Champs Audubon

Champs: Cheesesteaks, Hoagies, Burgers, Hot Dogs, and More in Audubon

Two months ago, Champs opened at 123 West Merchant Street in Audubon (taking over the former BurgerTime spot). Since then, they’ve been dishing out Eagles-themed cheesesteaks, hoagies, wings, cheeseburgers, wraps, salads, hotdogs, and more, keeping Audubon well fed on American comfort food. They recently celebrated their grand opening and are already receiving rave reviews!

I reached out and asked some questions to learn more!



SOUTH JERSEY FOOD SCENE (SJFS): Can you tell us about the inspiration behind opening Champs?

CHAMPS: Nick (one of the founders of Champs,) was unhappy with his current employment situation as a loan officer for a credit union. He was looking to go back to his roots and open a pizza shop like his father did. One morning while driving in his car, suddenly former Eagles player Shawn Andrews popped up in his head. It was an odd random thought to have. For whatever reason, Nick became curious as to Shawn’s career after he left the NFL. Nick researched and he discovered that Shawn Andrews owns a movie themed smoothie shop locally. This discovery led Nick to think about stopping by to meet him, and how cool that would be. But then Nick started to ask himself why Shawn’s smoothie shop wasn’t Philadelphia Eagles themed?

It was at that moment Nick thought about opening a Philadelphia Eagles themed pizza shop. One random thought led to another, and before long, the concept of Champs was created. Nick thought about calling the new store Touchdowns, or The Birds Nest, but Heather (his wife and second founder of Champs) blurted out “Champs!” Nick thought it had a nice familiar sound and really liked it. Just as some random thought entered Nick’s mind that got this entire wheel turning, so did the name Champs enter Heather’s. When they found their current location at 123 W Merchant Street in Audubon, right between two other pizza shops, Nick knew the location was too good to pass up, so he had to create a different business model. Through the brainstorming process, Champs was born.

Heather & Nick of Champs in Audubon

SJFS: What can customers expect when they visit Champs, from the atmosphere to the menu offerings?

CHAMPS: Champs offers a unique experience! We are Philadelphia Eagles themed, so we have “The Dallas Sucks” burger and “The Randall Cunningham” hot dog. We offer Foles Fries instead of calling them French Fries. Champs offers lots of other fun names for exact food offerings. Customers can also count on top-of-the-line premium food quality as well. 

SJFS: How has the Philadelphia Eagles theme influenced the experience at Champs, and how do you incorporate it into your branding?

CHAMPS: Visitors to Champs have said they feel that eating here is like eating inside the Eagles pro shop. Many customers don’t want to leave, and some have even added to our decor with memorabilia of their own. We’ve had customers literally take Eagles memorabilia off their own walls and give it to us! The atmosphere inside Champs is as unique as our menu. 

Cheesesteak at Champs in Audubon

SJFS: Can you share some highlights from your menu, including any signature sandwiches or customer favorites?

CHAMPS: Our Philly Special wing sauce combined with our jumbo wings is a customer favorite. Philly Special sauce is our own secret recipe. Only Champs owners know the ingredients. It’s made during hours when the staff isn’t present and is a deliciously guarded secret. Champs sells more Philly Special wings than all our other sauces combined! 

Aside from this, Champs offers a 10oz Ribeye steak sandwich on a delicious seeded or non-seeded Aversa brand roll. You have your choice of American, Cooper Sharp or Cheese Wiz. Champs hoagies come packed with 15 to 20 slices of meat, and our chicken parm sandwiches are hand breaded fresh daily. There is absolutely nothing like this anywhere else in our local vicinity. Champs also offers unique signature sandwiches like “The No One Likes Us, “which is chicken on a long roll, topped with pizza fries and hot sauce. Champs also offers quarter pound hot dogs served on a long roll topped with Mac n cheese or cheese fries and bacon. 

Philly Special Sauce Wings at Champs in Audubon

SJFS: What steps do you take to ensure that every cheesesteak and hoagie served at Champs meets your high standards of quality and taste?

