Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Ah, Subway. You may not know this, but I really like the place. Just by using the Google search on the right-hand side of this blog, I notice that I have never really said anything in praise of the place, just mentioned it a few times in relation to other places (often saying that Subway is better and cheaper).

But I have been eating there for more than two decades. When I was a kid, maybe 11 years old or so, I would often accompany my parents to the Rose Bowl for UCLA games. (This is back when UCLA was in the top-20 every year and games were actually fun.) They would load up on things at Bristol Farms for a pregame picnic outside the stadium: fancy cheeses, pâté, cold cuts; all things that sound great to me now but repulsive then. So we would always go by Subway and get a sandwich (or two; I was a growing boy) for me.

When my friend Tom and I drove around the country together almost a decade ago, a trip I have referenced here many times, we decided in advance that whenever we were in the middle of nowhere and hungry and fast food was our only option, we would eat at Subway instead of any other fast food chain. (We only violated that once - a McDonald's outside Cooperstown. Somewhere in my closest I have a list of every meal I ate on that trip.)

These days, Elizabeth and I go there about once a month. It's never something we decide too far in advance, it's just always a great option when we can't decide on anything else. It's never great but it's almost always good, it's half a mile away, and dinner for the two of us - always two footlongs, usually a couple bags of chips and frequently a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie - is thirteen bucks and change. You can't really beat that. Here are some of the sandwiches we've had:

 Elizabeth's Sandwich
I often vary what I get, but this is what Elizabeth orders 100% of the time (it's also the top picture of this post): turkey, American cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, red onion, olives and honey mustard on honey oat bread.

My Most Frequent Sandwich
This is the sandwich I have eaten more than any other by a wide margin: the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki. Sometimes I get it on wheat, sometimes white. And always with the chicken, red onion, lettuce, cilantro, banana peppers and a little bit more of the sweet onion sauce than is necessary.

I have eaten this sandwich in many states, and dozens of Subways, and with only one exception (a Subway in the middle of Utah that had just opened and was obviously using not-terribly-fresh stuff leftover from the day before) it has been great. 

 Chipotle Chicken
It seems like Subway is often promoting their chipotle chicken sub. (Maybe it's only once a year, but it sure feels like a lot more than that.) So I decided to try it once, on flatbread instead of a roll. I received heated chicken and asked for cilantro, banana peppers and red onion. The girl assembling my sandwich put on a tiny squirt of chipotle sauce and I asked for a little more. She then squeezed a deluge of sauce onto the sandwich. That'll teach me.

But even with way too much sauce, I still enjoyed the flavors.

 Buffalo Chicken
Another promotion that looked good was the Buffalo chicken sandwich. I again requested it on the flatbread. It has nothing to do eating healthier - shocking, I know; at any rate Subway isn't exactly upfront with the caloric info on the flatbreads, so I'm betting it's no healthier than their rolls - but I think flatbread complements some of the sandwiches better than rolls.

I got the spicy chicken backed with jalapenos, red onion, lettuce, bell peppers, and extra buffalo sauce. It was surprisingly spicy. No, it wasn't like eating a taco from my nearby taco truck with the "extra spicy" hot sauce, but for a fast food sandwich, I was impressed with the heat. Both the chipotle chicken and buffalo chicken sandwiches were nice, but I did not like them anywhere near as much as my usual Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki.

Intermission #1
Sometimes I get these chips at Subway, and sometimes a few even make their way into my sanwiches. 

 Pastrami Sandwich
I'm not going to lie: I have very low expectations for Subway's pastrami sandwich. I can't think of a pastrami sandwich I have ever purchased for five bucks that was any good, and this was certainly no exception. The pastrami was flavorless. I wish I'd asked for extra pickles and onions. Even though there was a fair amount of mustard, I would have liked even more. I ate half of this and stuck the rest in the fridge, neither sure nor caring if I would eat the rest.

The next day, however, I baked it in the oven for five minutes and added cole slaw and Russian dressing. Was it better? Yeah. Barely. 

Intermission #2:
"Give me some of that Subway sandwich!"

"Thank you!"

Oven Crisp Chicken
Subway introduced their oven-crispy chicken sub with a tagline along the lines of "experience deep-fried flavor without the deep-frying." It's not true, but then again I didn't expect it to be. I ordered the sub with banana peppers, lettuce, red onion and chipotle sauce. And overall it was fine. I mean, it tasted like chicken.

But there was nothing crispy about it, so the breading was unnecessary. There is no reason I would ever get this again instead of just having turkey, which I like much more than chicken anyway.

Turkey and Salami
I was pretty hungry on my last trip to Subway so I decided to double up on the meat. I ordered oven roasted turkey and asked the girl to add salami, as well as my usual assortment of veggies (plus pickles). This is close to the sandwiches I used to get when I was a kid (although I would have gotten almost no veggies on it and probably plenty of cheese) and I loved it.

With the exception of the pastrami, I liked all the sandwiches here, although I think the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki will always be my favorite.


Anonymous said...

Subway used to be good. Back in the day of the V-cut and portion control based on the person assembling your sandwich. But now it's a stale-bread premeasured-tray abomination. Just look at how the roll is crumbling apart in the "My Most Frequent Sandwich" section!

JustinM said...

That's because I had it toasted.

Anonymous said...

some of your topping options look to be better in California. I've been to Subways up and down the East Coast, and I've never seen them offer cilantro (or I would order it every time)

JustinM said...

That's interesting. I don't think I've been to a Subway on the East Coast. I've been to one in Ontario, Canada. I don't remember, but I doubt they had cilantro.

Joe said...

I worked at Subway for three years in college and I still eat there all the time. The pre-measured meat may look weird, but I assure you that all veggies are prepped and washed fresh every morning. (At least at the one I worked at - can't vouch for Utah stores!)

Anonymous said...

your subway has cilantro? BALLER STATUS!!

or should i say BANH MI STATUS!!

JustinM said...

Well let's not get carried away here.

Nosh Gnostic said...

JOEY!!! Want some get some!

BT said...

That's a lot of Subway! I shall call you Jared instead of Justin from now on.

mw said...

Since you didn't mention it now I have to ask...What color nail polish?

Adam said...

I've always liked Subway's Black Forest Ham and their Roast Beef. Likewise, fresh spinach is great. The best Subway's are the one's with the ones which offer shredded mozzarella. Because it's shredded it melts better in the toaster. Recently tried the flatbread and it's not bad. In my mind they would do a lot better to up their bacon ante though. Like BK's new bacon or Arby's bacon. What they have now is weak.

Banana Wonder said...

Bold move blogging Subway! Hah! I love it. I used to always get the chicken terryaki one back in college. Whenever I go with Justin, we always get veggie sammies... the meat is meh, so might as well skip it and get extra cheese. I do like their cookies. Your cat looks cool! Elizabeth has cool nail polish on, as always.

Liz said...

Obviously, Joey loves all Subway. He'll take whatever he can get.

And my nail polish for anyone who was curious is-NARS Space Odyssey.

Anonymous said...

That cat looks eerily human-ish in the first picture. Creepy! Also, I guess you guys in CA get to have fresh cilantro as a choice? In the midwest, they have the dried stuff only.

JustinM said...

When there is Subway turkey around (also flan and buttered steak), he turns into a little kid.

The second-worst Subway from that month-long trip around America was in St. Louis, although it was nowhere near as bad as the Utah location.

Anonymous said...

Cilantro? Not fair! *sigh..only in california..In and out..jack in the box..Chicago..no fun (