The classic Philly sandwich is now a snackfood.
Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
PrimoHoagies’ new Italian hoagie potato chips don’t actually taste like an Italian hoagie.
Of course not — a dusting of flavoring on a fried potato slice will never be able to reproduce the glorious experience of chomping into a crusty roll loaded with just the right amount of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, oil, vinegar, spices and a carefully balanced helping of multiple sliced meats.
What the PrimoHoagies chips do manage to exactly replicate? The feeling of just having finished a fantastic rendition of that time-honored sandwich — which is among the best parts of eating one.
Created in partnership with Herr’s, the new chip reportedly took six months to develop. They were rolled out softly back in February, but as of National Potato Chip Day (March 14, duh) the hoagie-flavored snack is available in supermarkets and convenience stores across the region.
All 85-plus retail storefronts of the South Philly-born chain now carry the self-branded bags, which have proven an immediate hit. Since there’s no “chip finder” app, your best bet to lay hands on them is by visiting or directly ordering from a PrimoHoagies branch.
“We had a whole bunch, but they sold out,” reported a cashier behind the counter at the 11th and Walnut street outpost in Center City last week. “Customers be loving them.”
Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
The offering comes on the heels of an Utz Italian hoagie flavor, which was released during summer 2018. But Primo’s doesn’t seem worried about the competition. Wording on the back of the package references the shop’s history and makes the emotional case for purchase with an appeal to Philly native pride.
In Philadelphia, when it comes to cold-cut based sandwiches, there aren’t any “submarines.” A “hero” is best described as someone who puts their life on the line for the safety of others. The truth is, to real Philadelphians, Italian sandwiches on a hearty long roll have long been known as a “Hoagie.”
A deliberate and thoughtful taste-test by the Billy Penn staff was divided on the snack’s merit.
“Salty,” “smoky” and “pickley” were all used to characterize the flavor, which we found to change from chip to chip. The ovals with a more reddish tint did in fact have a salami-like taste, while the “sesame” notes touted by the bag were mostly missing.
If you had to describe the seasoning to someone who’d never had an Italian hoagie, it’s like a cross between sour cream and onion and BBQ, with a little salt and vinegar mixed in. A glance at the ingredient listing shows there is actual cheese, onion and vinegar used on the chips, but also plenty of glutamates and artificial flavoring.
“I would not choose to buy these for myself,” one chip-sampler opined, “but I would get them for a party.”
“I like them,” said another taste-tester, “but they do not taste like an Italian hoagie.”
All agreed the chips taste like reminiscing about a hoagie, however — a feeling with which most Philadelphians are familiar.
In the end, we landed at the same conclusion as the recommendation printed at the bottom of the bag’s marketing spiel:
“Add onto a hoagie to maximize the flavor.”
Yes, exactly, do that. Because what PrimoHoagies has done is create the perfect sandwich condiment. All you’ll have to do is slap some cold cuts on a roll and top with a handful of these chips. Voila, you’ve got the instant coffee version of a classic Philly lunch.