Hacking Subway: How to Cope with the Sandwich Inquisition

Feast of the M60‘s useful tips on surviving the world’s most famous sandwich story chain

Dinner time (or lunch as a good friend of mine prefers to regard our noon meal time) can be seen as a carefully planned operation or as a distress purchase. In the former sense, we know which eatery to call in well in advance. For the latter, speed means a trip to Sainsburys Local or Boots for a meal deal. Then there’s enlightened types who have the time to make their own butties for work, rest or play.

In many a town centre, motorway service area or petrol filling station, American fast food outlets vie for retail space. In the towns, alongside Jesmond’s finest (none other than Greggs of course); or a few yards from the Costabucksan Nero machine. Among the most ubiquitous is Doctor’s Associates’ outlets. In other words, Subway.

Since 1995 (at least from my recollections when I saw an advert in the Daily Mirror asking for franchisees), Subway have gone from strength to strength in the UK. Their approach has its critics, especially the wealth of options and queueing. A process which I call The Sandwich Inquisition.

Nobody expected The Sandwich Inquisition

I suppose you could have said that back in 1998. Or before 2005 in many small towns (The Tameside area’s first branch was the BP garage on Stamford Street, Stalybridge). To the uninitiated, or shiest people, being bombarded with bread options as well as the usual menu was bad enough. That’s before you opt for the salad, choose which crisps to go for, and as to whether you’d like your sub to be hot or cold.

Or, if you wish, you could go for the salad bowl. A good ‘cannot make your mind up’ option as well as a low fat one.

Now for the tips.

1. Timing is everything

This is probably the most obvious one to consider. Lunch time (from then on within this entry I shall use ‘lunch’) at Subway tends to peak between 1230 and 1300 hours. That I have observed at small town branches, city centre locations, and petrol stations. This is more apparent if the nearest alternative is half a mile away in the next town, or in a supermarket café.

From past experience, I have noticed how Thursdays and Fridays tend to be busy times. In many cases, this coincides with pay days whereby a £6.00 foot long meal could be classed as a special treat. At motorway service areas, a popular option all round as prices at Subway franchises are either 10 pence higher or the same price as a High Street branch.

2. Know your subs

Five sub varieties and a flatbread option is legion among Doctor’s Associates’ chain from Aberdeen to Zante. The Italian Herbs and Cheese option works best on the Italian BMT and the Meatball Marinara. The 9-grain wheat or honey oat is a good option for their tuna subs.

if you’re plumping for the breakfast option, go for the standard Italian sub. This bread doesn’t overpower the bacon, egg or sausage.

3. Always know which filling to go for beforehand

I recommend revising the menu on their website. That I consider an absolute must for any global fast food outlet. The reason being, is it saves time at the counter. You may well know yourself how frustrating it is to be stuck beside an indecisive customer in the queue. I tend to go for any of the following: tuna, Italian BMT, or Meatball Marinara (my favourite, though alas the messiest and most Nutritionally Incorrect option).

4. At the foot of the counter, state clearly your flavour and bread options

In doing so, you avoid the worst excesses of The Sandwich Inquisition. If you’ve been to a Subway enough times, you would already have a clear idea which bread to go for. It is best to say, for example:

“Hi, I would like a Meatball Marinara on Italian Herbs and Cheese bread, please”.


“Hi, I would like a footlong Meatball Marinara on Italian Herbs and Cheese bread, please”.

Our colleague would ask whether you’d like it toasted or otherwise. With the Meatball one, a massive ‘yes’ (makes the sub less soggy). Tuna works well toasted, especially with cheese. Ditto the Italian BMT. The waiting time in the oven is only 30 seconds, by which time you should be ready to discuss your salad options.

5. Cheese? Yes please

Feel free to skip this bit for the next section. Otherwise, read on.

A single row of cheese works well on most of the Subway sandwiches I have tried. The Monterey cheese (an extra 40p on these shores) probably works best on subs with red meat. If toasted, best on the Meatball, Italian BMT or Big Beef. Untoasted, works well on the tuna sub as well as it would if toasted.

One other thing, cheese is best avoided on the breakfast sub. It kills the flavour in sausages and eggs, though works all right with the bacon subs.

6. Salads

I shall leave this bit down to you, but my personal preferences include gherkins and Jalapeno chilli. No onions, but plenty of lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes always works. Olives, I use sparingly, best enjoyed on the tuna sub though off limits on the Big Beef Melt.

