Sub’r Bowl Review: W. D. Deli

This week begins the final round of the Sub’r Bowl. W. D. Deli isn’t strictly speaking a sub shop, but we were coming up short on reputable places to fill out the Local Sub Shop Division. However, since you can order any sandwich combination you like on a hoagie roll, you might call it the ultimate customizable sub shop. It’s all in how you look at it.

The main thing W. D. Deli has going for it is that it’s located in proximity to Brackenridge Park and next door (more or less) to Half Price Books. Yes, they make nice, high-end gourmet sandwiches, but it’s often packed with a long line and limited seating. Fortunately we went much later than the usual lunch crowd, and the place was practically deserted. We were able to order right away, and our food came out fairly quickly. Definitely noted for future visits.

While you can pretty much order anything you like, W. D. has a menu of specialty sandwiches that come with a side. That menu happens to include a sandwich called “Wayne’s Excellent Hoagie,” which is a cold cuts hoagie with Italian dressing. It’s not exactly the Italian sub I’ve been ordering at most places, but it’s close enough for me. It’s basically ham, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, Italian dressing and mayo on a hoagie roll, but they have an added twist of crushed red peppers (not hot peppers). For the side I ordered a cup of tomato basil soup.

The “hoagie” was actually quite a bit smaller than what you might think of a hoagie to be; it might have been 6 inches long, but it seemed pretty small for $7.75. I could taste the high quality of the ingredients, though, and the flavors were very nicely balanced to make a good tasting hoagie, the highlight being the crushed red peppers. As if the smallness of it wasn’t bad enough, I had to split the hoagie in half with Greg, because he decided that a pannini was a qualified entry into the Sub’r Bowl. On the up side, I got half a pannini, which was quite good… for a non-sub sandwich.

Fortunately for your $7.75, you get a really nice selection of sides, which includes potato salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, soup, caesar salad, apples, carrots and potato chips. The soup and fruit salad are $1 extra, but, as the tomato basil soup sounded really appetizing, I spent the extra $1 for it. It turned out to be a dollar well spent, though it’s hard to say whether a sandwich and a cup of soup is really worth nearly $9. In my opinion the taste and quality made it well worth it, however I can’t really justify that kind out outlay for lunch on a regular basis.

Finally, there is something to be said about the drink selection. While there is a good selection of fountain drinks, W. D. Deli also offers some interesting choices in freshly brewed teas, including fruity and minty varieties. Like everything else, the drinks are somewhat pricey, but the teas are really good and make you not mind the price so much. Unlike the other places we went to, the tea was more than just something to drink with your sandwich — it contributed to the overall enjoyment of the meal.

I rated the following categories:

  • Bread: 3
  • Sandwich Stuff: 6
  • Price/Value: 3
  • Non-sandwich Stuff: 6
  • Bonus points: 0
  • Total: 18 points

While there isn’t anything particularly outstanding about W. D. Deli, it was the little things that made it a strong finisher in the Local Sub Shop division. The high quality ingredients, variety of sides and selection of unique teas makes it a place I will visit again, but only in times of economic plenty.

See Also:
Greg’s Review

Sub’r Bowl Review: Cerroni’s The Original Purple Garlic

It’s week 12 of the Sub’r Bowl, which, due to an earlier mix-up in the schedule, ends this round in the Local, Pizza Shop Division. The original schedule had featured VJs Pizza, which is a place none of us had heard of but had great reviews — until recently. Apparently the place changed owners, and now the web site is gone and the intarwebs are full of complaints. So for the second time in this division we went to an alternate, Cerroni’s the Original Purple Garlic.

I didn’t realize until we got to the place that I had eaten at the Purple Garlic years before. The actual restaurant is a small space that’s part of a strip mall, packed with tables and people — apparently a popular lunch destination. Fortunately we got there when a 5-seat table had been cleared: perfect for our party of five. The menu has several interesting sandwich options, which include a classic Italian sub, but the Purple Garlic also features a house special called the Dean Martin. Made with Genoa capocollo, mortadella, provolone, mozzarella and their own red pepper sauce, ordering it was a no-brainer. As with the other pizza shops, I also ordered a slice of pepperoni pizza with the meal.

