When you first approach the sandwich shop, you wonder if this could possibly be the place that you have heard everyone rave about. It’s small. It has rusted security grates next to the windows and the window decal says “Subbs”. Why the extra “b”? The window also says “The Best Subs in Town”, so you dare to enter. As soon as you walk in, there’s always several customers already there, either waiting, looking at the menu on the wall, or ordering. A guy with a fisherman’s cap and a grey beard, wearing a waist apron, acknowledges you from behind the counter. He’s ready to take your order. I order a #1 and he scribbles it down on the pad of blank white paper and asks if I want hot peppers. Of course. He asks for my name, and then gives the order to the sandwich makers behind him.
I wasn’t asked if I wanted anything to go along with my sub. There isn’t anything else. That’s what Carl’s Subs is all about. Just cold-cut deli sandwiches. And they do them really, really well. If you want chips or a bottled drink, you can grab that as you pay (they only accept cash). The shop consists of a counter to order and another behind the front counter where they make the sandwiches. No frills but a damn good sandwich. The menu has around 20 different kinds of subs and all of them are around $7. The place has no website, no facebook account, no twitter account. Heck, they don’t even have flyers or marketing but they do have a loyal following and word of mouth has kept this place afloat for years. Don’t take my word for it, here are some Yelp reviews:
let me tell you that Carl’s is the real deal when it comes to hero/sub sandwiches. The best deli sandwich in DC. Believe it.
Carl’s Sub Shop is one of DC’s hidden Treasures. From the outside no one would dare enter this place. But from the moment you enter you feel @ home. Carl himself usually greets you as you enter with “welcome home, what will you have today”.
ALL of the subs are worth @least one try. But be warned you will be back. Carl’s is all about freshness and quality. He cuts his own meats and cheeses fresh daily and the bread and veggies are also delivered daily.
Those that live around Carl’s know how good it is, and so does others throughout the City. People flock to the place from all over. Fire trucks pull up during lunch time to pick up an order for their firehouse. Utility workers, police, and folks in suits and ties all line up during lunch for a sub.
Give it a try, you will NOT be disappointed. We try to keep this neighborhood gem as a sort of “our secret” but after eating there, you can’t help but sing its praises.
Address: 2208 Rhode Island Ave NE
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9am – 4:55pm
Take out only.
6 thoughts on “RIA’s (Not So) Secret Deli”
Why, oh why, can’t they get some of the facade grant money? Some investment in the curb appeal of the building makes sense, and it’s in the city’s best interest to make sure that a long-time anchor business in the commercial district can continue to succeed.
Has anyone asked them why they haven’t done anything to make the front, at least, look like it’s not semi-abandoned?
We have tried. He refuses the assistance.
I mean, I get remaining independent, being able to say you’ve done everything on your own, no handouts, etc. But man, it just seems crazy not to want to do more to sell yourself.
I’ve spoken with Carl too. I get the sense that he’s been there forever and seen plenty of community groups come and talk to him, but they are never loyal customers, and then they are gone. Getting him to do some facade work is going to take a little more effort than “hey how about it.” He needs to see a little more positive change on the Ave, like Manny-Olga’s happening, and some of the other stuff getting done. And I think he needs to be approached by a loyal customer, someone he sees on a regular basis. I can do this, but it might take awhile. I’ll make the sacrifice of having his subs every day I telework and each Saturday.