We sadly report the death last week of someone who was not only well-known in the foodie community clustered around Chowhound and later LTHForum, but genuinely achieved a life goal of many of us— he had a sandwich named for him. And not just any sandwich, but one which has been commemorated widely in books and articles. Will Philpott was a Georgia-born Chicago banker who was known, appropriately given his genial nature and good Southern manners, as YourPalWill on Chowhound and LTHForum. (A more scabrous side revealed itself in the less-moderated precincts of Yelp.) He invented the “Will Special” at Riviera Imported Foods, an Italian deli on the west side, to maximize the in-house meats and giardinera on an Italian sub, and popularized it online to the point that not only do people who never met him order it by name at “Da Riv,” they order it at other sub shops (J.P. Graziano’s, for instance). The story he told was that when an Italian old-timer saw how he had put together the sandwich, he told him “That was a good pick for a WASP.”
He was so successful promoting his namesake sandwich that Jane and Michael Stern, the authors of Roadfood and other books celebrating low-end cuisine, caught wind of it and included it in their 2007 book Roadfood Sandwiches, one of the first times the Chicago Chowhound/LTHForum community drew national attention for its finds. However, excessive eating caught up with Philpott and he wound up chronicling his gastric bypass surgery on LTHForum, more or less “retiring from the scene” in the late 2000s, though he was still an occasional poster as recently as a couple of weeks ago. LTHers are reportedly planning a memorial gathering in the next few days.