Thursday, July 15, 2010

Night of the Zombie Subways

I'm worried about my sanity. Walking to Grand Central on 43rd between 3rd Avenue and Lexington, next to the O.G. 99 cent slice joint, sat a darkened Subway, which for the past 8 months had a “for rent” sign in the window. Yet, the other night, as I headed to the Femi Kuti concert, there it was—lit up with workers and open for business—acting like it had been there forever.

Seeing the Subway corpse on my walk had long been a daily affirmation of New Yorkers’ “discerning” taste, but for a moment I doubted everything in the universe when the unmistakable odor of cheap cold cuts, processed cheese and oddly flavored bread filled my nostrils (all Subways smell exactly the same). I knew that my nightmare was real—crappy sandwich franchises cannot be killed.

How was this possible? I shit you not, this is the 5th Subway in the immediate area around my apartment. Do this many people really eat at Subway to necessitate one on every block like some insidious sandwich version of Starbucks? Apparently so, since they’re the fastest growing chain in the world, and for reasons unknown to me (or anyone), impossible to kill.

My only suggestion is to act like the Simpsons (and Paul Anka) when confronted by gigantic murderous corporate mascots: just don’t look (or eat there).

There are innumerable options for people wanting a so-called healthy sandwich beyond the crap served at Subway. For the same price of Subway, you can either go to a bodega for a better, fresher sandwich (most bodegas I go to get fresh bread, especially Kaiser rolls, every day). Hell, you can go to Murray’s Cheese in Manhattan, get a Tom Cat Bakery baguette for $2.00—the same price as a quarter pound of Mortadella from Murray’s Meats. Add some cheese and you’ve got a fresh, high quality sandwich for about six bucks. Pre-sliced cold cuts are for elementary school kids and prisoners (or placed in Lunchables). How hard is it to have meat sliced to order? It’s clearly quite easy, if every bodega on every corner of Manhattan is proof.

Or you could look at it as an (extremely) minor act of locavorism by supporting that Pakistani or Indian guy who works his ass off every day, rather than some faceless corporate chain that could give a fuck about you.

But people still eat at Subway, and Paul Anka’s sage advice is more of useless mantra than a real plan of attack.

(Slipping into Glen Beck voice)

I'm scared nation. How can Subways be put out of their misery when they can just rise again like nothing happened? It's not American, if something fails it should stay failed (except obviously Citibank, AIG, Chrysler, etc., etc. etc.). We need to take up arms against Subway (not literally of course, especially since fire is probably a more effective method than guns anyway). 

Yet now that I think of it, fire might be an even worse idea, lest that horrible odor spread across the city. Instead, just try to convince your friends that nearly any sandwich in the city (or anywhere else) is far superior to Subway. 


  1. The reason there are so many Subway stores is that they're one of the cheapest franchises to get in to. They don't really have a kitchen, just the recent addition of that toast/nuke machine, and you only need the square footage of a closet. Unlike some of the other chains which give a relatively reasonable territory to each of their franchisees, Subway has no problem with putting two stores practically next to each other. The end result, since each operator has to buy all their food from Subway and often pays their rent to Subway, is that the individual stores are in the red, while the parent company continues to profit healthily. They've even been known to advertise promotional specials that sell for less than the cost of the ingredients, leaving franchise owners with no choice but to lose money on every sandwich. (Or tell their customers they're not participating in the widely-advertised promotion, which is probably worse).

  2. Thanks for the comment. That definitely sounds like how some other franchises operate. Pretty sketchy all around and the little guy ends up losing.

    Also, sorry about the formatting issues. It's fixed now.

  3. You may be right about Subway, but I still like a fake seafood/crab salad from there every now and then!

  4. Your post is misleading -- you cannot replicate the cost of eating at Subway at a bodega deli, at least not in Manhattan. Lunch for under $5 is critical for people without a lot of money, and Subway comes through for them. Whine all you want - there are a lot of them because people like them.

  5. How is it misleading? You can certainly replicate the cost by (1) going to a bodega and getting Boar's Head meats (which I hope you will agree are higher quality than the pre-sliced meats at Subway) and fresher bread for either the same price or at most a dollar more; or (2) buying the ingredients yourself and making a sandwich to take to work. Sure, Murray's was not the best example, but even going into any supermarket you can make a sandwich that's better and cheaper than at Subway.

    I get chicken salad sandwiches at my local bodega all the time for $4, and most of the rest of their sandwiches are around the $5-6 range. Plus, like I said in my post, I'd much rather support a small business than give Subway more of my money.

    Have you tried Jersey Mike's? There's none in Manhattan, but at least they slice everything fresh-- that's a big deal to me.

  6. If your eating a lunch in manhattan and it costs under $5, and its not pizza, you are doing your body a horrible disservice.
    And yes I'm talking to the guy that played the "people without a lot of money" card. It would be healthier to eat merely and apple than to put one of those subway sandwiches in your stomach. There is a reason why all their ingredients have to come from directly from corporate "food distributors". Its not real food people!!! You are lied to every day about what is "food" wake up.