Fast-food brings to mind all sorts of negative terms—"fried," "greasy," and "artery-clogging" probably among them. That said, some American chains do provide lighter fare at a similar pace and price to a McDonald's or a Burger King. Wholesome? Homemade? Maybe not—but fast-food sandwich shops are, no question, among the healthier of your fast-food options. This week, we put Subway to the test against Quiznos, in a face-to-face showdown of the sub-shop chains.
Both chains have a number of offerings, but the 6-12" hoagies are what they push. Long a hybrid of hoagie shop and national mega-chain, the Subway store's decor attempts to remind you of the mom-and-pop sandwich shop near your high school. Though it dominated the market for a number of years, rivals like Quiznos now bite at Subway's heels. How do their sandwiches differ? I wanted to find out.
I ordered a Mesquite Chicken sub, which comes with bacon, cheddar cheese, ranch dressing, lettuce, tomato and red onion. I chose the wheat bread, and my sandwich underwent the customary Quiznos toasting. The place operates a veritable assembly line. Someone assembles the base, it is toasted, and then it is finished and wrapped by an employee on the other end of the toaster. All of that in no more than 5 minutes. Henry Ford, eat your heart out.
The sandwich? A pleasant surprise. The chicken's mequite flavor reminded me of Lay's Mesquite BBQ chips; it didn't overtake the sandwich, and went well with the ranch dressing. The red onion was crisp but mellow, not aggressively overtaking all the other toppings as in other fast-food visits I've made (ahem, McDonald's). The bacon didn't taste like it was fresh out of the pan, but it didn't seem chewy and artifical, like at some chains, either. The toasted bun was warm, crunchy, and a bit chewy, in a good way. All in all, the sandwich was really balanced.
I ordered a Chicken Bacon and Ranch sub on wheat, in an attempt to compare apples to apples. The chicken was pre-cooked, just like at Quiznos; they added cheddar cheese, and toasted the whole thing. The chicken itself tasted bland and, despite the toasting, was a little on the cold side. The lettuce, tomatoes, and onions were almost identical to those from Quiznos, to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if they came from the same wholesaler. They were definitely a step up from the pink, gritty tomatoes from Mickey D's, or their the weak, soft lettuce. The ranch wasn't too strong or gloppy, and ultimately the pieces all fit together nicely. However, the bun wasn't thoroughly toasted, to the point that the Quiznos sub was, and the meat tasted less like chicken.
Ultimately, the two sandwiches were quite similar. The slightly different buns and the mesquite on the Quiznos sub are the only dissimilar components. However, Quiznos toasts the sandwich more thoroughly, and the toasting process brings the ingredients together a bit more. What's more, Quiznos properly stacks the sub. They break the spine of the sub roll and layer all of the ingredients well. Subway tends to force the ingredients into the spine, and then put the toppings on top. When you turn a Subway sandwich right-side up, all of the meats and cheeses are port, while the lettuce and tomatoes are starboard. I'm sure there are those who prefer nibbling from the meaty side then popping over to the topping side, but it really turns me off.
So their similar ingredients aside, I'm giving the nod to Quiznos, for better chicken, superior sandwich construction, and a nice, long, toast. Quiznos or Subway—what's your favorite?