The Phillies are in the World Series! The Eagles are 6-0 and playing again this weekend after a bye week.
It’s time for getting together with a bunch of friends to watch the games, drink a few beers and if you are doing it right… a fresh and delicious hoagie.
And when people discuss “who has the best hoagies in South Jersey?”. Carmen’s is always in that conversation.
I grew up in Bellmawr, and then my wife and I raised our own family in Bellmawr for over 20 years. Carmen’s Deli was always a part of the family’s rotating menu.
But then around 8 years ago we moved a few miles away and I realized I hadn’t had a Carmen’s Hoagie since the Del Buono’s owner took over Carmen’s… and definitely not since the new owner greatly expanded and remodeled the Browning Road deli.
So it was time to stop back in at Carmen’s and try an Italian hoagie.
With new ownership and an upgrade deli location, were they still “World Series Worthy”?!
The Carmen’s Expanded Deli
I’d imagine most readers already know this, but things have changed at Carmen’s… and from my perspective, it’s all for the better.
About 5 years ago Tom Whitman, who is the owner of Del Buono’s Bakery in Haddon Heights, purchased Carmen’s deli in Bellmawr.
As he told the Courier-Post back in 2017, operating a deli alongside his South Jersey bakery store outlets made a ton of sense. He just didn’t know anything about operating a deli!
Carmen’s was a perfect match. A name known throughout the area and South Jersey, and with a very respected product.
Tom has been following through on his plans for the combo bakery and deli, and today there are three Carmen’s locations; original Bellmawr, Haddon Heights at the Del Buono’s bakery, and Stratford on the White Horse Pike.
Over the years there has been talk of a Turnersville location to come, but that hasn’t materialized yet.
(For the record I’ve never met owner Tom and really only know his name from the Courier Post article)
Carmen’s Deli Bellmawr
Focusing on the Classic Carmen’s in Bellmawr which is located directly across from Borough Hall, just a few years ago Tom made a few upgrades to the property. Well more like “significant” changes!
The deli is still at the same building and uses the same entrance, but immediately just pulling up in your car you realize this is not the Carmen’s you remember from just 5 years ago.
The exterior is fully upgraded.
A bright red overhanging hip roof. Freshly painted white walls. And an exterior grey stone wainscot have completely transformed the outside of the building.
The corner entrance now features new doors and bold red signage proudly proclaiming this location as the home to Carmen’s Deli.
And the cow. Yes there is a full sized black and white cow statue out front, which is a connection to the figures which adorned the Haddon Heights bakery.
If not surprised enough by the exterior, that first step inside will definitely stop you in your tracks.
Now if you remember the older classic Carmen’s store… the entire deli, customer area and bagged snacks were just squeezed into an all too small space.
On busy Eagles game days there just wasn’t enough room at all for customers.
But the new Carmen’s Deli? It’s easily 4 times the size of what it was.
Basically the entire former deli area is now somewhat of a secondary space, which has a couple tables and counter seating.
To further clarify it, they took the entire deli space before and removed it all. Put in new flooring and painted it up…. added a couple tables. And you aren’t even in what is now the main deli!
There is now a second space where the deli and grill are located. Like, a space that is at least twice the size of what they had utilized for decades.
The front counter, deli, sandwich area and grill are against the far wall and it seems like the workers have plenty of room to work!
Snacks are setup on display racks. There is a drink cooler.
And a really, really large customer area.
Of course the goal is to get customers out fast but they could have 20 people or more waiting and no one is feeling cramped. Maybe 40?
With all of that space though it seems like they are still leaning towards a take-out location as there are only two small tables and a counter area.
Carmen’s Deli Bellmawr – Italian Hoagie.
This is not my first Carmen’s sandwich review!
Back in 2018 I did a write-up on Carmen’s cheesesteaks… which have also become legendary.
My cheesesteak experience included a YouTube video as I ate the sandwich from the trunk of my car on National Cheesesteak Day. So this before the Bellmawr expansion and remodel! Back then there was zero places to sit inside!
But for 2022 I was back to try a Carmen’s Hoagie.
I know the Rose’s Special is considered by many to be Carmen’s signature sandwich… but I went more traditional.
A classic Italian Hoagie. Lettuce, tomato, onion with oil and vinegar and like the crushed hoagie pepper spread.
They come in two sizes, small and large.
The large was under $13 and honestly… they are not kidding when they call this LARGE!
The small is under $10.
I had stopped in mid-week after lunch, so Carmen’s was very quiet. So I was right up to the counter and my hoagie was made in minutes.
I want to add that a fun side effect of writing this website and putting my face on Youtube and Facebook streams is I am getting recognized in the area alot! Twice during last Friday’s Phillies playoff game “hey Mark, can I get a photo!? My grandmother loves you!” ha, true story!
But no one at Carmen’s recognized me. I got a “regular Joe” experience and hoagie.
As I waited, one of the tables had two customers eating who were visiting from Richmond. “I always come here when in town, but first I’ve seen the remodel”. See the Carmen’s legend is strong… National influence!
We chatted a bit and talked sandwiches and food, but I wish I asked what brought them to New Jersey and Carmen’s! The Phil’s were playing home that night and I later thought… hmmm maybe they were with the national TV team. ha!
So back to that large hoagie.
I was eating in the store today, so no chance to measure and weigh.
I am big guy. Not a hulking guy but at 6 ft and 215 and carrying a spare tire or three… I can eat my share of food. I eat all darn day.
And simply I could only eat half of the Carmen’s hoagie. That turns a $13 hoagie into a meal for two at $6.50 each. (There’s that fancy Triton High math again!)
Don’t get me wrong. Many days I could devour the whole thing but then I am definitely taking a nap afterwards.
So as you would expect, the roll was incredibly fresh, soft and delicious. They are baked a mile away and delivered daily! The lifelong Carmen’s purist can’t argue about the rolls as it’s the same ones Carmen’s has used for years.
The lettuce tomato and onions were incredibly fresh. The lettuce was green throughout. No wilting. Tomatoes nice and red.
So now on to the star of the show.
The. Hoagie. Was. Packed. With. Meat.
The meat is fresh and tasty. The lunchmeat recipe is pure deliciousness. And it was loaded with meat.
Pictures tell a 1000 words so just look for yourself. (I should’ve thought this through and asked for the peppers on the side).
As I count it, at the thickest point there are 4 layers of cheese and ELEVEN layers of meat.
14 layers total, and they were not thinly sliced. (Honestly I think my layer 12 is actually 2 slices)
Of course its going vary around the sandwich. I slice of lunchmeat is not as big as a roll so there is a overlapping and some folds. But that random center cut of the hoagie told one hell of a story.
And here is the funny thing! On the building’s exterior wall they have a photo of a cut hoagie and mine was easily twice the size! The promise X and delivered 2X.!
It looked like a perfect balance of meat and veggies… Don’t you hate it when they put way too much lettuce in a hoagie? or load up the onions?
Well with my Carmen’s hoagie everything was perfectly balanced.
Many will argue that quantity does not equal quality, but I can confidently say in my very unscientific test with one hoagie… they delivered the goods.
Delicious and worthy of enjoying during the Phillies World Series.
Links and Location
Carmen’s Deli – Original Location
42 E Browning Rd
Bellmawr NJ, 08031
Locations also in Haddon Heights and Stratford.