Opening up a Philly bar in the heart of New York was an ambitious move for Aaron Hoffman.
The Philadelphia native and his wife, who’s a born a bred New Yorker, have operated Wogies for 15 years — and, just like Rocky Balboa, they’ve grown their business into a champion.
After first opening shop in the West Village in 2004, Wogies expanded to a second location in the Financial District some years later. Today, they wear the crown as one of New York City’s best places for Philadelphia cheesesteaks and chicken wings.
But there’s so much more than just a staple food in Hoffman’s oven — an industrial, German-imported baking one, to be exact.
“We’re the only ones that bake like this in house,” Hoffman explained, mentioning the amount of experimentation that’s been done in his one-of-a-kind, basement bakery that produces the bread for Wogies cheesesteaks, along with pretzels and so many more leavened treats that marry Philly and New York tastes together.
That constant, fun experimentation has led to a new, collaborative menu item between Wogies and this reporter — one that also combines two flavors destined to be together. Our version of the cheesesteak merges some chopped up steak with Buffalo-style chicken, plus an array of other goodies.
After the meats are hacked up and the fresh roll is warmed, next comes finding the right toppings to give this to-be-named hero (not a hoagie, Hoffman explained, because there’s no lettuce, tomato or mayo) its true flavor.
The concept of this hybrid hero arose from the desire of customers torn between indulging on steak or going a healthier route with chicken. Hoffman and this reporter decided to take a “Why not both?” approach to answering this dilemma.
Upon Hoffman’s recommendation, white American cheese is melted onto the buffalo chicken half while a chipotle, cheddar cheese wiz is drizzled onto the steak side. Both sides are topped with plenty of onions.
Wogies originated as inspiration from nearby Corner Bistro, where Hoffman and friends would spend many nights while he was working as a bartender for swanky hotel bars in the early 2000s.
“We thought, ‘Let’s be Corner Bistro, but with Philly stuff,” and like that it came to be,” Hoffman explained.
After finding a corner property on the avenue, one that had turned over frequently from failed restaurants, Wogies finally became a literal downtown cornerstone.
So, how did Hoffman settle on the name Wogies?
“It was my dad’s nickname in high school, although none of my family, not even my mother, knows why,” he said.
It was rumored to be after an Eagles player in the 1950s, though that wasn’t confirmed.
“I was flipping through his old year book and a $100 bill fell out underneath his nickname, so I took that a sign of faith,” Hoffman said.
Special orders, like custom cheesesteaks, don’t upset the staff at Wogies.
“If a customer wants it, we’ll make it,” Hoffman said — though he conceded that custom orders have to be within reason.
Hoffman, who encourages creativity to the fullest, has taken a truly down-to-earth approach to running his bar.
From letting regulars make custom cocktails to impress a date, or offering half-off deals to NYPD and FDNY personnel, Wogies has made customer satisfaction a secret to success over their 15 years in operation.
“It’s cool when the fire truck pulls up to grab a takeout order,” he joked around.
When heading to Wogies don’t forget to try the pretzels
Or the wings.
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