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Lou’s Sandwich Shop – Home of “The Zep” Since 1941 Norristown Pennsylvania's Famous Sandwich

Posted on: May 5, 2017

Philadelphia may be famous for the hoagie, but for a taste of the little-known regional sandwich the Zep, Mod Betty is sending you to Lou’s Sandwich Shop in Norristown, PA. The Zep was invented in Norristown, and Lou’s is famous for theirs.

Located on busy East Main Street since 1941, you can’t miss Lou’s iconic logo – a wide mawed gent requesting someone to “Please Pass Me Those Delicious Sandwiches…” – I hope in all these years someone has!

Lou's Sandwich Shop Norristown PA - Pennsylvania - Retro Roadmap

Note – The gent on the sign is thought to be inspired by actor Joe E. Brown 

A Zep is like a hoagie (sub, sandwich) but is only made with cooked salami, a thick slice of onion, tomato, oil and oregano, served on a “Conshy roll” (local bread roll from the Conshohocken Bakery.)

Lou's Sandwich Shop Norristown PA - Pennsylvania - Retro Roadmap

Or you can go rogue and try it with a different meat. Maybe you want to a bit more pep in your zep? “Hoagie spread” made with spicy hot peppers is available at your table.

Doesn’t sound like your cuppa tea? Mod Betty understands, as that slab of onion is quite a commitment, but there are plenty of other choices on the menu at Lou’s.  Cheesesteaks and hoagies of course, but also soups, salads, fries and pizza. They even make milkshakes made on a classic Hamilton Beach mixer!

Lou's Sandwich Shop Norristown PA Pennsylvania - Retro Roadmap

POP QUIZ! Is This A Zep?

Lou's Sandwich Shop Norristown PA - Pennsylvania - Retro Roadmap

(Answer at the end)

Lou's Sandwich Shop Norristown PA - Pennsylvania - Retro RoadmapAt Lou’s you have your seating choice of stool at the counter, or booth seating at the narrow wooden booths. I love the curves of their tubular steel construction, the mirrors and coat racks, and plenty of Lou’s ephemera to look at.
Lou's Sandwich Shop Norristown PA - Pennsylvania - Retro RoadmapHeading back towards the booths on the “balcony” you’ll likely spy brothers Lou and Charles Alba busy behind the grill and yet engaged in friendly banter with folks at the counter. Their grandfather started the business and they’re the last of the family line to keep the tradition going.
Lou's Sandwich Shop Norristown PA - Pennsylvania - Retro Roadmap
Speaking of tradition, you’ll quickly realize that a visit to Lou’s for a Zep is a tradition, from locals arriving for their daily lunch fix, to folks who have moved away, returning for a taste of back home. Do yourself a favor and try one of those delicious sandwiches, won’t you?


No, that is not a Zep! You can tell because it has lettuce on it, and more than one kind of meat. This is an equally delicious Italian Hoagie. 

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  • jeannebodine

    I just wrote a 6-7 paragraph post and it disappeared. I don’t have time to re-write it so here’s a summary of the main points:
    1. Mod Betty is a national treasure and her blog posts should be in the Library of Congress.
    2. We must try to see, enjoy, preserve these parts of our past.
    3. I’ve loved old things since I was a small child. I would ask my grandmother if I could have this or that treasure. Even on road trips with my girlfriends in my twenties, I would demand to stop if I saw a one-off or old fashioned department stores or luncheonette. My friends would get mad; but I got my stop most of the times. They thought I was crazy.
    4. I’m not crazy nor is Mod Betty. Our past must be treasured. And preserved in this increasingly online world
    5. I am a spouse care-giver for my dear husband who has EOAD. He remembers almost nothing but the photos in your posts trigger beautiful memories.
    6. Since we live somewhat nearby to you, Mod Betty, we have visited some of your finds; they make make a perfect day trip for me and my husband. We even made a day trip with 2 friends to the 5 & 10 that was 100 years old.
    7. I rarely get to comment much but I thank you for every single word you write.
    8. Today I introduced your site to one of our aides who is mostly a stay-at-home dad. He was so happy as many of your places will make perfect day trips with his 9-year old in the summer.
    9. This ‘summary’ of points is likely longer than the original post I wrote that disappeared.
    10. I have an attic full with retro Christmas items I’ve collected. I’ve made a few wreaths but would love to do more.
    10. It would be my honor to meet you someday Mod Betty. You are my happy hero and you enrich my life immeasurably,

