What Happened to Clark's Submarine Sandwich?

Well, they went out of business!


Yeah, that's the short answer. 

But more importantly, what happened to each individual Clark's Submarine Sandwich store? Once there were 15 of them scattered around the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, but they were all gone by 1991. Clark's still has a small but loyal following around town, and a reputation built off the bread, thinly sliced onions and most important, the sandwich oil that was it's signature.

While the chain is long gone, I want to know just how gone is it? 

For example, my hometown had a Clark's Submarine Sandwiches, and that building is still standing.


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 401 Northdale Blvd. Coon Rapids

Back in October 2006, the building had long been sitting empty, but was still in good shape.


Shortly after I took the picture of the abandoned Clarks/Cousins building, it was renovated and turned into a Dunn Bros. Coffee. But still standing!

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: STANDING.

STANDING: 1/15
DEMOLISHED: 0/15

As a kid, they made my favorite sub sammich, and I've spent the rest of my life trying to find a sammich as good as a Clark's Submarine Sandwich. The old location at the Northdale and Foley intersection was a convenient stop for my family while out running errands. My mom did a lot of shopping/bill paying at Northdale Shopping Center, just across the street. Sub sammiches were picked up fairly often.

Throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area, Clark’s Submarine Sandwiches started disappearing in 1988-89. By 1991, the chain was gone and their trademarks were abandoned.


The Coon Rapids Clark's restaurant was converted into a Cousins Subs, not too long after Clark's closed. Freelance Dan worked at Cousins Subs, back when he was actively portraying his role as Freelance Dan. For some inexplicable reason, I never ate at Cousins Subs. I probably should have. After Cousins closed, every time I would drive by it, I would look in the windows and see a really sad looking office chair randomly stuck in the middle of the dining area, with the plastic booths already removed. Wish I had a photo of that...


Some may have preferred d’Angelo’s Subs, who also have a small but loyal following around town.

But Subway will never count... I want a sammich to taste like a sammich, not a corporate flavor. No matter what you get from Subway, it tastes like Subway. And that's not a good flavor.


Oh, and Hal Caesar! Subway in Del Norte, Colorado, would like you to come in and try the new Chicken Caesar Melt. Better hurry before the perfectly weighed out meat gets too slimy from sitting between wax paper for three weeks.


The conversion of Abandoned Cousins to Dunn Bros Coffee all happened when I was living in Colorado. Where I continued my search for a sub sammich as good as Clark's. Luckily, Englewood had a couple of good sammich options.

One of my regular stops was Sub Center.


Nearly hidden in a small storefront between Liberty Tax and Englewood Liquors, in the Safeway shopping center at Hampden and Logan. Their convenient location was a frequent stop over the years I lived in Englewood. The Turkey and Bacon sub was my go-to, and just a fantastic meal.


Lenny's Sub Shop was only open for a few years in Englewood, but their Italian sub brought back great memories of what Clark's Submarine Sandwich used to offer. In addition, Lenny's made one of the best Philly Cheesesteaks you could get in Colorado.


Unfortunately, they up and left the Denver metro area with no notice. Went there for an Italian sub one afternoon in August, 2013, and the store was being cleared out. It was soon replaced by an Asian Bistro.

That didn't make a Philly Cheesesteak...

A couple of years later, a Jersey Mike’s opened a few blocks north of my apartment, and they became my sammich shop of choice. Their Italian sub compared very close to what Lenny's had to offer, and a Philly Cheesesteak, just a couple notches below. Still not a fan of the Jersey Mike's Meatball sub, as the sauce doesn't seem quite right.


Luckily, there's a Jersey Mike's a couple of blocks from our house in Crapids, MN. So I don't have to go too far for my sammich fix.

But it's still not Clark's!

The other night, I got off work early, and had a Sub Sammich craving. I called Laura and told her I was going to pick up Jersey Mike's on my way home, and took her order. While eating my delicious Giant Number 2 (ordering that makes my internal child giggle), I kept thinking back to Clark's. Then I started writing this story in my head. Later that night, I turned to the Google Machine to see what the internets had to say about my favorite long gone sammich.

