A classic New York or New Jersey-style deli might be hard to come by in a city like D.C., but burrowed in the midst of Dupont’s many culinary offerings is Compliments Only, a nostalgic sub shop with a memorable menu featuring quintessential Italian ingredients.
Located on P Street in Dupont after opening in June 2022, Compliments Only sits nestled between the area’s picturesque townhouses and facades. The menu leans into this aura, with Italian cold cuts like capicola and genoa featured on multiple of their signature sandwiches.
The downstairs space might seem small on the outside, but a wide-open expanse and plentiful seating allow customers to enjoy their meal in the cozy dining area. Alternatively, patrons can take their sandwich outside to one of Dupont’s many public eating areas, like the long benches around the perimeter of the circle.
At first, I wasn’t too impressed by the relatively simple interior of the restaurant. But as I took a closer look, I noticed the decor gave off more of a charming air, with campy paintings of vegetables and shelves with random knick knacks showcasing far more personality than you’d expect from a typical sandwich shop.
Despite being in the heart of the District, you could easily mistake Compliments Only for a classic New Jersey deli with retro drink and snack logos, an old-school ticket dispenser for ordering and bar-style seating along the brick wall.
The menu is exclusively sandwiches, but Compliments Only does provide several options in the form of signature subs and ingredients for building your own sandwich, so even the most anti-Italian customers can still find a sub they’re likely to enjoy. Ingredients available include classic meats like turkey, ham and salami, veggies like hot peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes and sauces like Dijon mustard and mayo ($10 to $21.75).
The build your own section only really matters if you somehow don’t find a worthy option in the signature sub section, which sports delectable options like the Marisa Tomei Eats Free, a stockpile of capicola, genoa, mozzarella, basil and arugula salad and honey chili aioli ($14.5), and the Farmers Market After Dark, made with cucumber, hot and sweet peppers, onion, arugula, shredded lettuce, green goddess dressing, oil and vinegar ($11.5).
I opted for the Crunchy Boi ($15), a signature sub with turkey, provolone, shredded lettuce, garlic mayo, oil and vinegar and the star of the show – potato chips, a relatively childish combination that my inner five year old could simply not ignore. The sandwich came within five minutes, and I soon found myself seated outside eager to eat, watching the pedestrians and cars of Dupont race by me in the early afternoon rush.
The first thing that popped out was the sheer amount of lettuce, a staple of Northeast sandwiches that immediately made me feel at home. As I took my first bite, I knew the sandwich lived up to its name – this was, in fact, a crunchy boi. The softness of the lettuce, bread and turkey blended exquisitely with the stable crunch of the potato chips.
The most unexpected element of the sandwich was the mayo, which the staff certainly didn’t shy away from using. Creamy, rich in flavor and seemingly everywhere, it was the perfect compliment to the already-solid ingredients featured.
The bread also pleasantly surprised me – its fluffy interior and crispy exterior far surpassed an Italian loaf you might find at a chain sandwich joint like Subway. Finally, the potato chips solidly earned their place among the ingredients, adding the necessary texture needed to complete an already-delicious sandwich.
With a charming interior, stacked menu and unbeatable deli vibe, Compliments Only is a worthwhile stop for any day spent in Dupont.