That’s right, the popular sandwich chain started in Chicago. And we are so glad it did because we’ve been enjoying those delicious hot sandwiches even longer than the rest of you! But really, Potbelly’s had a humble Lincoln Park beginning in 1977. The first Potbelly’s wasn’t a sandwich shop at all, but in fact was an antiques store owned by a young couple trying to make their way in the antiques business. The couple began making sandwiches for their customers while they dove into the world of antiques, though they soon realized their sandwiches might have even been better! The business of putting together a quality sandwich and toasting it in a potbelly oven (yep, that’s where the name comes from) was even more fun and lucrative than antiques. As a special touch, they added live music to the mix, which you can still enjoy today at many stores.
The original Potbelly’s is located at 2264 N. Lincoln Ave. in Lincoln Park, and the interior became the design for Potbelly’s around the country. In 1996 Bryant L. Keil purchased the original store and set to work making Potbelly’s into the empire it has become. Now Potbelly’s serves not only delicious sandwiches, but also salads, milk shakes, homemade cookies, and even breakfast at some locations. Keil has since expanded Potbelly’s to over 200 stores in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Kentucky, Texas, and New York and employs over 2000 people. There are even two stores with drive-thrus! Nice.
Though Potbelly’s has become a massive chain, it hasn’t lost its charm or delicious way of making a sandwich. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t; the wreck is a amazing and you really can’t go wrong with their soft sugar cookies. They also do catering and delivery within store boundaries (and on bikes, how green!). And let’s be real: they blow Subway, Quiznos and Jimmy John’s out of the water.
Author’s note: Yes, we Chicagoans know the real name is Potbelly (sans the ‘s), but for some reason Potbelly’s just stuck. So we’ll stick to it, too. Bon appetit!