Several old Clark's black and white newspaper advertisements are scanned and available through newspapers.com. Including this one from 1980, which provided the basis for this story.


"Our submarines begin with a fresh Italian roll, we then add Swiss cheese, fresh lettuce, red garden tomato, mild Bermuda onions, out own special seasoning sauce, and your choice of meat."


The ad featured a listing of the street addresses for all 15 Clark's Submarine Sandwich locations, as of January 1980. 

This gives me an idea! 

I will enter each restaurant's address into Google, and see what is going on at Clark's, 40 years later! (Or whatever date the Google Van drove by it.) That way I can keep score of how many former Clark's are still standing or have been demolished. It'll be like investigative journalism without leaving my office!

Since I've already covered the old Coon Rapids location, let's hit the rest of them!

In no particular order...


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 1199 W 7th St., St. Paul  

As of June 2019, this former Clark's is operating as the Tavial Grill. While I'm not entirely certain, this building certainly has the appearance of a Clark's Submarine Sandwich restaurant of the past. One that has undergone some renovations in that time. But I'm going to conclude this was once a Clark's.

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: STANDING.

STANDING: 2/15
DEMOLISHED: 0/15


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 7th & Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

The Clark's ad didn't list a full street address for this restaurant, so when I typed it into Google Maps, it dropped me off in front of the Mayo Clinic (in June 2019). This corner of the intersection used to be the cluster of old run down buildings and shady businesses known as Block E. Which was demolished decades ago. But Clark's could have been amongst them.

However, I think it was across the street, on the southeast corner of 7th & Hennepin. That building is a multi-story office/warehouse space with retail on the sidewalk level. It's mostly vacant today, but in the 1980's was booming with small businesses. Without proof, I'm saying it was there instead of Block E. Which means the building is still there.

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: STANDING.

STANDING: 3/15
DEMOLISHED: 0/15


In addition to yummy delicious submarine sandwiches, you could also get a cup of soup at Clarks. The soup was heated and kept on the counter behind the register, in that actual black cauldron looking pot featured in the coupon. Apparently the soup only cost 49 cents a cup, back in November 1977. You also had less options for redeeming this coupon, as Clark's had 4 less locations than they did in 1980. Including the Coon Rapids restaurant, which had not been opened at this point.


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 4621 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights  

The Columbia Heights Clark's was open as a NY Gyro in October 2018. While not the sub sammich shop's classic color scheme, this is definitely Clark's classic architecture.

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: STANDING.

STANDING: 4/15
DEMOLISHED: 0/15

Wow, nothing has been torn down yet... I'm kinda surprised!

Among the Google searches, I found one old TV commercial for Clark's Submarine Sandwiches on YouTube. This one from 1985 features former boxer and local celebrity Scott LeDoux.


What a charismatic guy!

And I really want that race car!

As awesome as that was, I was hoping for the one animated Clark’s commercial with the 100 foot Clark's hat and mustache guy stomping around Minneapolis looking for sammiches. That's the one I remember seeing as a kid.


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 1670 Snelling Ave. N, Falcon Heights

Some point between 1991 and June 2019, saw the removal of Clark's and construction of these condopartments. Unless they were actually really old and well maintained, with a sub sammich restaurant occupying one of the bottom floor living spaces. But I'm pretty confident that it's new...

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: DEMOLISHED.

STANDING: 4/15
DEMOLISHED: 1/15

Newspapers.com dates this ad as from 1975. The promotion is only available the Bloomington Clark's, and shows different artwork than any other Clark's ad I've seen.


Wonder if any reps from The Beatles tried to sue for copyright infringement? That's a Blue Meanie away from a massive lawsuit. But if you were a holder, that coupon for a free yummy delicious sammich would need to be redeemed here:


Thanks to the city of Bloomington's facebook page for this photo. It's nice of them to share it since this is what Google tells me is at the address today:


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 9801 Aldrich Ave. S, Bloomington

Oh Walgreens... Must you build everywhere?

