Reality Check: We Try Subway's New Sriracha Steak and Chicken Melts
I have never read a book in The Hunger Games series, nor have I ever seen any of the films. I believe, and I'll add in the words spoiler alert here, that the central plot point is kids hunting each other. And also there may be a character named Catnip. (Okay, okay, the actual name of the character is "Katniss", but I had to look that one up.)
What does any of that have to do with Subway's new Sriracha Steak Melt and Sriracha Chicken Melt? Your guess is as good as mine. As best as I can determine from the logo, fire seems to be important in The Hunger Games. So now Subway's "Fiery FOOTLONG Collection" is a thing...again. Oh, movie/food tie-ins. You. Are. The. Worst (and this is coming from a guy who owns a fully functional, 8-piece Inspector Gadget from McDonald's; Yes, it's awesome, and no, you can't play with it).
The sandwiches themselves are refreshingly straight-forward. As pictured, they're composed of Italian bread, a choice of chicken or steak, pepper jack cheese, tomatoes, onions, green peppers and the only truly new element: a "Creamy Sriracha Sauce." Although I was given a choice of bread, cheese, and the usual array of vegetables, I stuck with those featured in the advertisements.
And in so doing, I sealed these sandwiches' fates. They simply never stood a chance. Say what you will about the shredded lettuce; how it's flavorless, how they always put way too much on and it gets everywhere, and WHY DID I EVEN GET LETTUCE IN THE FIRST PLACE?!, but it serves a purpose: heft. A lettuce-less sub (of course this excludes the Meatball Marinara) just kind of makes me sad.
Munching along, it was ultimately a mixed bag. The Creamy Sriracha Sauce was spicy, but it lacked the complexity of flavor and sweet/heat balance found in Serious Eats' favorite srirachas. The crunchy green peppers and onions provided a nice textural contrast to the soft meats, but they serve that purpose well on any sub sandwich. I can't say that the pepper jack played any real role flavor-wise, but it did help solder the meat in place. (Because, you know, if cheese isn't flavorful, it should at least be functional, amiright?) There were tomatoes on the sandwich (oh, fast food tomatoes, I don't think 'you and me' is working anymore). The difference between the chicken and the steak? Close your eyes, and it's not exactly easy to tell. More bite resistance on the chicken, perhaps.
At the end, I was left with a deep philosophical question about the nature of "new." Sure, the Creamy Sriracha Sauce is new, but the steak and chicken and choice of bread, cheese, and vegetables are all established players. Calling two sandwiches that simply feature a new sauce (which, by the way, is also available on any other sandwich) "new" isn't lying in my book, but it's also not what I'd call 100% true, either.
As an addendum, it's worth noting that I saved some of each of the sandwiches for a next-day meal. Eating them cold helped temper the heat from the sriracha, and although the bread had hardened substantially, the chicken version, now reminiscent of a Buffalo chicken sandwich, was quite enjoyable. The steak version was, if anything, a little sadder. Also, if anyone has tried the un-toasted version of these sandwiches, let me know if that's the way to go.
About the author: Lee is always hungry. He's happy to chat food and beer on Twitter @leemovic