Hunter’s Casual Crusades: Sub[way] Series Vol. 1

Nothing is more classic than a carefully constructed sub sandwich paired with your favorite bag of chips. Take time to note the chosen word “sub” as opposed to the cringe-worthy “hoagie.” Only the untouchable, glorified Wawa chain can refer to their subs as hoagies— their annual “Hoagie Fest” is the best event since Woodstock. Even then nobody ever says they’re going to get a “hoagie”, because it’s like announcing you eat soup with a fork. Maybe it’s a New Jersey thing, but you just sound stupid.

The sub is arguably one of the most convenient foods because you can bring it on the go anywhere and not ruin it. You can wrap it up and keep it stashed away all day until you’ve reached the crave breaking point. It can be undressed to the same standard quality of when you ordered it hours before. Whether at the beach front, at the office on break, or on the go to a sporting event, you cannot beat the satisfaction of a good sub. But where do you go for the best, and who do you stay away from? Some places seem like they truly try their best to ruin your day with a crappy mess while others serve up caloric justice in foot-long fashion. Here’s a look into my “Do’s and Don’ts” for subs:

Do: Wawa

If Wawa’s convenience store was a person, it would probably be of a Michael Jordan-caliber. It doesn’t get much better than that. While not a giant sub roll with handfuls of ingredients piled high on there, I’m taking it upon myself to declare Wawa the most precise and well-constructed sandwich available. The only knock on these subs isn’t exactly too negative, but it can be difficult to navigate through their slim torpedo roll. You most often have to eat this sub like a hot dog with the opening facing up to keep everything from falling out. The ordering system is computer-based and you can order literally whatever you want. Sometimes the quantity of ingredients on a sandwich overwhelms the sandwich maker and they have too much food and not enough space, but most times they do it just right. The rolls are made in-house and crusted beautifully to the point where they never get soggy. A tight amount of room ensures everything will come together and suit each other perfectly and never fall apart. This avoids my number one pet peeve. I award them 4.5 out of 5 stars, and may Wawa runs last forever.

Don’t: Quick Chek

I would honestly rather make a sandwich at home than go to the food counter at Quick Chek. Granted, I have only eaten a sub from the Hazlet location less than a handful of times, but that has been too many. They let you choose your bread like Subway, and while both are sad examples of bread-making, Quick Chek’s always manages to be limp and falling apart. That’s before they add any ingredients. I’ve also constantly found quarter-sized charred bits like you would find on a crumb tray in my food. Either attached to the bottom of the roll or flaking off into the inner contents. The rolls can be nearly burnt or barely cooked enough. Take your pick. The sub combinations are disgusting and the ordering screen is more complicated than doing a maze blindfolded—just overwhelmingly awful. Like most places, the finished product looks nothing like the picture, but here it is highway robbery. I don’t know how they get away with it, or why anyone would bother. The food is fresh, but Quick Chek is a last resort for me. Oh look, there’s a Wawa across the street. 2 out of 5 stars.

The Garden State sub from Mike’s.

Do: Mike’s Dairy & Deli (Atlantic Highlands, NJ)

I’m finishing up this list on a high note. Living in the beauty of peaceful Atlantic Highlands for four years turned me into a regular at Mike’s (don’t confuse this place with Jersey’s Mikes—that’s coming in my next review). I’ve gone there for years prior but never really paid attention to the sandwiches. Almost every day biking with friends for miles made them a must. We needed to just grab sandwiches at the deli and eat them by the waterfront. The store is usually busy so they recommend ordering food as soon as you enter before eying up the rest of your shopping needs. You can even call ahead. It never takes long, even with a small crowd anxiously awaiting their filled orders. They have the necessities of any regular sub shop to build custom orders but also have a menu. A half sub (which is still incredibly large) should only run you $6.99. That’s outstanding, and the size of one of their fulls could probably keep someone fed all day. It’s literally like a pound of food. They pack in so many ingredients, it’s not even funny. A small bag of chips is even included for that price as well. The fresh quality meat is sliced to order, their patience to build exactly what you want and how you want it with a full store is what puts Mike’s over the top. Everyone there is so nice. A pleasant, satisfying experience every time results in 4.5 out of 5 stars. Greg agrees with my praise. He reviewed them last year.

Hunter Dillon is a guest blogger on Eating New Jersey. As a hockey player, he is always on the go, which has served as the inspiration for his “Casual Crusades” column. He has more than four years of restaurant kitchen experience and can cook up the best cheesesteaks outside of Philadelphia. 

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