Sub’r Bowl Review: Blimpie

[NOTE: This blog posting is very belated, and it is significantly shorter than the other Sub’r Bowl posts.]

This week’s sub shop in the Sub’r Bowl is Blimpie, which you might find in anywhere from a franchise store in New York City to a Hess gas station in Florida. Blimpie rounds out the National Chain, over 1000 Locations Division, as well as the Sub’r Bowl itself!

Blimpie offers pretty much the same sort of fare you find at Subway. They change it up by offering it on different kinds of bread, as well as offering giant party subs. The price, quality and overall taste were pretty much the same, though, so Blimpie isn’t a standout in any respect.

As usual I ordered an Italian sub, which I could customize with the different toppings they had available. While the topping bar wasn’t quite as extensive as Subway, they had everything I would ever want on a sub. The combo was the usual chips and a drink, so there was nothing special there.

The sandwich tasted pretty good, but it was very middle-of-the-road compared to the top contenders we’d already experienced. The bread was the only thing that made it better than Subway, but I don’t think I’m going to go out of my way to find a Blimpie solely for the bread. Blimpie is solely a franchise affair, with no company owned stores, so the experience is going to vary from store to store. While the experience did not compare favorably to a New York City Blimpie for Greg, I found it fairly comparable to my past experiences with the chain.

I rated the following categories:

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

It’s hard to believe we’ve visited 16 sub shops and rated them all. It’s been a fun experience, not just from visiting the stores, but from the enjoyment of taking a break each week for a bit of fun discussing the nonsense of why one particular sub is better than another. We’re going to try to have a playoff to find out who’s the best, and when we do I’ll post the results!

See also: Greg’s Review

Sub’r Bowl Review: Main Street Pizza

It comes as a surprise to all of us participating in the Sub’r Bowl that the Local Pizza Shop Division has had the tightest scoring of highly rated sandwiches. We now come to our final contender in the division, Main Street Pizza, and it doesn’t disappoint. Two trips were required to fit the participant’s schedules, and I was fortunate enough to go both times.

I had been to Main Street Pizza a few times in the past, but each time I had only eaten the pizza and not any of their sandwiches. I’m glad I have had this opportunity to correct that oversight, because their sandwiches are something special. My first time around I ordered the Main St. Cold Cuts sandwich, as it was most like a traditional sub and therefore more easily rated against the other contenders. The second time I opted for the Meatball & Cheese.

First of all, you can order a sandwich on either focaccia or on a 9″ roll. Word of advice: Get the focaccia! It’s about 1/6 of a large round focaccia bread dressed with butter and herbs, and it’s just a delight to eat. It’s both crispy and chewy with a flavor that leaves you wanting more. While it’s not a traditional sub roll (you can still order and sub on a larger 9″ roll), it’s the way you’ll wish everyone served subs. Yes, it’s that good.

The insides were no slouch either. For the cold cuts sub, while there wasn’t any traditional Italian meats present as in the Italian subs we’ve had in the past, it was still a nice combination of salty cuts (ham, salami and turkey) with a very strong representation of provolone cheese. Top that with just the right amount of lettuce and tomatoes, mayo and Italian dressing, and you’ve got a sandwich that tweaks your salivary glands in that way that’s almost painful but totally pleasurable at the same time.

The meats were not top quality, but that didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the sub. I personally would have enjoyed having some traditional Italian cured meats rather than the deli cuts, but I think this is only a minor criticism that wouldn’t be levied had the sandwich been considered in a vacuum. However, as this is the Sub’r Bowl, there is some competition from those who used top Italian cuts.

The second visit to Main Street Pizza to accommodate Greg’s schedule allowed me to try the Meatball & Cheese sub, again on focaccia. It was meaty, melty, gooey and savory, ranking among the best meatball subs I’ve had. Unfortunately it was a little difficult to eat, because the focaccia was a little too toasted on the outside, no doubt from melting the cheese in the sandwich. Nobody else who ordered a hot sub seemed to have that problem, so I suspect I was just a little unlucky on my draw. And lucky for Main Street Pizza that the sandwich did not figure into the rating.