(Photo from June 2019. Not that it really matters, all Walgreens buildings look the same over the last 20 years.)

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: DEMOLISHED.

STANDING: 4/15
DEMOLISHED: 2/15


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 66th & Penn Ave. S, Richfield

Some time before June 2019, Walgreens nearest competitor had to get into the Clark's smashing game. Clearly a new construction.

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: DEMOLISHED.

STANDING: 4/15
DEMOLISHED: 3/15


For all the mid-1970's stoners who liked to be well prepared, this money saving offer rolled off the presses on 4-19-1977. Mind boggling that Clark's regular prices were only between 99 cants and $1.39 in 1977. I need a time machine...

Of the 11 Clark's Submarine Sandwich restaurants open for business in April 1977,  this was not one of them.


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 825 E 7th St. & Arcade, St. Paul

I'm not sure if Clark's operated out of this abandoned building, or one on either side that is now missing. Google snapped this photo in June 2019, but it looks like that structure hasn't seen customers in a long time. For the sake of my Clark's Scorecard, I'm going to say that it's customers were at one time buying submarine sandwiches.

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: STANDING.

STANDING: 5/15
DEMOLISHED: 3/15


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 1264 S Robert St., West St. Paul

From the shape of the building, I think it's safe to say this restaurant once sold Clark's subs. But in September 2016, it was -and maybe still is- Ali Baba's King of Gyros.

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: STANDING.

STANDING: 6/15
DEMOLISHED: 3/15


(Image from slphistory.org) Trying to imagine the era where one could enjoy a yummy delicious sub sammich and be in flavor country at the same time! I wonder how many of these ash trays survive today. I'd love to have one in my collection.


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 2426 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

Probably safe to say that this new construction (well, new in August 2017) was not once a Clark's. 

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: DEMOLISHED.

STANDING: 6/15
DEMOLISHED: 4/15

The next former Clark's is definitely not an original Clark's restaurant...


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 5358 West Broadway, Crystal

Google dates this picture as September 2018, and this Burger King is built in their early 1990's architectural style. Chances are once the former Clark's property became available, the King snapped it up, scraped it and built a new flame broiler on top. Which is rather curious to me, because if you turned 180 degrees around, you'd be staring at a McDonalds. Apparently burgers are in a much higher demand than sub sammiches in this part of Crystal.

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: DEMOLISHED.

STANDING: 6/15
DEMOLISHED: 5/15

Perhaps Crystal needed the following sales pitch to diversify it's tastes:

"Enjoy the delicious taste of our hard Italian Salami Submarine now specially priced at 99 cents. The Italian Salami is considered the King of Salamis. It is a smoked savory blend of spices aged to develop it's distinctive flavorful taste. Every Italian Salami Sub also includes crisp garden lettuce, red tomato, mild Bermuda onion, Swiss cheese, our special Italian seasoning sauce all on a chewy soft roll. Try a zesty Italian Salami Sub now for only 99 cents through August 29, 1982. No coupons required."

*Regular price was up to $1.79 in 1982.


"There's always another good sandwich to discover at Clark's."

My dad had a friend at his job back in the 80's, that also ran a Dry Cleaners in St. Paul. One day (I'm pretty sure it was in the Spring of 1987) he drove out to the shop to do some welding to repair a faulty clothes carousel. I went along to be the go-fer when they needed something or to hold something in place. Mostly I just sat at the front desk with a couple of Mad Magazines, a boombox and a handful of Dr. Demento cassettes.

The shop owner was a Russian immigrant, and spoke choppy English with a thick accent. He was very nice to me, and became overly excited when my Dr. Demento cassette played Hungarian Goulash. This was a recording from 1957, of comedian Allen Sherman performing with the Boston Pops Orchestra. The song they played under his lyrics about different foreign foods was a traditional Russian song that he knew well. He sang along with it in Russian, then I explained what the recording was after it was over.


I think I made his day!


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 647 University Ave., St. Paul

While I cannot say for certain, I am almost positive this is the Clark's we ate at for lunch that day. It was less than a two block walk from the Dry Cleaners we were working at. Several years later, I remember an address on University in St. Paul, when I worked for that guy's brother, at a satellite dry cleaners drop off station in Coon Rapids, back in 1989-90.

