Tampa Bay Food Monster

…eating food since 1985.

Posts Tagged ‘subs’

Firehouse Subs

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on October 26, 2012

DID YOU KNOW?? the submarine sandwich, originally known as the “filled zeppelin roll”, traces its origins back to the widely publicized and oft-lampooned hindenburg disaster. on the day of the disaster, the dining staff had run out of bread for sandwiches, and instead substituted long dinner rolls. after the hindenburg was destroyed, a plucky team of firefighters were called to the scene, and, once the fires were put out, the firefighters noticed a hauntingly delicious aroma – some of the uneaten sandwiches had been toasted during the accident, and the meat within steamed to perfection. the firefighters took the sandwiches back to the station and enjoyed them amongst themselves; thus, the intrinsic tie between firefighters and subs was made.

inside the house

i was recently invited to come out to the most respectable firehouse subs and meet their co-founder robin sorensen (inventor of the occasionally useful sorensen squeeze), while sampling some of their finest sandwiches. firehouse subs is a national chain, originating in jacksonville, florida, known for their meat and cheese steaming technology. this was not my first visit to firehouse subs, nor would it be the last.

this particular location was in largo (a part of the giant largo mall plaza/village, on ulmerton), and only just opened recently. it is set up as most locations are, with a counter from which to order (and behind which your food is prepared), a large dining section, and this:

soda maker

this monstrosity, “coke freestyle”, looking like a refrigerator capable of surviving a nuclear blast, is actually just a soda dispenser. (i’m probably a little late on this one, but let’s all imagine that no one has ever seen such a thing, and just humor me here.) “SODA? OUT OF THAT THING?? BUT HOW??!” yes, i hear you, desperately struggling to figure this out. so it’s a one-at-a-time, select-a-soda soda distribution system, through which you can select one of about 20 or so soda bases, and then are prompted to add a flavored syrup if you so desire. why, you could try raspberry coke zero! vanilla sprite! even standard orange soda! wakkie nu-nu.

it results in over 120 different options, including firehouse subs’ cherry limeade, which actually just kind of dispenses a super-sweet cherry syrup type liquid that you’re supposed to squeeze limes into. i can’t really recommend that, unless you cut it with a bunch of sprite or something.

the spicy

firehouse subs restaurants also feature a nice wall of hot sauces, from which you are free to select whatever looks good to you, douse your sandwich in it, and promptly toss it in the garbage because you ruined it with waaay too much hot sauce. use in moderation. OR don’t use it at all, because your other option is this:

datil pepper hot sauce

firehouse subs also has their very own sauce, a datil hot pepper sauce named for the founders’ father. this stuff is pretty remarkable, with a brown sugar sweetness perfectly balancing a light warm burn born from the datil pepper (similar to the habanero but much more playful, largely produced in st. augustine). the sauce is a must for pretty much any sandwich they serve, and blows all the other hot sauces they have out of the water.

fireman robin sorensen

the fireman himself, robin sorensen, spoke with us at length as we ate, about he and his brother founding their own restaurant rather than picking up a franchise (in order to “kick the butt” of said franchise), their focus on the customers and full flavored sandwiches (rather than pansy-ass health food), and their public safety foundation, providing funding and equipment to fire departments, disaster relief, and educational opportunities. he’s very involved with the restaurant on a lot of levels, and his passion comes through quite clearly.

we were subjected to sandwich after sandwich, in almost a rapid-fire succession. honestly, i barely survived the night, largely because i felt obligated to eat each sandwich in its entirety, because they were so damn good.

hook & ladder

Smoked turkey breast, Virginia honey ham, and melted Monterey Jack, served Fully Involved.

(for those not in the know, “fully involved” means with lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, mayonnaise, and a pickle served on the side)

this is the standard, their best seller, with its delicious steamed meats playing perfectly against the crispy toasted bread. the quality of the meat is great, the combo is classic, and adding the datil hot pepper sauce makes it perfect.


