There's a pretty good chance that you call a long sandwich containing cold cuts and vegetables a "sub," but you might be a fan of "hoagie" or "grinder" or "po-boy." (You can argue that any of them are a different animal altogether. Either way, I refuse to believe anyone calls it a "spuckie," "Dagwood" or "wedge.")
But for Nina Carley, owner of Nan and Pop's Superhero Sandwich Shop, there's only one answer. "It's a hero," she says, delivering the final word. "It's a hero. We get upset when people say a sub, or a hoagie. It's a hero."
There's no clear history to the name, as some trace it back to a 1936 column in the New York Herald Tribune, where Clementine Paddleworth — and let's just stop for a minute to appreciate that name — wrote that the sandwich was so daunting, "you had to be a hero to eat it." It's also rumored to just be a historic mispronunciation of the Greek gyro. Or the name could have hailed from Manganaro's Grosseria Italiana, a famed New York City spot that opened in 1893 and closed three years ago.
As for Carley, the 62-year-old owner moved to Colorado Springs from Brooklyn almost 20 years ago. It was a dubious move at the time — "I didn't like it, I thought it was horrible" — but one that paid off with the restaurant's opening in the old Uchenna. It's named after her parents, and staffed by herself and her daughter Nicole. Her husband runs the couple's unique-toy store next door.
Nan and Pop's likes big sandwiches, and cheap ones at that. Her Poison Ivy, a mix of roasted red peppers, jalapeños, lettuce, tomato and onions, costs only $3 for six inches and tastes substantial sans-meat. Twelve inches of sandwich is probably too much for one sitting, but it doesn't hurt that you only paid $8 for something like the Deadpool, an overloaded handful of salami, capicola, and your choice of cheese and Black Forest or honey ham. The Batman ($8/12 inches) does turkey, roast beef, ham and cheese to similar effect, and all benefit from salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.
The approach reminds me of Bella's Bakery and Bistro, downtown, which is also run by a New Yorker with a love of fat food. Carley has tricked out her store with comic-book gear, including shoes painted by a former tattoo artist a few doors down. You eat next to 25-cent covers of The Amazing Spider-Man and pay next to a foot-high statue of the Green Goblin.
The chicken salad with mozzarella in the Booster Gold ($4/six inches) had the snappiest personality, a creamy and delicious mix of chicken breast and crunchy vegetables. Good bread, too: chewy, with structural integrity. Carley says she wishes she could provide meat like Boar's Head and still charge what she does, but instead the ingredients are modest and the costs are low. All baked goods, except the sandwich bread, are homemade, as are the meatballs in the Carnage ($5/six inches), and the meat is sliced in-house. Even Nan wants to expand her role.
"Oh, my mom loves it," Carley says. "In fact, I went to see her this morning, and she's like, 'How's the shop? How's the shop?' She wants to come down and work, you know, and I told her, 'When the weather gets better, you can come down and spend the day with us.'"