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There's Only One Good Subway Sandwich and It's the Veggie Delite

Think of the Veggie Delite as a mediocre house salad served inside of a giant loaf of bread, and it delivers.

by Adam Rothbarth
Jun 18 2019, 12:00pm

Photo courtesy of Subway / Composite by MUNCHIES staff 

Welcome to Actually, a safe space for us to share our deeply held but likely unpopular opinions about food and drinks.

You’re probably already mad at the very premise of this article. I get it. You hate Subway and you want me to hate Subway, too. And I basically do. Or maybe you’re mad because you love Subway and you think I’m going to be unfair here. Either way, let’s just assume that you’re mad.

In my opinion, nobody should like Subway. And I’m not alone. Its food isn’t very good, and its branding and commercials suck. Once, someone leaked a photo of an employee resting their bare feet on one of the counters. Another time, Subway got lambasted because someone calculated that its “footlong” sandwiches weren’t even actually a foot long. And I’d have to be convinced by a scientist not on Subway’s payroll that its veggies are actually grown in the earth. On top of it all, franchises aren’t even doing the $5 footlongs anymore, which used to be the one legitimately attractive thing about the menu. Oh, and there’s Jared, which I won’t even get into.

For these reasons alone, any rational person should stay the hell out of Subway for the rest of their life. Alas, I’ve been called many things over the years, but rational has rarely been one of them. There are essentially two scenarios in which I’ll eat at Subway. The first is when I’m driving between St. Louis and Chicago and want to stop around the halfway point for lunch. In that case, the Subway in the Road Ranger Dixie Travel Plaza at mile marker 145 in McLean, IL has been a saving grace more times than I can count. In fact, visiting it has become a sort of ritual for me. I avoid Subway in my day-to-day life, but I’ve conditioned myself (for better or worse) to expect it when I’m going on a road trip through an area where other veggie-friendly chain restaurants like Chipotle, Qdoba, and Potbelly aren’t available. (Please do not @ me about the Burger King Impossible Whopper; I can't take it.) There’s also a 24-hour Subway next door to the place I stay when I’m in Chicago, and I’ve been known to stumble in there after shows, unfulfilling meals, and even dates. I’m not proud of it, but this is who I am.

This brings me to my menu item of choice: the Veggie Delite. As a vegetarian sandwich, the Veggie Delite absolutely fails. It comprises only raw vegetables, nothing cooked, and there isn’t even a recommended sauce or topping to tie the flavors and textures together. It’s a medley of cheap salad bar selections without any ‘special’ veggies—come on, Subway, throw us some eggplant, mushrooms, sprouts, zucchini, beets… literally anything!—although you can add the “veggie patty” (for an additional price), which resembles (and tastes like) a salty sponge. The Veggie Delite is truly a lazy sandwich. When compared to a dignified vegetable sandwich at any other fast food or fast-casual restaurant, it’s an abomination. I mean, just look at the Mediterranean sandwich at Potbelly—with artichokes, roasted red peppers, and hummus, it’s a goddamn masterpiece compared to the Veggie Delite.

The reason the Veggie Delite works for me is that I don’t think of it as a veggie sandwich. Since it’s just raw veggies, and because I eat it with the honey mustard and sweet onion dressings, which essentially combine to form a mustard vinaigrette, I’m more or less eating a mediocre house salad served inside of a giant loaf of bread.

This is actually the strength of the sandwich. I’m a salad maniac, usually eating at least one salad a day, so when I think of it that way, the Delite delivers. Yes, the vegetables are very bland—on my ideal Delite, I typically combine lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, black olives, pickles, jalapeños, and banana peppers—but at least they seem fresh and are always crisp (possibly due to high concentrations of preservatives or some GMO dark arts at play). Either way, in terms of volume, look, and hydration, they are better than the veggies at most fast food places. The sandwich is not entirely flavorless—notes of pickled peppers, savory black olive, and cool waves of cucumber do come out, and that’s something. Look, the watery, mushy tomatoes and wilted lettuce you’ll find at any burger joint is enough to turn one off to produce forever. Woe betide those who get their vegetables from a Whopper or a Big Mac.

In spite of everything negative I’ve said about Subway and its Veggie Delite, the sandwich really does represent something positive to me: an actual modification-free option for vegetarians and vegans, which I appreciate since I’m the latter when I’m not drunk or trying something for work. Subway’s silver lining is that it’s a fast food restaurant where carnivores and vegans can dine together with neither party having to make a major sacrifice. In a sea of horrifyingly unhealthy fast food options, this sandwich is a rare safe haven for those who want to eat a plant-based meal. That said, it’s a shame that this is currently probably the only legitimate vegetable-forward sandwich option at a top 20 American fast food restaurant chain (hit me up if I’m wrong here, but again, do not mention the Impossible Whopper). Anyway, at least Subway is trying.

I only eat the Veggie Delite a few times a year, but damn, do I look forward to it. In fact, I’m going up to Chicago in a few weeks, and you can bet your ass I’ll be eating one of these sandwiches on the way. Sitting outside the Road Ranger Dixie Travel Plaza in my parked Jetta with the air conditioning on (because I deserve it), I’ll enjoy the lovely combination of a footlong Veggie Delite, a 32-ounce fountain Coke Zero, and a bag of regular Baked Lay’s. And you know what? I’ll probably be listening to a food podcast while I’m doing it, most likely one where they’re talking about high quality produce, bread, or dressings.

Oh, the irony. Rabbit food, you may say. Garbage, you may say. I hear you. But to me, it’s just fine.