There are plenty of sandwich shops in town, but one stands out above them all.

Hero Sandwich Bar is an elusive and incredibly delicious sandwich restaurant that has now done three pop-ups in Standard Pizza just off Pandora Avenue. 

The sandwich shop was started by a self-proclaimed ‘sandwich mommy’ named Julie who works a 9-to-5 for the government, who also has a passion for sandwiches that set her on a path to become a restauranteur.

Sometimes they are called hoagies, grinders or subs but in New York they are called Italian heroes. 

Julie says a Hero sandwich must consist of the following to be considered a true hero:

  • Must be on a hero roll—specific type of white bread roll
  • A “fat stack” of meat
  • Has to have “shrettuce,” which is shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Must have a bath of oil and vinegar
(Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)

The origins

Julie is from Ottawa and so is her friend Laura, who assists her at all the pop-up events. The concept of Hero originated when the two of them shared a conversation about how much they miss Italian hero sandwiches.

“Everytime we get together, all we can do is talk about all the foods we miss from back home that we can’t get in Victoria,” Julie told Victoria Buzz.

“For whatever reason, this summer it was the Italian heroes.”  

They decided to just make them for themselves and decided to do a pop-up on a whim not knowing what the response would be like. 

“I think I created an Instagram account when I was baked one night and it sort of took off. I was completely shocked at the response.”

“I guess I’m actually doing this,” laughed Julie.

Before she knew it she had several hundred followers and people directly messaging her to ask when the next pop-up would be.

Shockingly, Julie has never worked in a restaurant before and her first time cooking for people professionally was the first pop-up in September. 

The pop-ups

During the first event, Julie’s friend and helper Laura had made about 70 cookies to give out in line to those who were waiting. Just before they opened the door to serve, Laura went to check the line and hand out cookies to those waiting and came back empty-handed before they even opened. 

“I had a feeling there would be a lineup,” Julie told Victoria Buzz. “I thought it would be five or ten people though.”

The line was wrapped around the city block with approximately 80 to 100 people outside.

“We had to cut off the line as soon as we opened because we knew we were going to sell out,” Julie said. “We only had 200 sandwiches.”

“Because people all showed up at once as we were set to open, some of them ended up waiting for three hours for a sandwich.”

“Not one person complained about the wait. Everyone got to the till and was so happy and so excited.”

Because of the long wait, for the second pop-up event in October, Julie and Laura made a website capable of doing pre-orders where people can pick a time to get their sandwich and make their order online.

Julie announced on Hero’s Instagram when the pre-order would go live and sandwich lovers in Victoria responded. Over 230 sandwiches sold out in 45 minutes. 

“It worked so well, nobody wired more than five minutes for their Hero,” said Julie.

For the third pop-up on November 28th, when the pre-order went live more than 250 sandwiches sold out in less than 10 minutes. 

Some people ordered multiple sandwiches so there were a total of 126 orders.

At one point, Julie told Victoria Buzz there were nearly 450 people on the website during the pre-order, which means more than 300 people did not get sandwiches.

“I am just incredibly grateful for all the support I’ve gotten from all these sandwich loving people,” said Julie. 

“When I have a pop-up and six things go wrong, I ask myself, ‘why the hell am I doing this,’ only to find a ton of messages from people who are so happy and excited for their sandwich.”

“It’s the people that keep me going.”

What’s next?

Through creating Hero almost by accident, Julie has discovered her true passion in life which she says is equal parts exciting and anxiety inducing. 

She wants to make her monthly pop-up into a daily service sandwich bar but she is still so early in the process of developing this passion into a profession that she isn’t in any rush and she wants to go about it the right way. 

She plans on making a move in some way of doing a lunch service in near spring.

“I am definitely looking to do this on a daily basis, that’s definitely the goal here,” Julie told Victoria Buzz. 

“I want to move from once a month pop-ups to a daily thing.”

Unfortunately, due to the time of year and some equipment needing repairs, there will be no pop-up in December, however Hero Sandwich Bar is planning to do a bit of a charity event and giveaway.

On Monday, December 12th, instead of a pop-up, Hero Sandwich Bar will be hosting a food drive at Standard Pizza. 

People can make food donations and monetary donations and Julie said that anyone who donates will get the first crack at the next pre-order Hero does sometime in January. 

“Anyone that drops off a donation will get an advance VIP order link,” said Julie. 

“So technically, depending on how many people donate there may not be a public pre-order link.”

Julie also mentioned she was thinking about the idea of making a small amount of Hero sandwiches and live auctioning them off to the highest bidder.

There will also be gift cards to be given out, Christmas music and fresh-made cookies. 

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