In June 2019, the former Clark's was a Hickory Hut Express.

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: STANDING.

STANDING: 7/15
DEMOLISHED: 5/15

The next two photos came from St. Louis Park History.org, which features a nice write up on the timeline of this Clark's of the past, dating back to it's late 1920's roots as a gas station.


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 4300 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park



"From 1971 to 1989, it was Big Hut/Clark’s Submarine Sandwich Shop, owned by Clark Armstead."


May 2019, the new building on the site is Annex by Opus. 

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: DEMOLISHED.

STANDING: 7/15
DEMOLISHED: 6/15

The next photo is from Studio Z-7 Archives on flickr. 


"Chipping paint at a closed Clark's Submarine Sandwich shop on Minnetonka Blvd in St. Louis Park, MN revealed the building's previous life as a Cities Service (Citgo) gas station. The building was torn down shortly after I took this snapshot."

As I mentioned at the beginning of this story, Clark's Submarine Sandwich closed all locations by 1990(-ish). I don't know the degree that a national chain (Yawbus!) spreading through the Twin Cities in the late 1980's did to hurt the local chain, but I'm sure it had an effect...

So in order to compete, you gotta roll out some gimmicks, in hopes of bringing the masses back...

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 1, 2010. A Clark's related nugget from a piece about local history of the Croissant:

"Yikes. But between 1975 and 1985, the Twin Cities experienced a croissant awakening of epic proportions. "Today the croissant has become almost as pervasive as the BLT, finding its niche on restaurant menus as varied as Burger King, Perkins and the New French Cafe," wrote Dean, pointing out that they'd also become a staple in supermarket freezer cases via Sara Lee and, a few months earlier, had even made their debut at Clark's Submarine Sandwiches (as the Clar'ssant), a Twin Cities-based chain."

I remember the Clar'ssant being marketed, but I never ate one. I was just unwilling to bypass my normal Clark’s Submarine Sandwich, in order to try the "new" rage in bread technology.

And I definitely remember this campaign...


"Open wide, Twin Cities. Welcome the scrumptious taste of the four new Hot Hero sandwiches at Clark's Submarine..." 

It goes to discuss the new Mediterranean Meatball, French Muffelleta, Italian Roast Beef and the American Ham & Cheese. With these four subs, Clark's also introduced new bread options:

"With our Hot Heroes, you get your choice of two new hearth baked hard rolls. French Style White or Cracked Wheat. These new rolls are crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Clark's Submarine researched different rolls for over two years to discover the perfect roll. It had to be the right length, thickness and flavor to enhance the ingredients inside."

Really hard selling the bread there Clark's... I mean after all, coming up with a choice between WHITE and WHEAT bread for a sandwich is pretty groundbreaking...

The flavor goes crunch.


Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 2114 E. Lake St., Minneapolis

A parking lot in July 2015.

Pretty safe call here.

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: DEMOLISHED.

STANDING: 7/15
DEMOLISHED: 7/15



And the top use for a former Clark's Submarine Sandwich location...



Drum roll please...



Dramatic pause...



More drums...



Lemme hear tha otha instrumentz!





Former Clark's Submarine Sandwich Location: 1567 White Bear Ave., St. Paul

Pizza Man!

At least it still was a Pizza Man in May 2019. And that is absolutely an old Clark's building.

When the snow melts, I need to head down there for pictures. Replacing my favorite sub sammich place with my favorite local pizza chain? And it looks so awesome and crappy! St. Paul, you're doing it right!

Clark's Scorecard! Former restaurant location: STANDING.

STANDING: 8/15
DEMOLISHED: 7/15

So when we add up the numbers, there are 8 former Clark's restaurants still standing in various forms. There are 7 former Clark's that have been demolished. Which means that by a hair, Clark's Submarine Sandwich still remains more intact than not.

Some 30 years since it's last sub was served.


That logo is iconic.

But it reminds me of someone...


That's it!

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