More often than not when I go to a sub shop I get a meatball sub rather than a typical cold cut sandwich. It’s not that I don’t like deli meats, cause I do, but I just like meatballs and cheese more, so I decided to give a rundown of some of the fast food sub shops in my area and compare their meatball subs. Now most of these are your typical “fast food” type of sub shops as I wanted to make the article relevant to most people, but I realize that places like Potbelly and Jersey Mike’s may not be available across the entire country, and I know there are non-fast food sub shops that probably have much better meatball subs than these places.
So let’s get to it! And yes, these are in order from least favorite to favorite.
#4 – Potbelly Sandwich Works
Despite being #4 on the list, Potbelly’s meatball subs are not the worst thing in the world. The sandwich consists of meatballs and provolone cheese and of course whatever sandwich toppings you want (lettuce, tomato, etc). For the sake of argument, I only get these sandwiches with meatballs and cheese so I’m basing this list on the core ingredients. Potbelly recently added a larger sized sandwich to the menu where as before it was only the regular size, which is a little on the small size (smaller than subway’s 6″ subs). So that would have been my first issue with Potbelly’s meatball sub (the size), but the introduction of a larger size negates that point. As for the meatballs themselves, they are pretty good, kind of smaller and can be hit or miss on taste depending on how long they’ve been sitting in the warmer/sauce, but most of the time they are pretty good. I will say that I’m not a huge fan of the sauce that the meatballs are in, mostly the fact that there are huge chunks of tomatoes in the sauce and I can’t stand that. I don’t like biting into a meatball sub and getting a huge chunk of tomato instead. The provolone cheese is good and melts nicely on the bread since the subs are all toasted so I can’t complain there. The price is around $5.50 for the regular, so I’d say it’s a little expensive seeing as how the regular is pretty small.
So while it’s not the worst sandwich in the world, it wouldn’t be my first choice for a meatball sub if the other places on this list were available.
I was a huge fan of Quiznos’ meatball subs for a long time, but the price drove me away. Like Potbelly, the price is a little on the high side. For a regular sub at Quiznos it was like $6.xx (I don’t know the exact numbers because the one near my work closed a while ago), and if I recall it’s still a bit smaller than Subway’s 6″ sub (although it may just seem that way). Again, like Potbelly, the subs are all toasted so the cheese is nice and melty when it comes time to eat and the meatballs are bigger, full meatballs, similar to Subway, but again they throw chunks of tomato into the sauce… ugh, and the provolone cheese is pretty good too. Now when I first started getting the meatball sub from Quiznos they were delicious, but then something changed. Apparently they started using different meatballs at some locations and the new meatballs were absolutely terrible. Luckily it seemed as though the store by my work still used the old meatballs so I continued to eat them, but fast forward a few months and the meatball sub was completely off the menu. I don’t know the reasoning behind the removal of the sandwich, but it was gone for probably a good year or so before I started seeing all these advertisements saying they were bringing it back for a new low price. So with that, I continued to eat the meatball sub at Quiznos and, while it was a bit cheaper, it still wasn’t that cheap for what you get.
#2 – Subway
Subway is like that friend you had growing up, but then grew away from once you graduated high school, but you always know they are still there if you need someone to talk to. I will admit though, the meatball subs at Subway are hit or miss when it comes to taste. They do not toast the subs by default (they will ask if you want it toasted) and I don’t even get it toasted, but since they offer it un-toasted the meatballs need to be kept pretty warm throughout the day which can lead to some burnt tasting, nasty-ass meatballs. We eat lunch at work pretty early, so it’s rare for me to get a bad meatball sub during the week, but if you go in towards the end of the night and happen to get an old meatball that’s been floating around in the sauce for the whole day, you may end up with a nasty one. That aside, the meatballs are pretty good, the sauce is pretty good (no large chunks of tomato) and I usually get this sub with white American cheese, which is absolutely delicious. I’m also a fan of the bread, usually white for me, as it always seems lighter and softer than Potbelly and Quiznos, but that could have to do with the toasted vs. un-toasted, but either way I still like the bread at Subway better. And of course the $5 footlong deal is amazing and you can’t beat it.
Overall, when in doubt I always go with Subway since you can find one on pretty much every corner and my #1 pick is not a nationwide chain yet.
#1 – Jersey Mike’s
Jersey Mike’s just recently opened up near my work and I’ve been hooked since the first time we went. I’ll get to the meatball sub in a minute, but all of the sandwiches seem a lot fresher and tastier than any of the other sub shops I’ve been to. My co-worker has gotten the philly cheese steak sub from both Subway and Jersey Mike’s and I can tell you right now that Subway does not cut off steak and cook it on a flat grill right in front of you, actually I believe they just throw some old withery steak into an industrial microwave for a minute or so, then slap it on a sandwich. Well Jersey Mike’s does cook theirs on a flat grill as soon as you order. Sure it takes a minute or so longer to get your sandwich, but the quality is well worth the wait. Even their deli meat and cheese is all sliced right in front of you. Now obviously that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been sitting there for days, but at least it gives you the illusion that it’s all fresh, but enough of that, let’s get to the meatball.
Jersey Mike’s is again a little on the expensive side (around $6.50), but the sub seems a little bigger than the 6″ sub from Subway and the quality is much better. The meatballs are giant meatballs that are cut into quarters and placed on the bread which is covered in provolone cheese and then slathered with sauce (that has no tomato chunks). The bread itself is similar to Subway, but seems even fresher (if that’s possible). The cheese melts almost instantly creating a gooey goodness that only a non-lactose intolerant person should love (but I love it all the same) and the meatballs and sauce have a blend of seasoning and spices that are leagues above the other places. And it doesn’t hurt that they have a couple cute girls working there.
So if you have one in your area and you’re looking for a good meatball sub on the quick, I highly suggest checking out Jersey Mike’s.
So what did I miss? What other “fast food” type sub shops have meatball subs that I’ve been missing out on? Let me know in the comments.