A lot of restaurants that open in Buffalo open “the right way” — People with a few bucks invest in building out a space, hiring a staff, getting the paperwork done and buying product. Maybe they went to culinary school. Maybe they didn’t.
The Hoagie Stop is not one of those restaurants.
Before the Hoagie Stop was a sit-down steakshop in Allentown, it was an underground pop-up in the backyard of owner Byron Cogdell. Thanks to a conspiracy of circumstances, hustle and a willingness to do whatever it takes, the Hoagie Stop is now a legit business.
Codgell said it all started when he and his wife bought a portable flat-top grill from Home Depot.
“COVID hit when we were remodeling our home,” Cogdell told us. “So we bought a flat-top grill to cook outside because we didn’t have a kitchen to cook in. I started playing with some different sauce recipes and making hoagies just for me and my wife. Every time I would make them, I would post our food on Facebook, and a few people would always tell me: ‘Yo, you should sell those.’”
After locking in his sauce recipe, Cogdell started posting to Facebook, asking friends if they wanted to order pickup hoagies. He said the first day he sold around 80 hoagies. About a month later, he opened up for the second time and sold more than 100 hoagies. Each month or so after that, Cogdell would open up for orders and sell more than 100 out of his backyard. Business was booming, so Codgell bought another flat-top grill, and then a deep fryer, allowing him to expand his menu.
“We just kept growing and growing,” he said. “We did it kind of quietly because I knew if I did it every day, the neighbors wouldn’t be too happy. So I started to do it once a month: piss the neighbors off and let them kind of forget that it happened. One time, I gave my customers a good amount of time to put orders in and to my amazement, we did 272 hoagies in a day. That was the day my neighbors had enough and they called the health department on me. Basically, they shut us down.”
Well, not exactly. Cogdell had a hit on his hands and he wasn’t going away quietly.
“After my neighbors called the health department on me, we were looking for a new location but didn’t immediately find one,” he said. “So one day, I cooked food in my house in North Buffalo, went around the corner and set up shop in a Jim’s Steakout parking lot. Then, I went live on social media. All my customers came to pick up food and filled up the Jim’s Steakout parking lot.
“Everybody thought I was crazy for doing it, but I used that as a marketing technique. Because (Jim’s Steakout) is my competition. I’m looking to put out good quality food for the late-night crowd throughout the city. I know Jim’s Steakout has been here for a while, but nobody goes there for the quality. They’re usually just drunk or in a rush to get somewhere.”
Located just down the street from a different Jim’s Steakout location, the new, completely-legit Hoagie Stop is taking on the local chain with a killer sauce recipe and fresh cut fries. Since it’s been open, the new Hoagie Stop has been completely overwhelmed with orders and on some recent days, Cogdell has had to put a cap on the number of orders he can handle. He told us he’s also been busy training staff, as well as focusing on how to maintain high quality standards.
If you’re wondering what all the hype is about and skeptical that an underground pop-up can make the jump to legit business, you want the owner to put a laser focus on maintaining high standards.
“Any food from us, the quality is always going to be the same,” Cogdell said.”I won’t sacrifice quality for a dollar.”
Hours at time of publishing (Subject to change): Tuesday and Wednesday, 12 p.m. – 10 p.m., Thursday to Saturday 2 p.m. – 3 a.m., Sunday and Monday CLOSED
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