Main Street Pizza offers plenty of appetizers and salads, not to mention pasta and pizza, which could easily stand in as side dishes. Even the personal 9″ pizza was only $3, and which one of us could leave a pizza shop without eating a slice? The personal pizza was obviously hand formed and cut, which really gave it a more personal touch. The first visit I ordered a plain cheese pizza, and the sauce had a wonderful flavor that allowed the tomatoes to shine. The second visit I shared a couple of slices of pepperoni with Greg, and I have to say that I enjoyed the first pizza more without the salty meat. One of these days when I’m feeling spendy, I’ll have to try the White Pizza.

The drinks available were sweet and unsweet teas and soda, however the tea is open and refillable while the soda is not. I didn’t really look at what kinds of soda were available, as I opted for tea both times. There’s not much to say about the tea other than it was, well, tea. It was nice to have both sweet and unsweet choices, as I’m a half and half kind of tea drinker.

I rated the following categories:

  • Bread: 7
  • Sandwich Stuff: 6
  • Price/Value: 3
  • Non-sandwich Stuff: 3
  • Bonus points: 2
  • Total: 21 points

Once again, another outstanding showing from the Pizza Shop Division. For me, this puts Main Street Pizza in a tie for first place with Florio’s Pizza. It will be interesting to see how the group scores the contenders in this division, as most produced top notch sandwiches. If my willingness to visit the same place twice in one week is any indication, I would love to see Main Street Pizza in the finals.

See Also:
Greg’s Review

Sub’r Bowl Review: Jason’s Deli

Jason’s Deli was a popular choice when we first decided on the Sub’r Bowl contender list. I’m not sure why that is, since, to my knowledge, Jason’s Deli doesn’t actually advertize or sell subs on their menu. Well, that’s not entirely true, as they do have a couple of items under a “Subs” section on their menu; but it didn’t look promising, and I was expecting very little.

At the store where we went there were only three choices on the subs menu: the Deli Cowboy, the Beefeater, and the Sergeant Pepper. I suppose technically you could order anything you like on the bread of your choice since it is, after all, a deli. However, the closest thing to a sub roll is their “New Orleans French bread.” Anyway, we didn’t go to rate a sandwich that we came up with but rather what Jason’s Deli was offering to us as their “specialty.” Unfortunately their specialty sandwiches do not include a sub, so I ended up ordering the Sergeant Pepper.

In a somewhat similar outcome to our trip to Firehouse Subs, what we got was far worse than what was expected. You may remember what Thumper’s father told him. I guess a double negative means I that have to say something, as this is, after all, a review.

Bread: Bland. Roast beef: Tasteless. Au jus: Black salty water. Side: Imitation Ruffles spread on the plate. Verdict: Terrible. Quite frankly, the only thing that made the sandwich edible was the sweetness from the peppers, which kept falling out of the roll. So, the sandwich wasn’t a total zero, but it was near the bottom of what I would consider eating again.

Unlike Firehouse, I didn’t find the food to be completely inedible, just thoroughly unenjoyable. I felt full when I left, but not satisfied. I may have been nourished, but I’m not a doctor. And there really isn’t anything more to say about Jason’s Deli.

I rated the following categories:

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

I could have rated this 0 across the board, but compared to other outings (specifically Firehouse Subs) it just didn’t seem warranted. I didn’t leave feeling angry, just extremely disappointed. Jason’s Deli serves mass produced consumables designed to be bought cheaply in bulk for poor unfortunates trapped in corporate meetings during lunch. To end this on a positive note, at least the box lunches come with a cookie.

See Also:
Greg’s Review

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

Decoding a Rotary Encoder

I recently acquired a rotary encoder to use as an input device for my hardware project. Knowing that such encoders make use of Gray code, I cracked open my Digital Design textbook and began coding a sketch for my Arduino. It wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped.

