Updated: Mar 15
I love hoagies @ the beach. I just do. There are certain food that I associate with the beach. Beach pizza (that's the official name as it is so much better at the beach), ice cream, blue crabs, crab boil, wings from Wing-It*, and shocker, hoagies! Even better is eating them on the beach while listening to music or reading a book while kids are occupying themselves.
I have a few favorite hoagie places at the beach, but I wanted to try a new one on our trip last weekend. It was a sunny day and the weather was nice-ish, maybe a little windy. We wanted to spend some time outside with our kids and friends, feeling like we were doing something normal. If you're looking for a great outdoor space to relax with interesting cocktails, make the trek to Nauti Spirits in Cape May, NJ. They have 2 acres of open space with a corn maze, a chicken coop and limited seating inside (due to COVID). They have picnic tables but plenty of space for blankets and beach chairs with space for kids to run around. They are a distillery that makes their own vodka, rum and gin. Try them all. They have many signature cocktails and here is the menu where you can order them to go even! I love the Beet Ya to the Punch, Forbidden Fruit and on this visit, they even have a Hot Toddy Cider thingy (I don't know the name) but it was fantastic.
Nauti Spirits usually has a local food truck on premises, but you can also bring your own food. Close by is the Erma Deli & Pizzeria, which a friend recommended for hoagies and cheese steaks. I was skeptical as always, based on my South Philly Italian food snob roots, remember?
I'm going to grab something to eat real quick, otherwise, this is going to be a hangry review. I am salivating as I think about my Erma's hoagie.
Peek at my breakfast today….not too shabby.
Shop Experience: I am glad that I was laser-focused on ordering a hoagie, otherwise, I would have really struggled to pick something. The menu was vast, to say the least. Salads, soups, hoagies, steaks, burgers, calzones and dinner platters. They even have breakfast and a kids menu. Ok, now I am tired.
I zoomed into the Deli Board menu and boom! Erma Deli's Famous Italian Hoagie -- how could I not? Especially since it's famous after all? Italian meats, cheese and all the fixin'. There wasn’t much explanation of which Italian meats would be included, and it also did not mention cheese but I put my trust in their Famous Italian Hoagie being genuine.
Guys, they had a bunch of different cheese steaks, my other love. A chicken cheesesteak with broccoli and cheese. My friend ordered this and it looked incredible! Back to the hoagies.
My husband ordered ahead by phone. They do not have online ordering but they have free local delivery. The ordering process was easy and the woman made sure that nothing was missed.
Erma's regularly posts to FaceBook and you can see their latest specials and hours. Upon pickup, it was a little confusing to determine where to pick-up from. The food was ready but it took a little time to pay and receive the order which increased my hunger. Thank goodness for sour cream and onion potato chips which held me over as we drove over to Nauti and got settled.
HoagieLOVE Pro Tip: I love Yelp! Especially when I am traveling (back when traveling was a "thing"). They recently added a COVID-19 section where you can learn about the precautions that businesses are taking to keep themselves and their customers safe. Erma's did not have details available here, but they did have it on their website up until recently. I prefer having some insight into COVID practices, especially when it comes to food.
Unwrapping: The outer wrapping was pulled tightly with only a little oil spillage. Nothing to be concerned about. Inside had the tissue paper covering which looked to be hiding a masterpiece below. I got excited. Granted, I was eating outside and the wind was annoying my unwrapping experience. My napkins took off but I did some tucking to get myself situated. At first, I thought they forgot my seasonings and veggies, but they were hidden under the meats and cheese. Nice surprise. Rather have them, then not.
Bread: Crusty outside, and a little "extra" on the inside. Not seeded, but a great vessel for my hoagie. Let's face it, the bread is everything. I'm not wasting carbs on crappy bread. This was good bread.
Condiments: There was mayo and oil in a moderate amount, which I appreciated. It was directly on the bread, as I like it.
Meats & Cheese: The meat was cut thin-ish, and it included the usual suspects -- capicola, genoa salami and boiled ham. The cheese was traditional provolone (not stinky) and it was layered on top of the veggies, spices and condiments.
Veggies: Lettuce, tomato and onions were under the cheese and meat layers. Tomato and onions were cut thin and the lettuce was chopped. I did add pickles and banana peppers on top which fit in nicely.
Reorganization Rating: I didn’t rearrange anything although the order of things was different than I usually prefer. I wanted to taste it that way, as I was not in the mood to be judgmental. I was also outside with the wind distraction and I wanted to get to eatin'. Looking back, I honestly don’t think a reorg** was necessary.
Eating experience: I was thrilled that I could easily hold it easily while eating outside in the wind. It wasn't messy and it was tasty! I sneaked a few side-eye peeks at the cheese steaks that my husband and friend ordered. They looked amazing but I didn't have meal envy. Not today.
Next meal survival rate: I ate it all, people….I ate it all. I will explain.
Overall happiness rating: Yippie, a new food discovery at the shore and I will definitely eat their hoagies again. Maybe when COVID moves on, I will eat inside with my family as the restaurant has a nice family atmosphere.
The hoagie essence was strong. I am so glad I didn’t "poo-poo"*** this hoagie based on having a different order to things. This is called embracing diversity and inclusion in food, people. Ok, maybe it's not terribly diverse given I'm Italian and writing a blog on Italian hoagies. I do love all styles of ethnic foods, but hoagies reign supreme.
The bread took over a little too much of the hoagie, and I would attribute that to the slimmer amount of meats and cheeses inside. The bread to cheese to meats ratio was a little off -- weighted towards bread. See exhibit A:
On the bright side, this allowed me to eat a 10 inch hoagie in one sitting, but I would love to see more packed inside. But who knows? Maybe it would have fallen apart in my lap and I would still be working off the calories.
I also bet I could ask them to scoop some of the bread and add some extra meat and cheese. I think they are flexible like that.
If you find yourself in or around Cape May, NJ, give Erma's a try. Their food is authentic, high quality and tasty.
*If you haven't tried Wing-It's wings, you haven't lived. Get their house hot and you're welcome.
**Short for reorganization. I've been through enough in my business career to have a relationship with the short form of the word.
***Look down on something. I think my friend Bridget made it up.