If you're going to buy a sandwich, you might as well buy "the real McCoy."
Named after the dated idiom, the South Side's Real McCoy Sandwich Shop has been serving inexpensive meat-packed hoagies for more than half a century. And the family-run joint is known just as much for its old-time feel as it is for its tasty subs.
Virginia Griffin opened Real McCoy in the mid-1950s. And ever since then, says Griffin's grandson Ryan, very little has changed.
"Grandma is definitely old-school," says Ryan, who works full time at the shop. "She tells me, 'Honey, you can change the price, you can change location, but you can never change the product.'"
In the 1970s, Real McCoy moved from its original Carson Street location (where, ironically, a Subway currently does business) to a small storefront a few doors down. But to this day, most of grandma's original kitchen equipment is still preparing the food.
"It's ridiculous how old all this is," says Ryan, 26, gesturing toward a small, black stovetop as he heats a pot of sausage one morning. "It's like a hundred years old, but we still use it every day."
It seems to be working just fine. Whether you get a hot sausage sub or a steak sandwich, you're bound to be impressed by its size -- especially when you factor in its low price. For just $6, you can get a foot-long "Original" Italian hoagie that puts chain sandwich shops to shame.
Loaded with salami and ham, and flavored with oil and hot-pepper relish, Ryan says the sandwich is Real McCoy's best-seller. "It's old-fashioned," he says, "just a lot of meat."
But for fans of spice, Ryan suggests the barbecue sandwich. "It's like the spiciest Sloppy Joe you've ever had in your life," he says.
Ryan says the shop has never advertised, relying instead on word of mouth. On a recent afternoon, I noticed how well that works. A man carrying a plastic bag full of foot-long subs exited the sandwich shop and crossed paths with another man, this one carrying a Burger King bag.
"You go there once," said the man leaving Real McCoy, "and you'll never go anywhere else for a sandwich."
2010 E. Carson St., South Side