This isn’t going to be a lesson in Gray code or rotary encoders — you can click the Wikipedia links above for that. This is intended to be a record of the lessons learned while trying to get a reliable, responsive read on the rotary encoder (herein simply “encoder” for brevity) that I have. Google turned up a lot of resources for reading an encoder with an Arduino, but there were a number of problems with them, including:

  • too complicated;
  • too much code (bytes of assembly);
  • too long (cycles); and
  • too unreliable.

Others were just flat out wrong.

From what I read, I decided that an Interrupt Service Routine (ISR) based on the changing levels from the 2 outputs from the encoder was the most reliable way of reading the encoder. Using basic Boolean algebra, I was able to come up with a simple expression to determine if the encoder was rotating clockwise. Where A and B are the previous state bits read from the encoder pins, and C and D are the current bits, the expression representing a clockwise movement can be represented in this truth table:

AB
00 01 10 11
00 0 0 1 0
C 01 1 0 0 0
D 10 0 0 0 1
11 0 1 0 0

The table can be reduced to the following boolean expression:
(A XOR D) AND NOT (B XOR C)

The Arduino code looks like this:

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
volatile boolean rotating = false; 
static boolean rotating_cw = false; 
 
void rotEncoder() { 
  static byte old = 0; 
  byte in = PIND & B1100; 
  rotating_cw = (!!(old & B0100) ^ !!(in & B1000)) & ~(!!(old & B1000) ^ !!(in & B0100)); 
  rotating = true; 
  old = in; 
} 
 
void setup() { 
  DDRD |= B1100; 
  PORTD |= B1100; 
  attachInterrupt(0, rotEncoder, CHANGE); // ISR for rotary encoder 
  attachInterrupt(1, rotEncoder, CHANGE); // ISR for rotary encoder 
}

By way of a short explanation, the encoder is hooked up to digital pins 2 and 3 on the Arduino, and I’m using direct port manipulation for faster reads than digitalRead(). The bitwise math should be pretty easy to understand if you have done any real programming; the !! expression, however, is a little trick to normalize a truthy expression (non-zero) to 1 with minimal instructions.

Whenever you need to read the encoder, you just check the rotating variable, and, if true, then read the rotating_cw variable to see which direction the encoder is rotating. After reading, set rotating to false to get ready for the next read. It’s small, fast, simple, reliable, and usable in almost any programming application (save for those that require PD2 or PD3; but you can change the code to use any pin that can be used as an interrupt).

Here’s the problem: it’s too fast and too reliable! I was puzzled why my encoder was generating multiple rotations for each detent on the switch, even with fairly long delays between reads. I agonized over the math, the code, and my own sanity. Finally, by sending each read to serial output, I could see that, although the switch had 24 detents per rotation, each detent clocked a full 4 cycles of Gray code! What I really needed was to generate a rotating signal only once per detent.

It turns out the code for doing that is even faster, simpler, and smaller than the above code:

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
volatile boolean rotating = false; 
static boolean rotating_cw = false; 
 
void rotEncoder() { 
  byte in = PIND & B1100; 
  rotating_cw = in == B1100; 
  rotating = in & B100; 
} 
 
void setup() { 
  DDRD |= B1100; 
  PORTD |= B1100; 
  attachInterrupt(0, rotEncoder, CHANGE); // ISR for rotary encoder 
  rotating = false; // ignore the first reading, which will be false
}

Basically, I need only check for the ending state of the switch after landing on the detent. This requires checking only one of the lines for a signal change and ignoring all others when checking for rotation.

The moral of this story is that, despite using the same basic principles, different rotary encoders work differently, so check your data sheets or conduct signal tests like I ultimately ended up doing. If you’re interested in a function to handle the reading of the encoder without inspecting and manipulating the rotating and rotating_cw variables, here it is:

1
2
3
4
5
int readEncoder() { 
 int dir = rotating ? (rotating_cw ? 1 : -1) : 0; 
 rotating = false; 
 return dir; 
}

This will work with either of the two routines above. A call to readEncoder() will return 0 if the encoder hasn’t rotated, 1 for a clockwise direction, or -1 for a counter clockwise direction. This makes it really handy to keep a running counter based on the rotation of the encoder.

