The Blackhawks were well on their way to clinching a spot in the finals last Sunday when a pal served up a glorious South Side delicacy with a ridiculous name — the “Gym Shoe.”
“This, right here,” he said, pausing for effect as he placed Stony Sub’s most famous sandwich concoction in front of me, “is purely decadent.”
That’s definitely the best way to describe the heaping pile of roast beef, gyro meat and corned beef that’s been perfectly shredded on a hot skillet, mixed with hot giardiniera, sweet peppers and onions, topped with tzatziki sauce and tomatoes, served on a grilled Italian roll atop Swiss cheese and mayonnaise and presented without pretention, tightly wrapped in aluminum foil.
It was a magical moment, so good that after that first glorious bite — as the mayonnaise and tzatziki sauce glided down my chin — I started to hate myself for not knowing of the Gym Shoe, which some foodies have called the best sandwich on the South Side.
James Gorham really loves Gym Shoe sandwiches at Stony Sub. (DNAinfo/Mark Konkol).
Apparently there are other varieties of Gym Shoe subs served in sub shops around town, but people who know about these things tell me none of them compares to the version that's served up 24/7 through a revolving bulletproof glass door at Stony Sub, 8440 S. Stony Island Ave.
Owner Moe Almasri, whose family bought the sub shop in 2010, said the Gym Shoe ($7.31 for a regular) morphed from a roast beef and corned beef cold-cut sub topped with gyro meat and fewer condiments into the skillet-grilled creation they now serve.
“The former owner started making it on the grill for himself and then started selling it to a regular customer,” he said. “That’s how it got started.”
And the only thing that’s changed since then is the current concoction is stuffed with more meat than the original, Almasri said.
In the last few years, Stony Sub’s Gym Shoe — sometimes spelled “Jim Shoe” or called “The Jimmy” — has become something of a culinary phenomenon on the South Side that continues to gain grass-roots popularity.
“People are constantly bringing in friends to try the Gym Shoe,” Almasri said.
“We’ve had some famous people come in during the night shift like [Bulls All-Star] Joakim Noah and Chance the Rapper. It’s our most popular sandwich and keeps getting more popular.”
That’s especially true on the weekends, when the Gym Shoe accounts for about 45 percent of all Stony Sub’s sandwich orders.
“People like it for a lot of reasons. One, it’s filling. I don’t know anyone who could eat a whole king-size Gym Shoe. And, obviously, it’s very delicious,” Almasri said.
“We get a lot of people who come in and say my buddy brought over one of your sandwiches … and we know they’re talking about the Gym Shoe,” he said.
James Gorham, who stopped in to pick up a king-size Gym Shoe for lunch ($9.59), is one of those guys.
“I found out about the Gym Shoe about a month ago, and I’ve been coming twice a week,” he said. “I can’t eat a whole king. Oh, no. But I love it so much, I’ve got to have leftovers.”
As for the name, Gym Shoe, that remains a mystery.
Almasri said he’s tried to research the origin but has always come up short. His father, Bassam Almasri, prefers to further the sandwich’s urban legend with tall tales from time to time.
“Dad makes up stories. … He says maybe the guy who first made the sandwich dropped it on his shoe and ate it anyway, and that’s how it got its name,” Moe Almasri said.
“Or, maybe, the guy’s name was Jim.”
It doesn’t really matter.
A Stony Sub Gym Shoe sandwich by any name — or spelling — decadently melts in your mouth just the same.
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