The restaurant was full, and, though I’m not sure the kitchen could actually fit more people, the staff was barely keeping up with the orders. So it took a while for us to get our orders, but when they arrived they were obviously made with care and not hastily thrown together. The sandwich was very bright and colorful. Although the finely chiffonaded romaine contributed almost nothing to the flavor of the sandwich, it made the sandwich look very festive and inviting. The bread was a perfectly toasted Italian roll with a good flavor. It was a smaller sandwich than we have normally gotten for $6.50, but it was packed with quality.

For me, the stuff this sandwich was made of is the best we’ve had in the Sub’r Bowl, and possibly ever. The meat and cheese were quality ingredients, and the vegetables were fresh and perfectly portioned. I opened the sandwich to take a look at the insides, and usually a sandwich requires some shifting to balance out the ingredients. This sandwich, however, was perfectly arranged: the meat, cheese and veggies we all arranged to deliver the maximum amount of coverage, down to the placement of the onions. Each bite had the full flavor of each ingredient, and it was a joy to eat.

The slice of pizza was OK. The sauce had a very strong garlic flavor, the signature flavor of the Purple Garlic, which was unique from other pizza sauce I’ve had. While the sauce was pleasing, the crust was unfortunately very dense and lackluster, leaving me with a take-it-or-leave-it attribute toward the pizza. Although the Sub’r Bowl is not concerned with pizza, I feel the pizza at the Purple Garlic is easily the weakest we’ve had, and I would not make a trip back based on it.

There were other sides available, including the ever present Lay’s snack chips and a garden salad. They also sell other kinds of salads, but they are of the large, main course variety. To drink they have both sweet and unsweet tea as well as canned sodas. I ordered the tea since it was bottomless. It was good, but not outstanding in any way.

I rated the following categories:

  • Bread: 6
  • Sandwich Stuff: 7
  • Price/Value: 3
  • Non-sandwich Stuff: 3
  • Bonus points: 0
  • Total: 19 points

I notice that the average ratings of my comrades bring Cerroni’s the Original Purple Garlic to the current leader in this division, and rightly so. Although I rated Florio’s Pizza higher overall in this division, Cerroni’s definitely has the better sub. It will be interesting to see the final results as we had into the last round.

See Also:
Greg’s Review

Sub’r Bowl Review: Quiznos

As the nearest competitor in terms of sheer national presence, this week’s Sub’r Bowl visit to Quiznos was anticipated to be a head to head comparison to the super-chain Subway in the National Chain Over 1000 Locations Division. To my surprise, even though I think I would prefer a Quiznos sub to that of Subway, the scoring came out remarkably similar.

This week it was just Greg and I, the only two of our original group of four to have visited each competitor so far. Whatever the reason for that might be, I fortunately had recently gotten a BOGO coupon in the mail for any sub from Quiznos, which made this trip the cheapest one yet: $11 for the both of us. The question is, can such a low price get you a good sandwich? The answer is: yes, for certain values of good.

There are Quiznos just about everywhere around here, so we just picked the closest one to work. It happened to be in a strip mall, and therefore one of the smaller ones I’ve been to. It wasn’t busy by the time we got there, though there were a couple of people ahead of us ordering. Not wanting to have to think about it, we both decided to go for the Classic Italian on white bread with everything on it. The staff was friendly and efficient, and most of the time waiting for the sandwiches was as they rolled through the oven on the conveyor belt. After we got the sandwiches, I added banana peppers to mine from the garnish stand.

Let’s get the other stuff out of the way first. Quiznos offers soups, salads and chips to go with your sandwich. It was decent to have the option of a soup or a salad I guess, but the main combo meal was the same as usual: sandwich, Lay’s snack size chips and a drink. They have a special Choose 2 deal where you can get any 2 of: one of their smaller, limited sandwich offerings, a soup or a salad. It’s nice to have choices, but Lay’s chips and Pepsi fountain drinks are nothing to write home about, except possibly to bemoan. Fortunately they had some kind of pink lemonade, but it was really sugary and only a slightly better option than Pepsi. No chips for us.

We ended up with large subs, primarily because the regular was too small. It was possibly too large for lunch, but I ate it all anyway. The white bread roll was nothing special, and we both agreed that it would be rather tasteless if it wasn’t toasted. The toasted bun turned out to be a bit of a problem for me, though, because it scraped up the top of my mouth pretty good, leaving me a little tender and sore even as I write this review. Toasting a roll with an already hard crust just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me, but Greg didn’t seem to have a problem.

