb-ass take-away biscuits are peddled. The sweet tea can’t be beat, either.
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
You gotta get: The Chris Long
Plopped square in the middle of The Corner (or as your parents embarrassingly called it during Parents Weekend first year: "that main strip sort of across from the back of the hospital"), LJ's beats healthier Take-It-Away with pure fatness, and White Spot with less-chaotic, faster-moving lines after closing time. Try the Chris Long -- a footlong, steak-piled monster named for Howie's son, a now-pro UVA football star who definitely never had as much trouble getting through it as you will.
Village Cheese House
You gotta get: The Old Fashioned
Nestled into a corner of the ever-gentrifying Town & Country Village, the Cheese House has been a legend for Stanford students since 1959, when the Staehnke family opened it up. The move here is to get the “Old Fashioned” -- a double decker sandwich layered with the meat of your choice, pickles, Swiss, and their tangy, famous, cultish Original spread. Then grab some Haribo gummies on the way out JUST BECAUSE THEY’RE THERE.
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
You gotta get: The steak bomb
Terrapins swear by this greasy spoon, which doesn’t only serve pizza; it’s also got incredible hot subs (especially the steak bomb and the chicken Parm), calzones, and wings. Beer pretty much makes up the entirety of its decor, and pairs well with basically any of their sandwiches, all served up until 3:30am on weekends.
You gotta get: The döner kebab
Founded by two alumni (neither of whom are Barack Obama), Spitz is a Mediterranean joint where the doner kebab is king -- succulent strips of beef & lamb inside a pita with lettuce, tomato, tzatziki, chili sauce, tomato, and peppers. There’s a reason why it’s the unofficial drunk food of Europe, and that’s the same reason that keeps Occidental students coming back year after year.
You gotta get: The Flicky D
It may not be located near a huge public university, but the Prime Deli, located in a dingy strip mall adjacent to Brandeis University, more than satisfies the appetites of hungry college students with its dozens of menu boards that barely contain lists of sandwiches containing every ingredient under the sun. The Flicky D, especially, is an unholy, but delicious combination of grilled chicken, bacon, ham, salami, pineapple, lettuce, tomatoes, hot peppers, and ranch dressing. This is also one of the only places that sells "Brandeis Football" jerseys, despite the fact that the school does not have a football team. They know what's up.
You gotta get: The Mac Daddy
Being in a town where the other late-night options include driving to a diner on Route 1 or getting a homestyle roast beef from Wawa (also great!), HH didn't have to be as good as it is, but it somehow manages to pump out endless numbers of top-notch subs, whether it's the #1 with oil, vinegar, and spices, the pizza cheesesteak, or one of the newer "fat" sandwich additions like the Mac Daddy -- a bacon cheeseburger hoagie with mac & cheese wedges, fries, and hot sauce -- this place deserves its cult reputation.
You gotta get: The Dagwood
To share a name with famous glutton Dagwood Bumstead, a sandwich joint’s gotta have some serious chutzpah, and that’s just the case with this Indiana University fixture. The composition mayo-based “special sauce” is a source of constant debate, but every patron agrees that the stuff is “like crack” when added to their fresh-baked sandwiches, whose standard size is so behemoth that a classic BLT piled high with slabs of bacon is considered a snack. Also, it’s on campus. Wow.
Johnny's Bagels & Deli
You gotta get: The Devon
Described by our Director of Communications as “the best place on Earth” (maybe because they have a sandwich named after her, pictured above), Johnny’s Bagels & Deli at Lehigh has a prolific menu of subs and melty paninis, as well as offering patrons the option to get their sandwich creations on a scooped-out bagel. They make all of their dough rings on the premises, meaning this stuff is fresh.
Richie's Deli & Pizza
You gotta get:
The Richie Wrap
Owned and operated by three successive generations (two of which were actually named "Richie"), this deli smack dab in the middle of Temple has a reputation for being one of the friendliest places to grab a bite to eat in the area due to the generous portions and awesome service. It’s said that the current Richie has a personal rapport with pretty much every Temple student, and the ingredients in the giant sandwich creations he bequeaths to them are all top-notch.
Adam Lapetina is a food/drink staff writer at Thrillist, and wholeheartedly believes that the best things in life are fried. Read his musings on Twitter at @adamlapetina.