Sub’r Bowl Review: Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches

Although last week was technically half way through the Sub’r Bowl, due to the shop being in the “wrong” Division, I consider this week’s review of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches to be the half way point. For some reason I was dreading a visit to the National Chain Over 1000 Locations Division, but sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.

We didn’t get to eat until really late this week, after 3:30pm. As such, the place was empty, and we got to order right away. Jimmy John’s serves “sub” and “club” sandwiches: while both varieties are served on 8 inch French bread rolls, the difference is that the club sandwiches have twice the meat. The staff told us that the most popular sandwiches were the Italian Night Club and the Beach Club sandwiches. Well, the Beach Club is some kind of California salad on a roll, but the Italian Night Club was right up our alley.

As is usual with most of the chains we’ve been to, there is a combo that includes chips and a drink. Greg made the comment that the most they can get on the sides was 3 points, and I jokingly said, not if they come in 12 ounce bags! The joke was on me, however, as the chips, while not sold in 12 ounce bags, were in fact 2.125 ounce bags, which are anywhere from one half to a full ounce bigger than the competition. That’s two servings per bag, if the nutritional information is to be believed. While it’s not enough to make them stand out in that category, it’s certainly worthy of some bonus points. Also, to Greg’s satisfaction, the soft drinks were Coca Cola products.

Jimmy John’s makes a monster sandwich. The French bread is freshly baked in the store, and it’s a really great tasting French roll. The problem for me is that I don’t really prefer French bread for a sub — it’s a little too crusty for me. Be that as it may, the sandwich itself is loaded with freshly sliced meat and cheese with the perfect amount of vegetables.

With the “club” sandwiches, there is double the meat of the “sub” sandwiches. Not only was there a lot of meat on the sandwich, but it was also very flavorful! It wasn’t just meat for meat’s sake, and it didn’t taste like a mishmash of cold cuts, like we’ve had in the past. You could really taste the different flavors of the meats on this thing, the mark of high quality cuts. For $5.49, this sandwich blows away the competition on taste, price and overall value.

As for the veggies, initially I thought there was too much lettuce, but when I opened it to remove some, I actually ended up taking off very little. There were ample roma tomato slices and just enough onion to be tasted without being overpowering. A welcome addition to the sandwich not present in the other’s we’ve tried was sliced red peppers. I also added hot peppers to my sandwich for a small fee, which were large and spicy but not overbearing.

A recurring theme for me is the complaint of too much mayonnaise on the sandwich, and Jimmy John’s is no exception. I understand the point of mayo — it keeps the bread from getting soggy by providing a fat layer. Heck, I put mayo on most of my own sandwiches at home where excess moisture is a concern. The problem is that I don’t like it oozing out of the sandwich when I bite into it. Nobody else in our group has ever expressed a concern about the mayo other than perhaps there being not enough, so maybe this is a personal preference, and I need to start asking them to go light on the mayo.

Another thing that was not really a problem for me but more of an observation was the amount of dressing on the sandwich. It had a really good flavor and didn’t really overpower the sandwich, but, my goodness, was there a lot of it! I had large puddles (plural) on my wrapper by the time I had finished eating the sandwich and had gone through half a dozen napkins trying to stay dry. This is definitely not a sandwich you’re going to eat on the go.

I rated the following categories:

  • Bread: 6
  • Sandwich Stuff: 6
  • Price/Value: 7
  • Non-sandwich Stuff: 3
  • Bonus points: 2
  • Total: 24 points

This past round saw some of the best and worst sandwiches we’ve had so far, with Jimmy John’s surprisingly topping the ratings for me to date. While we’ve still got almost half the contenders yet to review, it’s hard to see one of them topping these scores. I honestly never expected a large national chain to be at the top of the ratings chart, and it will be really interesting to see how things turn out in the playoffs!

See also:
Greg’s Review