BLIMPIE, Bay Ridge

by Kevin Walsh

I’ve mentioned my preference for Blimpie sub sandwiches often in Facebook, but less often in Forgotten NY. Blimpie has largely lost out in the fast food franchise sandwich sweepstakes, but I’ve always had a preference for them. Both feature large slabs of bread, filled with your choice of meat, cheese and a variety of toppings. When I feel like a sub sandwich and the only venues available are Subway or more expensive pizzeria or deli choices (there’s one pizzeria in Great Neck where the grilled wraps are so good, that’s the only thing I order) I will choose Subway, but Blimpie represents my true sub sandwich passion. Why? A number of reasons.

—The bread is softer, and the oil and vinegar I like sogs it up even more. I do not prefer toasted subs and the Subway bread, even when not toasted, is too firm.

—Blimpie uses white onions, Subway uses red onions. I prefer white.

—Subways are hit or miss regarding sweet peppers. I always want them and all Blimpies carry them.

—Slightly higher portions at Blimpie.

In NYC, Blimpie has dwindled down to a precious few. There’s a Blimpie at a downtown location at Willoughby and Pearl near Brooklyn Boro Hall. There is another one, pictured, on 5th Avenue and 87th Street in Bay Ridge. I pay that one a visit after getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist, which is one of my last connections to my original neighborhood. Recent closures include one in lower Manhattan. I am aware of a very small one on Gun Hill Road opposite Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx.

Hoboken, 2016

The franchise originated in 1964 in Hoboken, New Jersey, by a pair of friends who attended St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City. They were inspired by an existing operation, Mike’s Submarines, which is still going today as Jersey Mike’s. As a matter of fact the two sandwiches are quite similar to my tastes and when I am on 3rd Avenue near PJ Clarke’s on 55th Street ( I sometimes freelance at the Bloomingdale’s offices) I lunch at the Jersey Mike’s there. I’ve also been in the one on Hempstead Turnpike near Hofstra U. However, I’ve never eaten at a Jersey Mike’s in New Jersey.

Blimpie reached its peak in the 1990s with hundreds of locations countrywide, but much of that is because Blimpie counters opened in convenience stores and other locales. That’s the situation in Bay Ridge and also at a former Blimpie I patronized in Dyker Heights. Since then, the franchise has suffered and has closed multiple locations, including Jersey City and Hoboken, where I had been an on-and-off regular. I had eaten at one at 4th Avenue and East 13th for years till it closed. When I worked at Pearson Education in Hoboken in 2016, I was a once-a-week patron at what was considered their flagship on Washington Street. That one made their sandwiches so large I had trouble finishing them. As you see above, that one, like a number of Blimpie franchises, had marble tables and hanging plants. Others were less handsome.

In 1975, when I was 18, I bought the entire stock of Roman pizza at the Bay Ridge Key Food when I heard they were going out of business. My stash got me through 6 months. If the day comes when Blimpie packs it in, I’ll just have to buy several months’ worth of sandwiches.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”

4/23/20

17 comments

James April 23, 2020 - 12:10 pm

Many years ago, when I worked as a Cameraman, I shot a few Blimpie commercials. Same Producer as Crazy Eddie commercials.

Reply
ROCCO BUTTOFOCO April 23, 2020 - 1:19 pm

What is your favorite type of sub sandwich ?

Reply
Joe Fliel April 23, 2020 - 3:50 pm

The absolute best, Kevin. I’ve been going to the Blimpie on 5th & 87th since 1976 and my son and I are regulars at the one on Willoughby & Pearl. Like me, he’s always
preferred the taste of a Blimpie hero over Subway.

Reply
Jeff B. April 23, 2020 - 9:51 pm

I’ve become a Jersey Mike’s fan as of late. I can go to the JM’s near me, but ot’s in a mall and has ridiculous prices. I’d rather drive to 34 miles each way to a Jersey Mike’s in Ramsey, NJ. It’s worth the trip on the few occasions I’ve done it.
BTW – I did eat at a Blimpie’s in Paramus sometime this past year.

