Ok, so if you read this food blog at all, you might have picked up that I enjoy a sandwich, but almost never, ever from a chain sandwich shop. Specifically, a nationwide sandwich shop. I try them, because I am not only a glutton, but a glutton for punishment, alas, it never goes well. The meat is gross or the bread tastes like recycled cardboard. Nasty. Granted, I live in the Capital of Sandwichland (aka Philly) and we do it right. But still, I keep looking. Hope, it spring eternal, or something.
That’s why I was knocked for a loop when I tried Potbelly Sandwiches.
Potbelly is a company out of Chicago (a sister glutton city of Philly). They toast their bread before they make your sandwich. Actually, it isn’t so much toasted as it is thoroughly warmed through. This makes an unbelievable difference in the bread. Ever put your socks in the microwave? It’s like that. A warm hug. (Try it). It’s not toasted like a grinder, where you take a bite of literally toasted bread and it all falls apart and you scratch the roof of your mouth so bad that all you can eat is milkshakes for a few days and you get that one piece of roof skin that drives you nuts (I hate it when that happens. This is why I had to stop eating Captain Crunch.)
Anywho, there is a Potbelly close to my work, and the other day I ventured in. The place is kind of neat, with mismatched table sizes and they had a sign saying they even have local musicians come and play. I thought that was supportive for a chain restaurant. They have a hanging menu for all to peruse. They have 3 sizes for the sandwiches: Original, Skinny (less meat and cheese on thin cut bread) and the Big (with 30% more meat and cheese). You can even get the sandwiches on “thin cut” bread, which is a nice wink to people watching thier carb intake. They will even make their sandwiches on a salad for you if you’d like. I didn’t try one but I saw a lady walk out with one and it was the size of a medium sized soccer ball.
Ordering is interesting. You walk up to the counter and tell them what sandwich you want, what size and what kind of roll (multigrain or regular). Then you scoot down, maybe pick up some chips and tell the next person how you’d like it: condiments, bacon, whatevs. Then they hand it to you and you get a fountain drink or just pay for what you have. They have plenty of snacky stuff too like brownies and cookies and whatnot.
A very cool thing this place has is in it’s fountain drink offerings. Usually, a chain will make a deal for either Coke products or Pepsi products. Very rarely will the two meet. I know people who will go to specific places and avoid others, just to be able to get the fountain drink of thier choice. I am happy to say that Potbelly gets you and your craving for fizzy beverages by offering BOTH. And also Dr. Pepper! And sugar free Minute Maid Lemonade! Two thumbs up for choices!
But seriously, let’s get down to business. We all know I got the biggest thing on the menu. In this case, it’s called A Wreck. It comes with: Salami, Roast Beef, Turkey, Ham & Swiss Cheese. I also got lettuce, tomato, onion (it’s almost a salad!) and sweet peppers along with extra mayo. And yes, in a Big size (please note the straw on the sandwich wrap for scale). This thing isn’t a monster but it’s warm and snuggly and delicious.
Sometimes you order extra mayo and all you get is a head nod from whoever is making the thing. The girl who made mine knew what extra mayo is and gave it to me, like a Christmas present I hoped for all year (I can almost hear my cardiologist planning his next European getaway). As you can see here, even with the Big size, they aren’t crazy with the meat and cheese. In fact, the salami is kind of lost in there. They do give you the option of ordering extra meat and cheese, but the drink and the sandwich cost about 9 bucks total and that’s about as high as I’ll go for lunch. Ok, maybe 10 bucks. Still, this is it.
The bread is the real star here. Like I had said earlier, it is very close to amazing. With a hoagie roll, you want a chewy inside with a slightly more done outside. It also has to have depth of flavor or you end up with crap (I’m looking at you, Jimmy Johns). This bread made me do a little dance in my chair. It soaked up some of that mayo and sweet pepper juice with ease. You know you have a winner when you get to that last bite and it has soaked up all those things and has just a little bit of meat and cheese left with like 2 pieces of lettuce hanging on…and it is the absolute best bite ever.
The funny part is that I do not want to know the details of this bread. They say it’s a secret and I am ok with that. It’s an amazingly, delicious secret and Potbelly has made me think that perhaps someone outside of Sandwichland might have a sandwich clue.
Keep it up Potbelly! I can’t wait to go back!
I went back and had the exact same delicious Wreck a few days later. So good! And the staff at the Potbelly on 17th between Market and JFK are super nice.