    • Oh, Jeanne – I am touched to the point of tears by your post, and it could not have come at a better time. The teeming rain (that I’m sure you have experienced since you’re local) has got me in a funk, and just a few hours ago I lamented to Retro Roadhusband, “Do you think anyone cares that I’m doing all this?” Obviously the universe sent me your message, and I take it to heart.
      I honestly feel that it is so important to visit – and document before they disappear – these places and people that give a sense of really being “somewhere real”. Knowing that what I’m doing resonates with you (and maybe other people too) gives me the impetus to keep on going.
      As long as there are “cool vintage places” out there to let folks know about, I feel it is my calling to be the one to get the word out!
      And even if these places disappear, at least we’ll have these few words and photos to let the future know that they were once here. HUGS, and thank you!

      • jeannebodine

        Yay! We both made each other happy today. A blessing come along when you least expect it. Everything you say about the people and places is true. It’s our heritage, mostly the ‘little” people who helped make this nation. Keep up the fantastic work. We’re out here.

        • I appreciate it! Brightened my day, and I’m just gonna keep on keepin on, until I’ve hopefully discovered and shared all the cool vintage places! Was just thinking of your comment about visits with your husband and your Aide and his son = I’m thinking my Retro Roadmap Roadbooks I’m putting together might help out with that! Stay tuned 🙂

      • I’m making a list of places to see from Mod Betty! I just showed my hubs this Zep and he loved it! Keep doin’ your thing! I’ve followed MANY bloggers over the years and I have watched them grow from an audience of 1 to a zillion! do what you love 🙂

      • I’m making a list of places to see from Mod Betty! I just showed my hubs this Zep and he loved it! Keep doin’ your thing! I’ve followed MANY bloggers over the years and I have watched them grow from an audience of 1 to a zillion! do what you love 🙂

        • Thanks, lady! I’m not really as concerned about numbers (I was never one of the popular kids, so I’m used to quality over quantity) – it’s just that sometimes I see so many people lining up at the chain restaurants, I wonder why they don’t dig these cool old places. I appreciate YOUR Quality comments and encouragement so thank you!!

          • I understand completely! I was just visiting Historic Fell’s Point the other day, where I used to have my store and art gallery, and everything historic was suffering. The older women that used to volunteer at the visitor’s center to take people on tours and help preserve the historic houses in the area, are all gone. The visitor center is an art gallery now; the Museum sits dark. There is no one to save it now. No more stories shared. No more remembrance, no respect for yesteryear, and I was sad. Across the street, the owner of Under Armor has restored the historic waterfront building and it sits shiny new with expensive rooms with silken sheets, tourist only crabcakes (too froufrou for what real Marylanders really eat), glistening chandeliers, swanky textiles, upscale designed, rooftop pool, and expensive looking people swarming around it. Meanwhile, around the corner, I stood next to the oldest house in Baltimore and watched people just walk on by..they had no idea what they were walking past. 1754. they walked right past 1754 and didn’t give it a second thought. The old ladies that made crabcakes the correct way and fried them in a wrought iron pan, are gone. The old ladies that sat in those houses and dared the city to knock them down to put I-95 through their town…are all gone. One day they will knock them down for good; they are already falling apart and some have come down to never be replaced. A deep hollow sadness stirs when I think about the fact that one day it will all be a memory. It’s the same feeling I assume you have about the things you share. You want us to appreciate them and remember them and solicit them to honor their place in our lives. All these things in the past somehow have contributed to making us all who we are…it matters.

          • I find it so ironic that Americans will travel to Europe to marvel at their historic past and architecture, yet we bulldoze our own history so quickly that we’ll have very little left to be able to age into the gracefulness of antiquity! Sigh. Glad I’m in good company at least 🙂