Wisemiller’s Deli removed the “Blackie’s Favorite” sandwich that has appeared on the menu for at least 20 years from the store’s physical menu as a result of backlash to the racist nature of its name.
The sandwich, which contains hot roast beef, grilled onions, muenster cheese and thousand island dressing, is not listed on the official menu inside of the deli but still appears on the store’s online menu. Blackie’s Favorite has historically been one of Wisey’s most popular sandwiches, according to a 1999 Washington Post article on the restaurant.
Naming a sandwich Blackie’s Favorite is inappropriate because of the history of the term as a slur again the black community, according to Georgetown Black Student Association Historian Alexandra Mucher (COL ’22).
“Blackie is a derogatory term used towards black people that is condescending by nature,” Mucher wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It is a dated term and I don’t hear it being used as much, but the frequency of its usage is irrelevant to the historical weight it carries.”
Wisey’s, a popular Georgetown student eatery, has been located on 36th St. NW, about two blocks from Georgetown University’s front gates, for over 60 years.
The university, which owns the land on which Wisey’s is located, contacted the restaurant about the name of the sandwich before its removal from the menu, according to university spokesperson Rachel Pugh.
“Concerns about the menu item were raised and communicated to Wisemiller’s,” Pugh wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Rolando Nauit, manager of Wisey’s sister deli on Wisconsin Avenue, has been working at the store for 13 years but was not involved in the decision to remove the sandwich from the menu. Both Wisey’s locations have experienced lags in updating their online menu, according to Nauit.
The sandwich’s name should be changed if it remains on the Wisey’s menu, according to Mucher.
“Even if it isn’t meaning to come off negatively, they should change the name because I’m sure I’m not the only one who was puzzled by seeing that name,” Mucher wrote.
Blackie’s Favorite is not the only contentious sandwich name on the Wisey’s menu. Wisey’s in-store menu also offers the “Gangsta Club Sub,” a sandwich which could also reference racial stereotypes, according to Mucher.
Wisey’s official menu is hung in the 36th Street store and listed on the website for the Wisconsin Avenue location. The outdated menu, which includes Blackie’s Favorite, is listed on the original location’s website.
Wisey’s customer Elisabeth Oki (COL ’20) visits the restaurant at least three times a week and typically orders the “Hot Chick Sandwich.” Continuing to serve the sandwich under the Blackie’s Favorite name is unacceptable, according to Oki.
“This name is inherently so racist and outlandish. I’ve never seen something of that nature on a menu before,” Oki wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It utilizes the derogatory term ‘blackie’ which makes me think its implying that it’s the favorite sandwich of an entire race.”
Though sandwich names are not the most pressing problem facing the black community in Washington, D.C., the name is still offensive and upsetting, according to Mucher.
“Between gentrification and criminalization, the D.C. black community is being faced with much greater issues than the name of a sandwich,” Mucher wrote. “That being said, seeing what is essentially a racial slur on the menu of a popular eatery near campus isn’t a welcoming sight as a black student at Georgetown.”
Wisey’s needs to be much more careful with their language, according to Mucher.
“I would hope Wisey’s has enough common sense and racial awareness to recognize that this term should not be used as a marketing gimmick,” Mucher wrote. “Especially as a business, they need to think about how things are perceived in a greater context.”
The name “Blackie’s Favorite” is an homage to Ulysses “Blackie” Auger, the owner of “Blackie’s House of Beef,” a famous rib and steak restaurant in D.C., Wisemiller’s owner Gina Vogel wrote in a June 9 email to The Hoya. Vogel said she sought to explain the name to those who raised concerns, though the sandwich has been removed from the physical menu in the 36th Street location.
This article was updated on June 9 to include a response from Wisemiller’s owner Gina Vogel.