The "Big Philly" Cheesesteak at Subway: Worth It?

My next scheduled stop on my cheesesteak tour of Houston was Koagie Hots. However, the discovery of a coupon in my weekly circular made me take a slight detour to Subway.

I know over the years Subway has significantly expanded its menu (with some locations now even offering this pizza flatbread "flatizza" thing), but honestly I stopped paying attention around 1998. In general, I think their sandwiches are just fine though on the bland side and there's no shortage of better alternatives in Houston.

I was a bit surprised to see they offered their own version of a cheesesteak given this sandwich is rather labor-intensive compared to, say, an ol' turkey and cheese sub. The coupon and my own curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to investigate the merits, if any, of the "Big Philly."

A foot-long "Big Philly" is almost $9 and even with a dollar off, I wasn't inclined to spend so much on a potentially suspect sandwich. I opted instead for the six-inch, which came to just under $6 with tax.

A key component of Subway's marketing strategy seems to be overwhelming the customer with options. There are about six varieties of bread (I chose Italian) and four different cheeses (I chose American) as well as many, many dressings, condiments, and toppings available to be used in the construction of your cheesesteak. Notably absent (and here's how they save time) are grilled peppers and onions, so I settled for plain sliced green peppers and chopped red onions.

These substitutions, combined with the paltry amount of cheese added to the sandwich, did not lay the foundation for the appropriate greasiness required for a true philly cheesesteak, and indeed, the sub tasted cleaner, crisper, even, dare I say, healthy. To remedy this situation, Subway needs to triple the cheese and double the meat and the consumer should request oil as a topping.

One pleasant surprise was the steak meat, relatively tender and well seasoned (with something other than salt), which is unusual for Subway proteins. Points also to Subway for serving the "Big Philly" hot and toasty, thereby facilitating the intermingling of melted cheese and beef.

Worth it? Yes, but only if you find yourself craving cheesesteak while somehow trapped in a locale where only Subway is attempting to replicate Philly's famous sandwich. So, maybe Djibouti?

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Joanna O'Leary