Reply
Gino prisco October 19, 2020 - 5:07 pm

My dad owned the store 13th&4th from 67until it closed…

Reply
Tal Barzilai April 24, 2020 - 1:38 am

In all honesty, I have hardly ever been to a Blimpie not to mention heard of it much. The only time I can ever recall ever having their sandwich was when they were being given to my team when I was in the Special Olympics and we had the Metro Tournament over at Riverbank State Park, but that’s just about it. My guess is that they didn’t have a lot of location where I live. Then again, they didn’t advertise as much as Subway did. On a side note, I do remember going to a Quizno, which is also hard to find these days, when I used to take classes out in LI over at Dowling College mainly because they had a location there, and they two had some big portions that subway didn’t have as well as using more meat that you didn’t have to pay extra for as well as even giving some good sauces for some of the sandwiches, but like Blimpie, they to didn’t last too long. The only reason why Subway is still around is mainly because of the hype and constant advertisements that their rivals didn’t have much of.

Reply
Edward Findlay April 24, 2020 - 2:01 am

The one on Gun Hill Road is open according to their website, alongside one on 161st St. near Grand Concourse…one on Castle Hill Road is temporary closed(likely Covid-19 related)

Reply
David April 24, 2020 - 9:41 am

I used to go to one at 168 St and Jamaica Avenue. They were originally called ‘Blimpie Base’, with the word ‘Base’ set in small copy on the basket of the blimp logo.

Reply
Rick D April 25, 2020 - 6:49 am

I used to hit up the one on (I think) E 21st St and 3rd Ave. I believe Subway opened a shop only a few doors away and that killed it.

Reply
Anonymous April 25, 2020 - 8:26 am

When I use to work midnight shifts down by Park Row they were one of the few establishments available to get something to eat at 4am in 1980 . Use to call them lettuce and mayo on a bun.

Reply
Paulb April 25, 2020 - 10:05 am

There was one in Teaneck NJ for a while. It’s been gone at least 15 years now.

Reply
Anthony Picco April 26, 2020 - 3:09 pm

I always preferred Bimpie’s and even now Subway is starting to fade… >sigh<

Reply
Deb April 26, 2020 - 4:07 pm

3-4 nights a week in the 90s I used to get off the Q train at King’s Highway and go straight to Blimpie to order my favorite – the giant roast beef, no onions, no oil, extra vinegar. It was run by a Chinese couple but the wife was clearly in charge of the operation. She knew my order by heart and would start making it as soon as I came in. They used boars Head cold cuts unlike subway. I promised myself I would only eat half and save the other half for the next day, but I ate the whole thing every time.

Reply
Mike of Bensonhurst April 27, 2020 - 10:02 am

I worked for a Bakery during my college years in the late nineties, and we had the contract supplying Blimpie with their bread. I think I delivered to every location in the five boros. I also prefer Blmpie over the rest.
My usual location that I would eat during my route was in MIdtown on Second Ave & 45th Street.

Reply
Mark April 29, 2020 - 12:00 pm

I thought I was the only one who preferred Blimpie to Subway – and for the reasons Kevin states — softer bread that soaks up the oil and vinegar, and larger portions.

Reply
Tal Barzilai April 29, 2020 - 11:41 pm

If not the for the Italian herbs and cheese bread, the Spicy Italian Sandwich, and the occasional pastrami sandwich, I wouldn’t be eating at Subway, but even those would pale in comparison to either Blimpie or Quiznos considering how little meat they use in those sandwiches, plus you had to pay extra in order to have more meat in those sandwiches as the other two guaranteed big portions for their meats on the original sandwiches.

Reply
Dave May 11, 2020 - 4:09 pm

I worked at a Blimpie’s many years ago (35?) on Queens Blvd. in Kew Gardens, not far from the dearly departed Pastrami King across from the Queens court house. The food was always fresh and the owner was maniacal about cleanliness. The tuna was the best I’ve ever eaten. It had an true local NY quality to it, despite being a chain. Sorry to see it in decline!

Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.