Category Archives: sandwiches

Greater DC Italian Sub Showdown

We get sandwiches (and pizza dough and other items) frequently from Wheaton’s own Marchone’s Deli, but we also hear about other good Italian sub options throughout greater DC. Time for a taste test!

subs unwrapped

Subs Hoagies Heroes Lunch

Joey Tribbiani would be proud. I gathered a highly qualified (i.e. hungry and omnivorous) panel this weekend, procured some subs, took air-conditioned refuge, and pigged out. Our 12″ contenders (all prices not including tax):

  • A. Litteri (517-519 Morse Street NE) $7.90 “Classic Italian” with capicola, mortadelli, prosciuttini, provolone (and unadvertised ham)
  • Marchone’s (11224 Triangle Lane) $7.95 “Cold Cut Sub” with undisclosed toppings but pretty sure (like Vace) ham, salami, mortadella, and (like Taylor) provolone
  • Taylor Gourmet (1116 H Street NE) $8.90 “9th Street Italian” with Genoa salami, capicola, prosciutto, provolone
  • Vace (3315 Connecticut)$5.25 “Italian Coldcut Sub” with ham, Genoa salami, mortadella, mozzarella

We missed Capitol Hill’s Mangialardo & Sons because it is closed weekends, and we missed the Italian Store because it is in the Commonwealth and even so is overrated. In all cases, we ordered basic 12″ Italian cold cut subs with “everything” (which at Litteri does not actually include literally all options, but bottom line is all our tested sandwiches had largely identical ingredients). Results:

A Litteri

A. Litteri's Classic Italian Sub

Bread: the biggest differentiator, and a clash of the great Philly bakeries with Marchone’s rolls imported daily from Amoroso’s and Taylor’s from Sarcone’s; I would have liked Taylor’s best but for the highly objectionable sesame seeds, which none of us cared for, and others also thought Taylor’s bread was too dry; Vace’s roll was smaller and harder, causing the filling to slide out too easily, but it had the best flavor and a nice texture despite the hardness; Marchone’s was nice and soft but I wish it were a tad crustier on the outside; Vace’s Litteri’s was soft and bland and soggy in spots, having stood up poorly to its Italian dressing while it waited to be eaten  (our Marchone’s subs waited twice as long as our other subs but only Litteri’s failed on this account). Hard to choose in this category among Marchone’s, Taylor and Vace, all good and different.

Marchone's

Marchone's Cold Cut Sub

Meats, Cheeses: Taylor clear winner here, much higher-quality meats (and no cheap ham) and a bit more cheese; the other three were all pretty much the same, although Marchone’s and Vace could both stand to add another slice or two of cheese.

Taylor Gourmet

Taylor Gourmet 9th Street Italian Sub

Other ingredients: they all passed the mayo test (none of them used any); Marchone’s and Vace both had a smear of hot pepper spread (Marchone’s had a bigger kick from it); Litteri had sliced hot peppers instead of spread and while I loved how that looked, it worked less well because you only got a hit of pepper every third bite or so; Taylor had no spicy ingredients at all; all four had Italian dressing but Marchone’s and Vace’s were more noticeable, in a good way.

Vace

Vace Italian Sub

Size: doesn’t matter (though for the record, Litteri and Taylor subs were wider than Marchone’s or Vace’s, but filling amounts seemed about the same, yet bread-to-filling ratios were also generally fine, though I think if forced to choose we would all have picked Marchone’s/Vace on that front).

Sub Pentago

Lunch Pentagon

Overall, it was tough to pick a winner. All were at least good; Litteri finishes fourth mostly because it didn’t stand out in any way and the roll got soggy — I would get a 9″ hard roll sub next time at Litteri, though with Taylor just blocks away and me rarely venturing to that neck of the DC, I doubt I will be back anytime soon. I think if Taylor hadn’t had sesame seeds on the bun, it might have won (I also got their “Pattison Avenue” roast pork/broccoli rabe sub, which was great despite the sesame seed bun, not quite Tony Luke’s but who is?); it looked the best. Then again, the Vace and Marchone’s subs tasted great. Marchone’s did Wheaton proud, and those of us who like a little spice in our sandwich thought Marchone’s was as good as or better than the others.  But the overall five-taster consensus was, to my somewhat surprise, that Vace made the best sub, especially taking price into consideration (more than $2 cheaper than any of the others) but even maybe aside from cost.

So with Vace in Bethesda and Taylor Gourmet coming soon to Bethesda Row, those are nice West County options, but I am also glad to have confirmation that for those of us who live in and around Wheaton, Marchone’s is indeed a fine Italian sub (and also meatball sub, which is what we usually get) option.

