As the smell of butter faintly fills the air and funky tunes bump through the speakers, I know I’m in the right place. That right place is HUDA, a fast casual sandwich shop nestled on the corner of 18th and Ranstead Streets that opened in August of 2020. HUDA, unlike other joints in the city, isn’t serving up just any sandwich—these sammies are assembled with homemade milk buns. Crispy and buttered on their underside with sweetness in each bite, potato rolls or hamburger buns seem pedestrian in comparison.
While the bread is a key ingredient, the fillings for each sandwich are equally impressive: crispy maitake mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, grilled swordfish, and braised short ribs, to name a few.
That being said, HUDA is far from a one–trick pony. Their sides and salads are sophisticated and simple— think lamb chops with sweet chili glaze or pickled green beans and french fries with dipping sauces. They even serve dessert, in the form of a cinnamon milk bun with blueberries and mascarpone icing.
Just looking at the menu, my mouth waters, overwhelmed by the delectability of all the options. I end up just asking chef–slash–owner Yehua Sichel to make the choices for me. He goes with two elevated basics: the spicy chicken sandwich and the BLT.
As he prepares the sandwiches, I chat with Sichel and his colleague Alejandra Poulis. I promise them that I am an actual reporter, (a fact that I sometimes debate the veracity of) collecting some facts about the restaurant. I thank them profusely for giving a hungry student journalist some sandwiches to try. Conversation is light and they are thoroughly kind. In a world where fast casual can sometimes mean an austere grab–and–go situation, HUDA feels homey. Cookbooks, trinkets, and a Dutch oven are displayed near the window and the bold black and white art gives the otherwise clean front room some character.
I am staring at a piece of art that had "yum" written multiple times in black bubble lettering when the BLT comes out. Slathered in umami–laden garlic mayo and layered with thick slices of golden heirloom tomatoes, the first bite is just as juicy as you’d imagine. The bacon isn't too thick or thin, the lettuce adds some crunch, and the bun is perfectly toasted. Sure, flavor is the main character; but texture is the deuteragonist. Both showed up and wowed in this first act.
On the heels of our last bites of the BLT comes the spicy chicken sandwich. You would think that after one substantial and meaty sandwich you wouldn’t have space for another. At HUDA, this isn't the case. The spicy chicken sandwich features crispy fried chicken accompanied by lettuce, tomato, pickled chilis, and southwest sauce. The pickled chilis are surprisingly mild and add a briny kick, while the spicy southwest sauce coats each bite with more necessary spice.
Samantha, our photographer who accompanied me on the journey, and I nod at each other the entire time, with her raving about bringing her boyfriend there, and me trying to plan my next visit in my head. When there’s a sense of urgency to return to a place you’re already at, I’d call that a good sign. More explanation isn’t necessary after that. Go to HUDA, try a milk bun sandwich, and stay a bit longer than you expected—you won’t regret it.
TL;DR: Gourmet sandwiches and good vibes to fuel your next trip to Rittenhouse Square.
Location: 32 South 18th St.
Hours: 11am to 6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11am to 3pm Sundays