Chef Kevin Kramer spent the past half-decade running elaborate kitchens at ritzy steakhouses, but — like any good Philadelphian — he knows what’s really king of cuisine in this city: The sandwich.
On Jan. 16, Kramer will officially open Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop at 630 South St. If the address sounds familiar, it’s because the narrow storefront was previously home to much-beloved Hot Diggity.
At Woodrow’s, the counter-service fare won’t be frankfurters, but instead a concise assortment of what Kramer calls “approachable sandwiches done in the best possible way.”
Expect eight to 10 affordably priced options on the regular menu ($8-$9), supplemented by daily and seasonal specials. On the side, hand-cut fries will go for just $3.75 an order — “I’d rather everyone get them than not,” Kramer says.
His exact menu is still being finalized, but the three “core” options are set.
There’s a South Philly roast pork made with long-hot aioli and juicy, house-roasted shoulder (“I love roast pork, but it’s so often dry”); a meatball sandwich that places marinara-braised beef-veal-lamb balls on toasted garlic bread and tops them with a mound of shaved sharp provolone; and a herb-and-parm-crusted grilled cheese that melts American and taleggio onto crisp slices of pear — if you’re not veg, add prosciutto cotto (Italian cooked ham).
Also on tap are a tomato-fresh mozz combo, a fried chicken sandwich and a 1732 Meats bacon, egg and cheese served on a special pretzel croissant roll sourced from NYC. Great sandwiches depend on great bread, Kramer notes, and to that end he’s made plans to order rolls from at least three different sources, including Liscio’s (for those classic Philly combos) and Hudson Bread in North Jersey.
Whether you’re ordering to stay or to go, all sandwiches at Woodrow’s (which is Kramer’s father and grandfather’s middle name) will come wrapped in paper, but there is seating for 11 at tables and half a dozen counter stools, plus a ledge for quick stand-and-chow sessions. Drinks include Coca-Cola fountain products (including Fanta, Dr. Pepper and Mello Yello), plus bottled Maine Root sodas. For dessert, Kramer teased a bread pudding ice cream sandwich.
To start, hours will be noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.
This is Kramer’s first solo venture, which is one reason he decided to go for simplicity. “I didn’t want anyone else trying to put their two cents in,” he says.
After being promoted from sous chef at Capital Grille Philadelphia to exec at the Cherry Hill outpost of the steakhouse, Kramer’s most recent job was as executive chef at the now-shuttered Smith & Wollensky in the Rittenhouse Hotel. Two months before the restaurant closed, management offered staff incentives to stay on ‘til the final days, allowing Kramer to save up enough cash to go out on his own.
After scouring the city for a location — “I literally drove up and down each street with a notepad” — he surprised himself by landing on South Street. The former Hot Diggity offered the appeal of being mostly built-out already, although Kramer had to reconfigure the counter and seating areas because of new construction in the apartments upstairs (there’s now a stairway taking up some of the interior space).
He also brought in all new kitchen equipment, including a gas flame grill and six-burner Vulcan stove, both of which will get additional use in his side gig: Catering for the Phillies and teams that play them during home games.
As for whether there’s a need for yet another sandwich shop in this town, Kramer is quietly confident. His philosophy is to consider every single element, from quality of ingredients to how well they meld to their relative temperatures to whether the bread ruins the experience by cutting the roof of your mouth.
“I want people to walk out saying, ‘Wow, that was the best roast pork/meatball/grilled cheese/fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever had.’”