The History of Isaac’s Pretzel Sandwiches

We’re celebrating 28 years of Isaac’s with a special anniversary menu that features the sandwiches from our original 1983 menu.  One thing you might have noticed is no mention of a Mallard, Twisted Chicken, Rose of Sharon…or any other of our popular pretzel roll sandwiches.  I KNOW…an Isaac’s menu WITHOUT our famous pretzel roll sandwiches!?!?   The more I thought about it, the more I suspected there was an interesting story to be told…and to my credit, I was right!  Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post today!

Twisted Chicken

The Twisted Chicken!

I decided to start my sandwich sleuthing by eating a Twisted Chicken (I figured that would be a great way to get inspired, too).  As I munched, I sorted through our big file called “Old Menus”.  I found a menu from 1994 that did not have any pretzel sandwiches and then one from 1996 where they appeared company-wide.  My investigation got another break when my boss, Phil Wenger, and our menu queen, Jen Shivery, told me to talk with Doug Kaufmann, a former Isaac’s General Manager from our East York location at Meadowbrook Village.

Doug and Phil

Doug (l.) and Phil (r.) back in the day!

According to Doug, one day in 1994 Pat the Bread Guy (who used to deliver bread to Isaac’s, other vendors and to Central Market) had a left-over box of the famous big Philly-style soft pretzels that he gave to him rather than throwing them out!  So Doug got some ham, Swiss cheese and mustard and made the first Pretzel Sandwiches at Isaac’s and fed his employees!  They raved so much about the twisted concoction that he started ordering more of the pretzels and running them as specials.  The idea spread like wildfire through the company, which had around 12 locations by that time (1995) and everyone wanted to get twisted!

Smitties Brochure cover

A sampling of all the wonderful treats Smittie's makes!

But there were some problems with the pretzels from Philadelphia…they didn’t have a great shelf life and they burned easily in our grills.  After a brief search we discovered Smittie’s Soft Pretzels, in York County no less, who had been making pretzels since 1934.  Even better, they had already developed a pretzel roll that they sold at their store and highway stands in York County.  Their rolls, made with a distinct stone hearth baked recipe, created the perfect combination for some of Isaac’s Famous Grilled Sandwiches.

After a few modifications and a brief trial period, Isaac’s Pretzels Sandwiches became a part of the flock in 1996 and are officially 15 years old this year.  Whew…after all that sleuthing, I think I deserve a treat…like my personal favorite Pretzel Sandwich, the Mallard!  What’s your favorite pretzel sandwich?

The Mallard Sandwich

My favorite pretzel sandwich of all...the Mallard!

And that’s the latest scoop from JohnnyKat Roberts, Isaac’s Marketing Coordinator!

About Johnny Roberts

Johnny Roberts, Marketing Coordinator for Isaac's, has been with the company for over 11 years, with most of that time spent in Marketing. He has worked in the restaurant industry since he was 16 and worked 8 years in a business-to-business advertising agency before coming to Isaac's...actually starting off at the Granite Run location as a tron before coming into Central Office to be in Marketing.
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