The insides were pretty good. There was plenty of meat, and just enough vegetables to be tasted without interfering with the meatiness of the sandwich. The cuts were slightly above average, but the pepperoni overpowered the sandwich a bit for me. To my surprise there was no mayonnaise on the sandwich, which neatly sidestepped the too-much-mayo problem I often experience, but had the negative effect of allowing the dressing to soak through the bread, making it somewhat a soggy mess toward the last few bites.

I rated the following categories:

  • Bread: 3
  • Sandwich Stuff: 3
  • Price/Value: 7
  • Non-sandwich Stuff: 3
  • Bonus points: 0
  • Total: 16 points

Although you can’t really customize your sandwich the way you can at Subway, I nonetheless was more pleased with Quiznos’ version of the classic Italian sub than Subway’s. Unfortunately the coarseness of our rating system doesn’t really allow me to reflect that in my ratings, but with Jimmy John’s blowing away the competition, I’m not worried about the final standings. All I know is that if I’m given the contrived choice between having to eat either at Subway or Quiznos, I’m going to pick Quiznos.

See Also:
Greg’s Review

Sub’r Bowl Review: Thundercloud Subs

Although Thundercloud Subs is somewhat more than local but less than chain, it is nonetheless the third competitor in the Local Sandwich Shop Division. This shop has 28 locations, mostly in Austin, with two in the San Antonio area. You don’t get to that level of success without doing a few things right, so we were about to see how they stacked up to the rest of the competition in the Sub’r Bowl.

At the location we visited, parking was a zoo. We turned into the parking lot, which turned out to be a car trap. Some not so deft maneuvering got us into an adjacent HEB parking lot that was only a short walk to the shop. Despite the crazy parking, the shop didn’t seem too full — maybe we just missed the lunch rush. There was a short line, but by the time we decided what we wanted to order, they were ready to take it.

The menu definitely reflected the eclectic trends of Austin, but if you’ve been reading any of these reviews and take a look at the combo menu, then you’ll correctly deduce that I ordered the N.Y. Italian sub combo. It looks like a decent price at $6.29 until you realize that’s for the small sandwich, which is easily the smallest of the smalls we’ve seen. Not being under the age of 12, we paid the extra $0.99 for “large” sandwiches. That came with the standard Pepsico owned Lay’s snack sized chips and a Pepsico soft drink product. Greg was not amused.

The construction of the sandwich was rather a personal affair, as we chatted with the nice girl who asked us questions about how we wanted the sandwich made every step of the way. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to ask for light mayonnaise, which was a good thing, considering how much was slathered with a rubber spatula on the other sandwiches. It made for a very personal experience that we hadn’t really had before. At other shops some of the people were friendly and personable enough (and sometimes not at all), but this was a pleasant level of interaction at an individual level, from greeting to conclusion of the transaction.

There was nothing special about the bread. It was decent enough, but it looked and tasted like it could have come from the HEB (grocery store) bakery across the parking lot. Just as run-of-the-mill was the sandwich stuffing, which consisted of the usual Italian meats, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, provolone cheese, and mayonnaise. We were offered and accepted Thundercloud’s special dressing, flavored with, among other things, paprika. The sandwich also came with your choice, or not, of hot and sweet peppers, of which I got the hot peppers.

The sandwich had a good taste to it, but there wasn’t anything that made it stand out among the other subs we had eaten to that point. There was enough meat to make a hearty sandwich, but it was not discernibly higher quality than what you’d get from a grocery store’s branded deli cuts. The dressing was different and tasted decent enough, but the sandwich didn’t add up to anything more than “average.” It was the kind of sandwich I might buy the parts for individually at the grocery store to make a sandwich for myself, so maybe you could call it a “home style” sub.

I rated the following categories:

  • Bread: 3
  • Sandwich Stuff: 3
  • Price/Value: 6
  • Non-sandwich Stuff: 3
  • Bonus points: 2
  • Total: 17 points

I feel like I’ve been giving a lot of bonus points lately, but something about each experience has really been outside the scope of our rating system. This time is was the genuine friendliness and attention you get while ordering your sandwich and waiting for it to be made. Although the sandwich itself wasn’t anything too memorable, the experience was an enjoyable one for me, and a good time was had by all.

See also:
Greg’s Review