7. If all else fails, go for the Southwest Chipotle Sauce

Never mind H.P. or Heinz Tomato Ketchup, there is one sauce which is the Swiss Army Knife of sandwich defacement. Enter the light orange Southwest Chipotle Sauce. On Meatball Marinara, faultless. Italian BMT: enhanced. Tuna: pretty good, though the sweet onion one could be just as good.

Please note that Southwest Chipotle Sauce is best avoided on the breakfast subs.

8. The drinks and crisps are always near the till

This is especially true when ordering a 6″ or footlong sub meal deal. I always go for the Abbey Well water. Sometimes a strong tea (which in the UK is Tata Brands’ Tetley tea).

As for crisps, cheese flavoured Doritos tend to go with everything. Walkers’ Cheese and Onion crisps are a good second. With a high calorie sub option, Quavers is a wiser choice. Avoid the Pops due to the sugar content in spite of its low fat leanings.

9. Sit down

Subject to available seating, I always prefer to sit down in the Subway branch itself. If you’re taking out, you are still paying V.A.T. to Gideon and Co. as you would if you choose to eat in.

In most cases, eat in. You’ve paid enough for your meal. At least you can use the toilet afterwards to wash the meatball sauce off your hands, if the serviettes buckled under the strain.

Should you choose the take out route, a sub is best served on a proper plate, either at home or in your work’s canteen or desk.

10. Eating on the go

If pressed for time, choosing a suitable sub for eating on the hoof, or aboard the 1345 to New Mills Central, is an art form itself. In this case, it is best to refrain from the foot long and messy fillings. A chicken breast sub may do the trick, but a Meatball Marinara is a huge “no”. Especially on the hoof, and especially on a train which is deprived of table seats.

Whilst eating on the go, it is best enjoying your sub by positioning it in a vertical stance, in 45° to 60° angle. The sandwich is best left inside the paper bag, thus avoiding yourself from getting dirty (and full of Southwest Sauce). This is what I call The Greggs Sausage Roll Manoeuvre. So called as it ameliorates the issues of spraying flaky pastry on a pavement or bus floor.

11. Subway for two

If you are taking your better half or child to a Subway, and fancies the same sandwich in 6″ form as yourself, it is cheaper to buy a footlong. Take the Italian BMT: £3.00 for a 6″ one, and another £2.00 to double it to a footlong. Compared with buying two separate 6″ subs, you save a pound.

If you wish to have a 6″ sub in one filling and another 6″ sub in another flavour, repeat the above. £2.00 or more is saved by ordering, for example, a footlong tuna salad and an Italian BMT footlong.

12. Sandwich Artists: why not Sub Sculptors?

Part of the Subway human conveyor belt is its team of sandwich makers, known as Sandwich Artists. This term gives customers the impression of one being a Picasso with the pickles, or a Goya with the gherkins.

Strictly speaking, we do like the colloquialism, even if the name is a tour de force in polished turdism. Even if the assistant by the till doesn’t sign their name with the Southwest Sauce on your Teriyaki sub.

I suppose Sub Sculptors has a better ring to it, but the phrase Sandwich Artist is as synonymous as Barista (where the term is shorthand for anyone who works in posh coffee shop).

13. Where else can I face The Sandwich Inquisition?

Subway has inspired a number of imitators, most notably Bap on Mersey Square (Stockport) and George Street (Altrincham). For a while, Manchester had one in the form of Suburb on Deansgate. The nearest equivalent in central Manchester is Fatso’s on Piccadilly, which is a lot cheaper than Subway.

At both outlets the principle is similar, though both Bap and Fatso’s have fewer bread options. Again you have full control over the choice of fillings, sauces and salads. Bap is perhaps the closest to Subway in terms of fillings and meal deals, though cheaper. (We recommend The Bap Burner, which has more chillies than is considered healthy). Plus they also do Southwest Sauce!

Tell us your way!

We hope you have found the tips and anecdotes most useful for future trips to Subway outlets. Feel free to discuss your favourite permutations and branches. Is the Meatball Marinara the crack cocaine of subs in your eyes? Does the amount of questioning wear you down in each branch? Feel free to comment.

S.V., 16 October 2015.


2 thoughts on “Hacking Subway: How to Cope with the Sandwich Inquisition

Add yours

  1. Meatball marinara with jalapeños olives and southwest sauce form me. Fatsos is awesome too, especially their roast dinner to take out. Good priced coffee too. Good writing Stuart.


    1. Hi Stephanie,

      That makes two! Funnily enough I go for the Jalapenos and olives for the Meatball Marinara (with Southwest Sauce of course).

      I too rate Fatso’s pretty highly. They also own Rowntree’s Café in the Manchester Arndale on High Street.

      Bye for now,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: