So what is it that constitutes a great sandwich? Consistency? Quality ingredients? A great product for a good price? Even more so, style can be implemented, rounding off for an all-around enjoyable eating experience. It's really not that difficult if you put in the time and have the talent. Oh, but there is one important factor in the success of a local sandwich spot:
It at least has to be open. Right?
"We've been around for a decade now and people still have to call and ask if we are open," says PJ Subs owner Jay Tolkoff. "Which I find very strange since we have neon banners on all the time in the windows and, well, there is the big OPEN sign on the door. We're also reconfiguring the front area so when patrons walk in and see some repair work they tend to turn right around. It's kind of funny but sad, too, because they are missing out on some great food."
The snazzy corner deli and bar on East Sixth Street and Tucson Boulevard is decked out like a 1950s-era garage because the location used to be a, you guessed it, service station back in the day before transforming into a dining destination. Old metal gas and oil advertisements adorn the walls and façade and there are even a couple of classic pumps out front to complete the image. In fact, the look of PJ Subs is so complete that folks sometimes roll up and ask if they can fill their car up with gas.
"It happens all the time," laughs Jay. "But they can come in and fill up in a different way."
To add even more confusion as to what PJ Subs is all about, they are currently renovating the space to become a more complete bar and sandwich shop. The main entrance is a bit of a jumble as they plan on installing a second cooler to add more beer taps and another to showcase their select meats and cheeses. It's a slight, yet completely workable, inconvenience to step in and up to a delightfully casual eating area and a bar that was handmade in the 1940s. It's the food, though, that has kept the lights on and Jay going all these years: a tasty potpourri of hot and cold sub sandwiches, grinders, wings, salads, a fun kids menu and a delicious run of house-made appetizers and small plates.
Yes, PJ Subs is open for business. Yes, you need to get in there now.
When PJ Subs first opened up they were partnered with a locally famous brewery, but that all went south when the beer conglomerate failed to handle their end of the bargain. It was around this time as well that Jay (the J in PJ) split with his then-wife and business partner (the P in PJ), so the fact that the sub shop is even running at this point is a miracle unto itself. But Jay has a vision, he is persistent, and knows that his place offers up a product that not only can he stand behind, but so can his staff and their regulars as well.
"We make almost everything you eat here fresh and in house," Jay says as he sauces up their signature Sriracha wings that is a medley of heat and sweetness. "Our marinara for the parmesan sandwiches has always been made on premises and has always stayed uniform to the original recipe."
Alongside delectable sandwiches such as the Ragin' Cajun (Louisiana-spiced chicken on a toasted roll), The J-Dog (a proud and messy creation of Tolkoff's, which is a deli style take on the Sonoran hot dog) and something called simply the Best Damn Grill Turkey Sub Period! (which is true, it is a formidable and savory beast between bread), PJ Subs has become quite famous for their eggplant, chicken, sausage and meatball parm sandwiches that ooze with melted mozzarella and a trademark sauce. The PJ's team also concoct on a daily basis a queso dip that is paired with fresh-baked tortilla chips. This is a tangy treat that would make any respectable Southwestern grub outfit sweat a bit due to its creamy flurry of zest and flavor. It is a perfect pairing for one of the many beers, most of them local or at least from Arizona, available on tap or a quality, and oftentimes potent, cocktail. Again, yes, PJ Subs has a full bar. Yes.
To top all of this amazingness that is PJ Subs, the restaurant also delivers within a few miles of the location. So while waiting patiently as they get the joint spruced up and running even smoother, you can have anything on their menu brought directly to you. Just be sure to check in every now and then because Jay wants to install some classic video games and pinball machines in the house midsection.
All anyone can say about that is: Yes.