Sub’r Bowl Review: Firehouse Subs

The next visit in the Sub’r Bowl is Firehouse Subs. It’s the second shop we’ve hit in the National Chain, Under 1000 Locations Division. I had never been to one of these before, although I was aware of them, so I was interested to see what they had to offer.

When I first saw the menu, I saw a couple of choices that looked good, including the New York Steamer, which included corned beef brisket, pastrami, melted provolone, mustard, mayo, and Italian dressing; and the Italian, which contained the usual genoa salami, pepperoni, ham, melted provolone, Italian dressing, and seasonings. Since I had never been to Firehouse Subs before, I decided to depart from the usual and try something different, so I ordered the New York Steamer, plus the chips and drink that made it a combo meal.

This was the earliest we had ever gone to eat for the Sub’r Bowl, so we were in the thick of the lunch crowd. It took a good 5 minutes from the time of order to receiving the sandwich. Dave ordered an Italian, and Morteza, a newcomer to our office and guest participant, ordered the Smokehouse Cheese and Cheddar Brisket sandwich. Greg arrived a little later, after we had already received and eaten some of our subs. I offered him half of my sub in exchange for half an Italian that he would order. Kelley was absent from this outing.

Whether fairly or unfairly, I went there thinking I was going to get something a little better than Subway, because, in my thinking, if you’re going to go against the king in the national arena, you have to be better to keep people coming back. The sandwich was, to the contrary, quite disappointing on all levels. The bread was passable as something to keep the insides off your hands but was otherwise limp and flavorless. Unfortunately the insides fared no better.

First I ate half of the New York Steamer. I could barely distinguish that I was eating corned beef, and there was so much mayonnaise that I could hardly taste anything else. There was a lot of meat, but it was of really low quality with little flavor. The amount of mayo just turned it into a gross mess. Thank God Greg showed up by the time I was half finished so I could pawn off the other half of the sandwich!

I was really looking forward to trying the Italian, especially after the disappointment of the first sandwich. I looked at Dave’s Italian, and it looked really pretty and colorful, even though I already knew the bread was a throwaway. It’s served “Fully Involved,” which means it has mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato and onion. However, when I finally bit into one, it was no improvement over the Steamer. It, too, was made of relatively flavorless, low quality meat, and the vegetables contributed almost nothing other than roughage. The Italian dressing was sickeningly sweet, with no tartness from vinegar that I could taste. And the seasonings? They must have been for show only, because they were seen but not tasted. Altogether it was pretty much a disaster, and only hunger permitted me to finish the sandwich. Greg left most of his uneaten.

What went wrong here? I estimate that the ingredients are no better or worse than those used by Earl of Sandwich or Subway, but both of those managed to turn out pretty decent sandwiches. In the case of Earl of Sandwich, they had a much superior bread, and they add different unique sauces to each sandwich to give them a distinctive flavor. At Subway, you pretty much have only yourself to blame if you don’t like the taste, because, other than the basic meats you’ve ordered as part of the sandwich, you tell them what you want on it. I left Firehouse Subs feeling like I had the submarine special from the school cafeteria, but even more disappointed because I at least expect cafeteria food to be pretty low grade.

You have pretty much your choice of chips just like at Subway — a selection of Frito-Lay products including Miss Vickie’s (which you may or may not know is also Frito-Lay). The drinks were fortunately Coca-Cola products and iced tea. So there isn’t anything special there, but for a total of about $8 for a medium sub, chips and a drink, it wasn’t a bad price to pay for lunch. However, because of the poor sandwich, I hesitate to say it was a good value for your money.

I rated the following categories:

  • Bread: 3
  • Sandwich Stuff: 0
  • Price/Value: 3
  • Non-sandwich Stuff: 3
  • Bonus points: 0
  • Total: 9 points

I didn’t feel like the bread should have rated so high, but there is nothing between 0 and 3, and I felt the sandwich deserved something other than 0. At least it reflects that the bread was better than the filling, and the sub wasn’t completely inedible, after all, just not enjoyable except by the truly starving. Personally, I hope I never have to go back to a Firehouse Subs ever again.

See also:
Greg’s Review