Depending what part of the country you live in, the submarine sandwich goes by a variety of names: heroes, hoagies, grinders, subs. But, no matter where you are or what they’re called, people sure do love ‘em. In the Scotch Plains-Fanwood area alone, there are over six delis that serve up their own versions of this classic Italian American sandwich. Patch put them through the ringer and discovered some interesting comparisons.
The Scotch Plains contenders were Subslingers, Alfredo’s, and Mountain Deli. And though Fanwood is only a mile square, it boasts three delis of its own: Panettone’s, Subway, and QuickChek. On order: a full Italian sub with “the works.”
First, the similarities. All of the subs tasted included the same basic ingredients: a long roll, oil and vinegar condiments, pepper, Genoa salami, capicola, provolone cheese, lettuce, and onions. Also worth noting is that all six deli servers were extremely efficient and chatty. They are clearly used to keeping the line moving and doing it with a smile.
A few of the deli counters added their own special flair to the sandwiches, tossing in hot peppers and pepperoni to the mix. Some offered shredded lettuce and red onions, while others preferred a rough chop and white onions. All three of the traditional delis plus Subslingers sliced the meats to order, while Subway and QuickChek used pre-sliced cold cuts.
The main points of difference across the board were the type of bread used and the heavy-handedness (or light-handedness, as the case may be) of the dressing application. Four of the contenders served up soft rolls, which absorbed the condiments a lot quicker, resulting in a soggier sub. Only Alfredo’s and Panettone’s sandwiches featured crusty rolls which gave way to a satisfying crunch and stood up better over time.
Price-wise, there was a fairly large range to consider. Subslingers came in the cheapest at $5.02, but their sandwich also measured the shortest. Alfredo’s came in the most expensive at $11.23, as well as the highest price per inch.
But in the end, it all comes down to taste. It was a very tough, three-way call. Alfredo’s squeaked it out with three factors in its favor: a crusty roll, even amounts of each meat, and a tangy, generous slathering of dressing on both sides of the bread. Mountain Deli was not far behind, and if it were not for the soft bun, their delicious sandwich would have tied for top honors. Panettone’s came out ahead for being the most stuffed and longest sandwich of the bunch, measuring in at a whopping 17 inches. Just looking at it makes your mouth water. And while Subway didn’t win in the taste category, it did get a nod for “Best Bang for Your Buck.” The respectable 12-incher came in cheapest in the price per inch break down.
I honestly have to say that it’s hard to knock any of the SP-F contenders. Each offers something different, whether it’s customization (QuickChek and Subway); fast-lunch-on-the-road convenience (Subslingers); automated ordering (QuickChek); or that old-time, local mom-and-pop store feel (Alfredo’s, Mountain Deli, and Panettone’s). No matter what you call it or where you purchase it, you know you’re in for a treat when you pull back the wax paper and wrap your hands around a bursting-at-the-seams Italian sub.
Alfredo’s Italian-American Deli & Catering, WINNER: Best Overall Sub
1800 East Second Street, Scotch Plains
Mountain Deli, RUNNER-UP: Best Overall Sub
2385 Mountain Ave., Scotch Plains
Panettone’s American/Italian Deli, WINNER: Biggest & Longest Sub
42A South Martine Ave, Fanwood
Subway, WINNER: Best Bang for Your Buck
111 Terrill Road, Fanwood
572 North Ave., Fanwood
1734 Route 22E, Scotch Plains
Subway, 12 inches
QuickChek, 13 inches
Subslingers, 9 inches
Alfredo’s, 16 inches
Mountain Deli, 16 inches
Panettone’s, 17 inches
Subway, $6.42, price per inch: $0.54
QuickChek, $7.27, price per inch: $0.56
Subslingers, $5.02, price per inch: $0.56
Alfredo’s, $11.23, price per inch: $0.70
Mountain Deli, $11.00, price per inch: $0.69
Panettone’s, $10.64, price per inch: $0.63
Subway, cut into halves
QuickChek, cut into thirds
Subslingers, cut into halves
Alfredo’s, two shorter rolls cut into halves
Mountain Deli, cut into quarters
Panettone’s, cut into quarters