Sandwich Wars: Pret A Manger Arrives at Metro Center

Because two Potbelly franchises, a Subway, and a Firehook (not to mention two Starbucks, two McDonalds, etc. etc.)  within a three-block radius supplied insufficient sandwich options for us Metro Center drones, Pret A Manger (French for “Bite Me”) has just opened its second DC location at 11th and F. Today is, in fact, opening day for the clean, shiny new store. I had heard about Pret but never eaten their food, so had to try it out.

Pret is more upscale than its competition, and builds smaller stores, with almost no seating; like Firehook and Starbucks, Pret’s sandwiches are all pre-made and ready to take away, thus  “Ready to Eat”. They offer many more types of sandwiches than their competitors, but everything comes standard, so you can’t control the toppings on your sandwich like you can at Potbelly or Subway.  So that’s one trade-off.  As you would expect from a more upscale chain, prices are also a bit higher: sandwiches on whole wheat bread cost $4.99, and ones on baguettes are $6 and up.  Salads range from $5 to about $9; a little sushi plate is also $9. Not horribly expensive, but not as cheap as Potbelly or Subway.

Calories: who’s counting? My sandwich had 580 calories, 55g carbs and 5g saturated fat; Potbelly’s roast beef sandwich with only mayo, cheese, lettuce and beef has 532, 53, and 7 respectively, though if you add hot peppers, mustard, tomato and onion like I usually do, the calories go up to 605.  Anyway, I think similar enough not to make a difference.

The bottom line of course is: do you get what you pay for? I tried the roast beef and arugula baguette ($6.19) and it was very good; the baguette, in fact, was fantastic, crusty outside and supersoft inside. Would make a great banh mi envelope. Good balance of meat, arugula, parmesan cheese, and mayo. Totally gourmet, by fast-food/chain standards at least. Seemed smaller than Potbelly’s regular size roast beef sub, but maybe that was an illusion, and anyway it was big enough; its non-customizability I guess wasn’t a problem because the few ingredients were excellent. I bring my lunch most days, so it will take a while to further explore Pret’s offerings, but I will certainly alternate between them and Potbelly for future weekday sandwich procurement needs.

I’m focused on the Pret-Potbelly comparison because they are across F Street from each other and thus in 100% direct competition. Probably there is enough demand at Metro Center for both to thrive — maybe this will make the lunch rush less crowded at Potbelly. It is nice to have quality sandwich options. But what I would really like is more non-sandwich, non-chain, quick-service options — a niche tailor-made for street carts to fill.  DC has a few, with some Twitter feeds aggregated here, but they rarely come to Metro Center. Fojol Bros. were here early last week apparently — wish they would come back, and bring some friends bearing tacos, or bulgogi, or pad thai, or…whatever, just not sandwiches or hot dogs…with them.

Scottsdale Trip Report — Day 3

Breakfast was Starbucks iced coffee and croissant, interesting only for the friendliness of the SBUX employees. We had witnessed similar enthusiam a day earlier on the part of employees at the Circle K, at the ballpark concession stand — pretty much everywhere we went, people seemed happy. A stark contrast, sad to say, with a lot of the people we encounter in greater DC.  Is it the Scottsdale sunshine? Is it the spring break/spring training economy?

After a fascinating tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West (highly recommended), we hit Jersey Mike’s Subs for lunch.  JM has become a big chain, their closest-to-Wheaton location is in Laurel, but I had never been there. I tried the chipotle cheesesteak, and it was good, a nice balance of chopped steak and cheez whiz, not really authentic compared to Pat’s/Geno’s/Tony Luke’s but close enough, and comparable in quality to Marchone’s except for the bread, which Marchone’s nails; Jersey Mike’s is too soft, just falls apart.  All in all though a solid lunch. Potato salad also above average.

Stopped at BevMo for tequila and were complimented on our taste in selecting Chinaco blanco (which really is fabulous); the employee was (amusingly) complaining about trying to convince people to buy Chinaco but they keep insisting on Patron or other better-advertised brands. Stopped at Safeway and cleaned them out of limes — the teenage girls in front of me bought a single coconut (and nothing else) and I bought about 20 limes (and nothing else). The checkout guy was amused, and somewhere Harry Nilsson was smiling too. BBQ and margaritas and wiffleball and Boggle at a friend’s house: excellent finish to the day. Home the next morning. And here we are, back in Wheaton, ready for April (what? there’s still one more day in March? Shhhh…)…