Usually when a sandwich shop closes, a sandwich shop just closes. But when local chain Cobby’s recently revealed on Facebook that the original store at 1030 Broadway Ave. had shuttered, it felt like a piece of Boise had died.
Cobby’s served families, workers, Boise State students — anyone craving a filling, quality sub loaded with meat and cheese. Soaked with vinegar. Piled with pepperoncinis. Not to mention a free apple and all the teensy bags of self-serve chips you could grab without feeling like a total thief.
Two Cobby’s restaurants carry on the Idaho tradition at 6899 Overland Road in Boise and 4348 Chinden Blvd. in Garden City. But the Cobby’s on Broadway was the original. It’s where the memories were started in 1978 by owner Pat Moroney.
“I want to thank Pat for all the years of service at Broadway,” Jeff Caves, co-host of “Idaho Sports Talk” on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket, wrote on Facebook. “Myself and hundreds of former Bronco players relied on his post-game sandwich for years!”
Shane Boulds lived in the apartment above Cobby’s before he graduated from BSU in 1988. “The Cobby’s Broadway Penthouse,” he remembers affectionately. Suds Tavern and The End Zone were next door. Still are. “So it was stumbling distance,” he says, chuckling.
Conveniently, Boulds’ roommate even worked at Cobby’s.
“I remember stories of him sneaking down after the bars had closed for a pitcher of beer here and there,” Boulds says. “That was my favorite apartment in college for us. It could have been nice, but it wasn’t, right? But it was central, and it was fun.”
Boulds scarfed down a Cobby’s sub about once a week while living there. But Cobby’s shops have turned thousands of Boiseans into regulars. And if you’re a first-timer, there have always been things about Cobby’s that seem quirky.
It dawns on me that Cobby’s was founded the same year that Randy Newman’s “Short People” was a radio hit. But was it really necessary to build an ordering counter best suited for the BSU basketball team?
When I peered into the vacant building this week, that towering counter still loomed inside.
“It’s a sneeze guard,” my wife explained. She ate at the Broadway Cobby’s for the first time when she was around 8. Her father took the family there for a pre-game sandwich. Then they crossed the street to watch BSU take on the Vandals.
“We were in the north end zone,” she remembers fondly. “There were a bunch of drunk Idaho fans. And my dad got mad at them.”
Ah, Cobby’s memories.
Sadly, I’m not even sure why Cobby’s closed. Moroney did not return a phone call after I left him a voice mail and contacted Cobby’s via social media.
The obvious guess is that the sandwich shop wasn’t making enough bread — literally and figuratively. A Subway just south of Cobby’s on Broadway recently shut down. The original Cobby’s still looked like the original, too. Fancy, modern upgrades weren’t part of the philosophy.
Restaurateur Nick Epler, who owns the Pita Pit across the street, says times are tough for Boise quick-service restaurant (QSR) operators.
“We have nearly every major franchise in town these days,” Epler says. “It can be very difficult to set yourself apart. ... The next couple of years are going to be very interesting. I believe from the QSR standpoint, we are going to see a certain amount of ‘market correction.’”
Competitor or not, Epler says it’s sad seeing a local staple like the Broadway Cobby’s vanish.
“It is iconic,” Epler says. “It’s kind of along the lines of Merritt’s right out there on State Street — kind of been around forever. It’s just something that you never really would think would close up.”
Fortunately, we still have two Cobby’s locations. It’s a lunch treat that every Boisean should experience at least once. Put your chin on the counter. Order a No. 23 — a turkey and avocado sandwich. Jam your arm into the wooden chip dispenser for as many bags as you can grab, kid.
Boulds, who now lives in San Francisco, hasn’t eaten at Cobby’s in 20 years, he reckons, but his college brain remembers the food well. He’s been thinking about moving back to Boise. He could have lunch at one of the other Cobby’s.
“They were good sandwiches,” he says.
“I actually was taking a walk down memory lane last time I was in Boise,” Boulds adds, “and I took a picture of the Cobby’s Broadway Penthouse.”