Years ago, during the first of many visits to Naples, Italy, I learned an important lesson about how to find great local food. My dear friend Maureen and I were wandering the winding streets of the Spanish quarter, searching for a place to have dinner that had soft lighting and ambience.
Yet each time we found a restaurant that fit our vision, the place was filled with German tourists. The locals all seemed to be dining in tiny spaces with peeling paint, buzzing fluorescent lights, and makeshift altars to the Madonna set inside circuit breaker boxes. In Naples, an economically poor city of crumbling palaces, the best local food is found at the hole in the wall. Since then, I have always held more affection and admiration for these worn little spots than for a restaurant with three stars that employs a waiter specifically devoted to grinding pepper.
My first entry into the Hole in the Wall Files is Dixon’s Hoagie Hut in Factoryville, PA. Located on a lonely stretch of Tunkhannock Road, not far from the Susquehanna River, it’s not anywhere near where you’re likely going to be. Just in case you are, make sure you stop in for a sandwich. First, this is the menu.
But really, you should order the steak and cheese hoagie, because it’s going to be the best one you’ve ever had. Seriously. It kills the best Philly cheesesteak—Pat’s, Geno’s, whatever—this is better.
I hear from the locals that the Hoagie Hut has been operated by the same family for a long time. Two teenagers, presumably of the newest generation, made our sandwiches, though it was noted that there’s an older woman working there who makes them better, even if she is less generous with the meat.
The steak is put on the grill with slices of cheese on top. As the steak is cooked, it’s chopped and the cheese melts over it, creating a molten cheese/meat combo. Sweet and spicy peppers are mixed in along with onions and then served on a hoagie bun.
The bread is on the thin side, making the experience of eating your hoagie an oozing, decadent affair that requires your full concentration, and the occasional mission to recover dropped pieces of steak. It’s similar to balancing the thin slices of rye bread on which good hand-cut pastrami is served. You’re gonna need a big pile o’ napkins.
I wish I had taken a picture but I guess my fingers were covered in cheese. I was full after my first half, Thanksgiving dinner having been consumed within the prior 24 hours, but I wasn’t willing to relinquish my second half. I went slowly, taking deep breaths, putting it down for a few minutes at a time, then picking it up quickly when I noticed my boyfriend giving it the eye. Rocco went through his good dog paces in my peripheral sight, sitting, laying down, and waving his best “shake” paw at me as my glance grazed him. He never had a chance.
If you were to judge the Hoagie Hut by its outward appearance, you likely would pass it by. But now you know.
Dixon’s Hoagie Hut, Tunkhannock Rd, Factoryville, PA. 570-945-5685.