Restaurant Review #189: Elsie’s Sub Shop (Red Bank, NJ)

They may have been in existence since 1959, but some things do indeed deserve to come to an end. Maybe we caught the famed Elsie’s Sandwich Shop on a bad day. Google reviews has them at a 4.8, while Facebook is 4.9. Both with a pretty large amount of ratings. But are these people stuck in a nostalgic time-warp from when this place used to be good? Or did we get the D-League team of sandwich makers upon our visit today? I dislike giving such poor reviews based on one visit. Much like I am not keen on awarding my top score on a lone stopover. However, this is a competitive world and you sometimes only get one chance to win someone over, especially in an area so overloaded with dining establishments.

Look, I wasn’t going in with delusions of grandeur. I pretty much knew I was getting a turkey sub before I even walked in the place. You’re not getting a Michelin Star for that. When it comes to sandwich shops and takeout joints, scoring a 3 would mean the experience was good. 3.5 or 4 would probably be tops unless something out-of-this-world occurred. As soon as I entered, I thought we were off to a good start. The red and white colors of the dining area and front windows brought me back to an earlier time. It was cute. It was “old timey”. I kind of assumed from the atmosphere alone that the food would also be good. Alas, you know what happens when we assume.

I ordered the number five, which was turkey, mayo, and cranberry sauce. There are 50 options but I was not in the mood for cheese nor something with a lot of cold cuts. I went with a mundane choice, yes, but that means my expectations were already pretty low. I added lettuce, tomato, and onion. The man making the sandwich asked if I wanted oil and vinegar, to which I said I did not. He also offered some of their hot pepper relish, which sounded like a nice addition. I went with that. The relish seems to be something of a house specialty. The other three people ordering in front of Justin and I all had it. And when I finally tasted the sandwich, I realized why. It was delicious. A little more than mild, but not overpowering. It added a pickle-like bite along with some heat. But there wasn’t enough of it and that was the high point of my sandwich.

Despite never asking for oregano and never dreaming that a sandwich with cranberry sauce would call for a dusting of the herb I loathe with a passion, there it was. Those dim green specks that make my stomach turn  scattered here and there. Strike one. Thankfully it was a flurry and not a blizzard. I did not want to send it back. I flicked off the coated lettuce as best as I could. I could barely taste it after that. Next came biting into the sandwich, which was dripping with water. Did they put oil and vinegar despite my request not to? I honestly could not tell. The pepper relish hid the flavor of vinegar but I cannot imagine what I had on that sandwich causing that amount of liquid to drip out. This was a cold sub, mind you. My paper plate was soaked right through to the back, nearly falling apart. Strike two.

At first, I did not like the sub one bit. I was angry. Then it warmed on me. A little. I became sedate with this strange concoction in front of me. Oregano, mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, hot peppers, and a Niagra Falls amount of water splashing out with every bite. The roll became soggy—kind of like at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, when they dip the buns in water so they can slurp them down easier. Kobayashi would have been right at home. The quality of said bread was no better or worse than what you would find at Blimpie, or worse: Quick Chek.

On to Justin’s sub, where do I begin? His “Pizza Sub” was so loaded with grease that I could hear his arteries hardening with every bite. While mine sprung water, his dripped little reddish beads all over the tin foil wrapping his sandwich came presented in. There was a decent amount of pepperoni and mozzarella, but holy hell, this was a gastrointestinal A-bomb designed for the mass destruction of one’s colon. He ate half of his half and threw it in the garbage. I took one bite, which was enough, and can say that it did not actually taste of anything. If you are going to send someone into coronary, at least make sure they have a smile on their face en route to Riverview. Strike three.

I don’t know what to make of this place. I wanted to badly to like it, but in the end I come out feeling rather detested about it. I mean, come on! I wanted a damn turkey sandwich. How could you possibly screw it up? I fear for the lives of anyone who would dare order their “Burger Sub” or something that requires actual cooking. The only—and I mean the only—thing I can commend them on is their prices. For Red Bank, this place is more than affordable if you need some subs, especially in a large group. I think ours were $5.35 each or something close to that. But it didn’t matter. They could have been free and this review would be the same. 2 out of 5 stars, and that is being kind.

Elsie’s Sub Shop is located on 74 Monmouth Street in Red Bank, NJ.



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