CHAMPS: Champs has a mantra we repeat several times daily with our staff, “If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t serve it”. Our food presentation must have a wow factor. If the cook isn’t impressed, then the food doesn’t get served. Also, we treat our staff as teammates instead of subordinates. A team is only as strong as your weakest link. Therefore, it’s not easy to get hired at Champs. We don’t pick just anybody. A cook needs to have years of experience in a fast-paced kitchen to even be considered. Then they must try out among other candidates. Champs only hires the best. Once hired, they receive a generous compensation package. Employee happiness is just as important to Champs management as the food that’s prepared and served. You can’t expect amazing service with an unhappy kitchen staff. 

Hand-Breaded Chicken Parm at Champs in Audubon

SJFS: Champs recently had its grand opening. What special promotions or deals did you offer, and how was the response from customers?

CHAMPS: Champs offered 2ft cheesesteaks & hoagies for $19.95. We offered a cheesesteak & wings for $19.95, and we introduced Chicken Parm with vodka sauce for the very first time. All those specials were a great success and we’ll be bringing those specials back once football season starts again. The Chicken Parm with vodka sauce has remained and is an absolute number one customer favorite.

SJFS: In what ways does Champs contribute to the local community, and do you have any plans for future community involvement or events?

CHAMPS: Champs is proud to be a part of the Audubon community and surrounding areas. We love that we are a block away from the fire house and get to see the fire trucks roaring through town. We’ve given free sandwiches and coupons to all of those brave fire fighters. Champs gives military and first responder discounts too. When there is an emergency and everyone is running away, first responders are running towards it. They are Gods angels. Our country also owes a huge debt towards our military vets. So, Champs is proud to help these heroes anyway we can. Aside from this, Champs has made donations to special needs fundraisers and many others. We are happy to help the community in any way we can. We are a small mom & pop shop now, but as we grow, so will our community service be giving back programs. 

Hoagie at Champs in Audubon

SJFS: How do you maintain a balance between offering premium products at affordable prices, as stated in Champs’ mission statement?

CHAMPS: Our profit margin is part of our business model. You can be successful without being greedy. People should be able to eat great food without it hurting their wallet. We are proud to stand out as the affordable option while the customer receives a top premium meal. 

SJFS: Can you share any upcoming plans or initiatives for Champs that customers can look forward to?

CHAMPS: Champs will be introducing pasta dishes shortly. We’ll be serving Penne à la Vodka with our hand breaded chicken cutlets, we are introducing a chopped cheese sandwich, and Champs will be offering amazing tailgating combos starting in September.

SJFS: Do you find it difficult to compete with other eateries around you like pizza shops? 

CHAMPS: Absolutely not! Champs has no competition. There are places to eat, but no one within our vicinity offers the premium product like we have, and at the price that we offer. Champs uses a butcher for our steaks, and we have our own marinade. Other places use a food supplier and a generic low-grade product. It’s the same for our deli meats, we only use Dietz and Watson premium. Our hoagies come packed with 15 to 20 slices of meat! Our chicken parm cutlets are trimmed and hand breaded fresh daily. Nobody else around offers this. Champs has no competition and is truly in a league of our own.  

SJFS: Thank you for telling our readers about your restaurant and your future plans, but now could you please tell us a little bit about the founders of Champs and their background?           

CHAMPS: The founders of Champs is a couple from Philadelphia named Nick & Heather. Nick’s father owned pizza shops when he was a kid, and Nick grew up around the food business. When he was older, he worked for his dad, then he branched out on his own. Nick worked for about 10 years in kitchens as a cook and as a restaurant manager. Feeling a little burnt out, he stepped away from kitchens for a number of years and explored a career in sales. Heather, Nick’s wife, has a medical background. Five years ago Heather was working in the E.R., when she injured herself and had to have spinal fusion surgery. On the mend today, you can find her at Champs behind the counter with her husband, always with a big smile on her face and waiting to take your food order. 

Check out Champs at 123 Merchant Street in Audubon for delicious cheesesteaks, hoagies, burgers, hot dogs, and so much more!


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author

Marilyn Johnson

Marilyn is a freelance writer covering the food and drink scene of South Jersey. You can find more of her writing on Philly Grub and NewsBreak.

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