Compliments Only just graduated into permanent Dupont Circle digs, but the pandemic-born sub shop still refuses to take itself too seriously.
The 10-inch sandwich slinger grew out of its temporary Logan Circle home and relocated to the former Sorellina deli space last week (2029 P Street NW). The petite Dupont shop with 15 seats is actually much bigger than its first. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for dine-in, takeout or delivery.
While there’s no alcohol, there’s still happy hour: a comical $1 Diet Coke deal daily (2 p.m. to 3 p.m.). Other playful touches include mini cannoli dipped in bright Fruity Pebbles and a working vintage vending machine stocked with candy cigarettes for $1.
A more useful and inedible menu offering is a $15 picnic kit, complete with a reusable blanket, two color-changing cups, napkins, wet wipes, and a frisbee.
The bread and butter of the store, of course, is its sizable and portable subs that spawned a reliable D.C. following during the to-go days of the pandemic. A best-selling Teamster comes with ham, capicola, and Genoa salami, along with hot and sweet peppers, onions, oil and vinegar, and shredded lettuce. All subs, which run around $15, come on a 10-inch Italian roll — except for whopping three- and six-foot-long options to feed catering requests.
Pete Sitcov and Emily Cipes first debuted Compliments Only on the lower 14th Street NW strip in December 2020 when the two needed a new place to work after Coconut Club, the island-style hangout by Union Market (where Sitcov was sous chef and Cipes was co-owner and general manager), temporarily closed.
Back when Sitcov started the deli at Eckington’s Yang Market, he named all of his sandwiches after scenes or quotes from his favorite movie of all time: My Cousin Vinny. At Compliments Only, he pays homage to its starring actress with a fiery “Marisa Tomei Eats Free” that tops Italian cured meats with honey chili aioli.
Sitcov anticipates his new “Sticky Wicky Club” to do well, comprised of turkey, ham, bacon, Duke’s mayo, provolone, tomato, onion, shredduce, oil and vinegar, and oregano. Having an oven at its new location is a game changer and opens the door to fresh sandwich ideas. A comforting “Vesuvio II,” for instance, comes with plump meatballs, vodka sauce, pepperoncini, oregano, and blanket of melty mozzarella. The beef-and-pork orbs reappear on their own as a side swimming in marinara.
“That meatball sub I really like and I’m not a hot sandwich guy,” says Sitcov.
A decor call for customers’ tchotchkes resulted in a collection of wild oddities across its shelves and brick walls. There’s everything from a cheesy portrait of a friend — akin to the painting of Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers — to a taxidermy head of a fox “with the wrong teeth,” he says. The interior, assembled by //3877, also nods to American tattoo work and its inked-up team with decorative tiles framing the ordering line.
D.C.’s sandwich game recently got stronger across town on Capitol Hill, where another playful and pandemic-era operation (Fight Club) relocated to a permanent address too. An in-the-works alcohol license will add boozy punches into the mix.