With several branches in the Northampton-Amherst area, Subway has more recently positioned itself as the fast food restaurant that's not: according to the television, this chain is healthier than others and serves food with fresher ingredients that taste more homemade. This is partly true and partly false. While the store-baked bread has a devoted following, and it is certainly far better than standard fast food hamburger buns, other ingredients are industrial specimens, peeled out of plastic wrappers. Aside from bread machines and little steam chambers that hold the "grilled chicken," Subway's only heating device is a microwave oven. So much for "the fresh way - my way."
As for taste, Subway does offer a welcome dose of raw vegetables, but there's something elemental missing; we can't really imagine ever quite craving a Subway sub. And the formula-the same toppings with every meat, "salt and pepper, oil and vinegar" - makes every sub taste virtually the same. Among these similar options, we favor the steak and cheese, roasted chicken breast, and Italian BMT. All three make a decent quick lunch-once in a while. Among condiments, we recommend the Southwest and horseradish sauces. And speaking of condiments, in spite of the standardization of almost everything at Subway, there is still one aspect that varies from server to server, store to store: squeeze-bottle technique. Will you get a sine waver, a straight shooter, or Zorro? Luck of the draw.
But Subway's implied claim of wholesomeness above and beyond the fast food competition rings false. Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, mono-and-diglycerides, and free glutamates all make appearances. Not that we're anti-preservative fanatics; it just annoys us when a company's ads try to mislead customers into thinking they're getting something other than fast food. As for the "seven under six" menu-seven subs with fewer than six grams of fat each-well, with apologies to Jared, they're six of the most uninteresting subs on the menu (the roasted chicken breast is the one exception), and the "under six" measurement doesn't include basics like cheese and oil, making them all the blander. Meanwhile, a foot-long meatball sub has 1,060 calories and 52 grams of fat. As for atmosphere, don't eat in. Have a picnic somewhere. While a six-inch should be enough for most appetites, locals can get a dollar or two off foot-longs by delving into those ubiquitous coupon packs that are sent unsolicited to most mailing addresses in the area.