A new sandwich restaurant under the same ownership as Fat Pete's BBQ on Route 1, which closed in December, is coming to downtown College Park.
The Stuffed Turtle — which specializes in cheesesteaks and stuffed sandwiches that come with fries as toppings — had its soft opening on Friday.
"It's different than what anyone else has been doing around here," said executive chef Howard Greenberg.
The stuffed sandwiches on the menu are based on the "fat sandwiches" sold by food trucks at Rutgers University in the 1980s, Greenberg said, but professional chefs, rather than a line cook, prepare the sandwiches and use fresher, higher-quality ingredients.
Greenberg said the chicken and beef cheesesteaks were inspired by the chopped cheesesteaks served at Dalessandro's, a longtime Philadelphia-based cheesesteak and sandwich shop.
Fried chicken sandwiches, salads, fries and milkshakes are also on The Stuffed Turtle's menu, with sandwiches ranging from $7.49 to $8.99. The eatery is open from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. every day of the week, and offers delivery and takeout.
"We're not really recreating the wheel," Greenberg said.
Senior architecture major Marshall Noye appreciated the low cost, saying that "for the price and the type of food, it was very good." He added that the late operating hours give the city another late-night place to eat.
"To make it in College Park, you need to have late-night success," co-owner Jeff Holibaugh said.
Holibaugh said they are using word-of-mouth to spread the word for the opening. Several University of Maryland fraternities and sororities were invited to The Stuffed Turtle in the days leading up to Friday's opening and received free food, he said.
Greenberg said some of the students who attended the opening were from Philadelphia and said they preferred The Stuffed Turtle's cheesesteaks to those in their hometown, which Greenberg considered "a ringing endorsement."
Dan Chamberlain, a junior marketing and supply chain management major, said he would recommend The Stuffed Turtle.
"The sandwich was $7.50," Chamberlain said. "I'd expect the sandwich I got to be, like, 10 dollars. And it was really good."
Holibaugh said he had to close the Fat Pete's in College Park because local students found barbecue cuisine too expensive. The majority of the food served at The Stuffed Turtle is at least 25 percent cheaper, he said. He added the prices at the College Park Fat Pete's location were lower than at some of the restaurant's other locations, including Cleveland Park in Washington, D.C., but it still couldn't sell a large enough volume to keep it open.
Barbecue is both expensive and time-consuming to make, Holibaugh said. Some menu items were sold at a loss, he said, while the location's food was highly rated.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said the city is trying to make its economy less dependent on the student population, which is mostly absent in the summer and winter seasons. Several housing projects that are in the works — including the Boulevard at 9091, Bozzuto and the Fuse 47 apartment complex — are aimed toward nonstudents and are making progress in the city, Wojahn said.
"Those are all projects that will bring more year-round residents in that are non-student-focused housing," Wojahn said.
The city is also marketing itself to nonstudents more heavily, Wojahn said, by advertising programs such as the College Park City-University Partnership's homeownership program, which provides grants to homebuyers in College Park who are looking to make the area a more permanent residence.