When I was about to graduate from the Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School, the whole grade was put into the auditorium where we watched the seminal classic, Rudy. I always assumed we watched it for the triumphant story of a working-class kid fighting his way into Notre Dame to play football for the Fighting Irish who went on to be investigated and charged by the SEC for operating a pump-and-dump scheme. But later in life, I noticed something quite strange: the Indiana high school football team Rudy plays for in the beginning of the movie is called “The Hilltoppers.” For those of you who may not know, that is also the name of the Summit Mascot.
I’ll never know if that’s the real reason we watched it, but I do know that Rudy Ruettiger’s hometown football team is no longer the most iconic Hilltopper in the land. You see, if you walk into Towne Deli in Summit (or New Providence, technically) at lunch time, you’re practically guaranteed to see a kid with tall Nike socks shooting out of their basketball sneakers and lacrosse shorts walk up to the counter and call out, “I’ll have a Hilltopper and a half and half.” It’s practically a language. A key element of life as a teenager in Summit. Or so I was figured when conformist me was trying to fit in growing up.
I first tried the Hilltopper after seeing kids on my summer baseball team (we were the Hilltopper [duh]). I thought, “hey that looks good!” and when I asked my teammates what sandwich it was, they replied, “It’s a Hilltopper, loser. All the cool kids are trying it.” Or maybe that’s not how it happened. Probably not. I dunno. Anyway…
Upon trying it, my mind was blown. This was the end of the road of me attempting to be kosher. Bacon? Cheese and chicken together? I can’t pass this up. To clarify, the Hilltopper is fried chicken cutlets topped with BBQ sauce, pepper jack cheese and bacon. It’s sweet, savory and spicy and would become a flavor I always associated with home.
The one I ordered for this write-up was on a round roll but it usually comes on a long roll. It was just too much for me at the time (don’t @ me). I opened it up and saw a glorious image. The cheese tearing apart down the middle and the beautiful maroon color of the sauce on the chicken (maroon is Summit’s color).
I quickly ate the sandwich. It was great. It just tastes so good, even though I don’t want it to. It feels brutally unhealthy as you eat it and if you over-eat it at all it will stick in your stomach like a rock all day. But the sweetness from the BBQ sauce, the mild spice from the pepper jack cheese, and the salty taste of the bacon combine for a beautiful, smoky flavor. But the best part of the Hilltopper is eating the spare cheese that melted onto the foil wrapping on the sandwich afterwards.
However, this is not a very refreshing sandwich. Sure it tastes great, but you’ll need some liquid to make this thing go down. That’s why a wise sweet lax bro would order this with a half and half – the Towne Deli’s signature drink. It’s also really good, though was not included in this writeup since, at the end of the day, it’s just an Arnold Palmer that costs two dollars extra. It’s probably higher quality, but I don’t think it’s super unique.
Anyway, that’s the Hilltopper, the sandwich of Summit. And there will be several other hometown favs on here going forward, so stay tuned! Sorry this post took so long, it’s entirely my fault. Just had some hiccups. The next few posts should come much sooner.