Eat Here, Not There: Meatball Subs

Subway. You can't get away from it. Airports. Wal-Marts. Gas stations. They're everywhere. It far outnumbers any other fast food chain–the largest single-brand chain in world. It's bigger than McDonald's. Drive a few blocks anywhere in civilization and you'll likely pass at least one Subway, in some cases three or four. On road trips, when there is nothing to be seen for miles, there will always be, without fail, a Subway on the horizon.

But finding a soul who will admit to liking Subway is harder. Go ahead. Try it. Ask a friend, a family member and see what they say. I did. I queried a few co-workers this very question: “What do you think of Subway?”

To paraphrase, one plainly said “Blech!” before walking off to make copies. Another said he's never been to Subway. Liar. The third went immediately into a dissection of why he liked Quiznos better, which I took to mean that he didn't think much of Subway, or my question.


I'm sure after minutes of this post going live, the comment board will be littered with passionate opinions one way or the other, but mostly one way.

My two cents? I don't patently object to Subway. In fact, I'm largely indifferent about it. It's a fast food I'd rather have than McDonald's. And I admit: it has to do with their current $5 footlong pricing scheme. If I were in stuck in bunker and all I had to keep me alive was a life-time supply of their Spicy Italian (providing it is impervious to spoilage), I would not commit suicide…right away. Other fast food, I'm not so sure.[

My problem with Subway, though, is the consistency. Bad sandwiches are easily encountered since the largest variable is usually the person making them. Half of the time, I come out of my local Subway enraged at the carelessness. On one trip, I asked for a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on a footlong meatball sub. She obliged, but neglected to notice that the container of Kraft was set on “pour.” A deluge of cheese powder buried half of the sandwich, but then without a word, she promptly wrapped it up and moved me along. I stood there, lost on words.

Half of the Subway employees I encounter are hard-working and happy individuals; the other half, I gather, do not want to be there. And then there's the bread, a strange thing (which I'm sure you readers will confirm) which turns to paste at the introduction of any sort of topping, especially of the wet variety, such as the meatball's marinara.

So…with that said, here's my point: If you should ever find yourself in the Irvine area, near the corner of MacArthur and Redhill, where, surprise, there is a Subway, do yourself a favor and drive a block more. Find Harry's Deli.

This is the sandwich shop you'd rather eat at. It may be not be necessary to say this, but it's leagues, miles, light-years ahead of Subway, or any other fast-food sandwich shop for that matter.

The reason is simple: the guy making your sandwiches is the guy the place is named after. It sounds clich├ęd, but it's true: Harry Kho takes great pride in the sandwiches he constructs.

This applies to all the stuff he makes, but I'll take his meatball as an example. Look at the way the cheese melts over each swollen softly crumbly beefy orbs. The sauce is homemade. Those soft, well-seasoned meatballs are too. The bread is sourced from an artisanal baker, and is slightly toasted with a nice crust that's prepared for the wetness. Everything, every bite, coalesces to a sandwich you don't just eat, but think about and talk about later.

Oh what a different world this would be if there were a Harry Kho making sandwiches at every corner gas station, at every airport terminal. If I were stuck in a bunker with a limitless supply of Harry's sandwiches, I'd want to stay in that bunker, even if there were an option to leave.

Harry's Deli, 17881 Sky Park Circle, Ste. A, Irvine, (949) 261-2116;

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