Genoa salami, pepperoni, ham, melted provolone, Italian dressing, and seasonings, served Fully Involved.

the italian, another classic. though it’s always a great combination of meats, i feel like the italian kind of pales in comparison to the other sandwiches here. it’s solid, but it’s not something special. perhaps these meats were never meant to be steamed? it is unclear.

new york steamer

Corned beef brisket, pastrami, melted provolone, mustard, mayo, and Italian dressing.

this is my order at firehouse subs. i love corned beef. i love pastrami. the combination is divine. and these meats feel like they were made to be steamed. throw in mild melted provolone that melds perfectly with the mayo and mustard, add a light seasoning from the italian dressing, and you have something quiet and beautiful that will just melt in your mouth. slather it with cap’n datil’s patented spicy sauce, and you have yourself the sandwich god would eat if it could understand our “pathetic human reliance on food”.

smokehouse beef & cheddar brisket

USDA Choice beef brisket smoked for 10+ hours, melted cheddar, and special sauces.

and i would have been happy with my standard order of the new york steamer every time i came to firehouse subs, if they hadn’t forced me to eat this thing. this… this sandwich. awesome, smoked, beautiful brisket. it’s hickory smoked for 16 to 18 hours, made to order for firehouse, and tastes like the most incredible barbecue you’ll ever taste. something in the steaming process really brings this meat to life, and it combines with the messy union of sweet baby ray’s barbecue sauce, the cheddar cheese, and the mayonnaise, to give you one of the best sandwiches i’ve ever had at a chain in my entire life. it seriously blew the others out of the water, and will likely be the only thing i ever order from firehouse again.

do yourself a favor, and try the beef and cheddar brisket.


each other their sandwiches was served with a quartered dill pickle, perfectly seasoned crisp pickles shipped from the bronx in little pickle buckets that they sell to raise money for their foundation. the pickles are fantastic, made by the same people who supply carnegie deli with theirs. so i mean it’s ferrealz. ferrealz, guys.

we were also treated to some delicious cookies, as a nice little dessert and send off. as i said before, i was a fool and stuffed myself full to the point of bursting with those sandwiches, so it was all i could do to waddle out appreciatively, shake the founder’s hand, don a children’s plastic firefighter hat, and drive off into the the night. i have since returned for more of their delicious beef and cheddar brisket, and purchased some of their sauce for my own personal use.

firehouse subs would never have to have invited me to the restaurant for me to recommend them, and now that i’ve had the beef brisket, i have even more reason to do so. so visit, eat, enjoy. i now leave you with this mural, as displayed in one of the many firehouse subs locations across the country. may it haunt your dreams as it does mine.


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Subway’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on July 14, 2011

new restaurant

while on the usf campus the other day, i noticed a sign on the window of subwaybbq pulled pork sandwich. i looked around me. …no sign of corpses. no still-living bodies writhing in pain. no puddles of fresh vomit. nothing. could subway be making a pulled pork sandwich that didn’t cause massive sickness, or the dead to rise again? i was dubious. i was also… hungry.

i went in and got in the excruciatingly long line. damn college students. SO HUNGRY ALL THE TIME. stop eating and get back to class. after what seemed like days, i got my chance to order. but something wasn’t right. the lady behind the counter seemed a bit off. she was shaking ever so slightly, and scratching her arms and neck. the other employees appeared to be in a similar state, all looking as though maybe they were more than a bit stressed out by something. and they were all avoiding one particular bread oven, which had a dark covering over the window. i tried not to think much of it, and proceeded to order the bbq pulled pork sandwich.

everything had come to a halt. the quiet murmuring in the store had been reduced to a sharp silence. all eyes were on me, with a sort of desperation in those of the employees. it was unsettling, to say the least. the lady taking my order smiled a big, strange smile. “you’re gonna really like that!” she said, drawing each word out a bit too long. everyone else in the restaurant went back to their own business, though i couldn’t help but notice getting quick glances from most people there every now and then. i had my sandwich topped, paid, and began to leave. the lady spoke again, stopping me in my tracks: “we all really like that. we’ve been eating so much of it ourselves! some of the best meat subway’s had!” too excited. i took my sandwich and ran.

bbq pulled pork sandwich

and there she is. in all her glory. the bbq pulled pork sandwich. on italian herbs and cheese. with lettuce, onions, pickles, and banana peppers. no cheese. not toasted. i’m not too into toasting my subway sandwiches. there is pork in there, by the way! it was spread onto the top part of the bread, hidden away from human sight.

the following… is not for the faint of heart:

the pork

the pork. its true form, as it sits, hidden amongst the toppings and crusty bread, dripping with barbecue sauce. this is what you’re paying for. so how was it?? it was meh. it reminded me of sloppy joes – slimy and loose. kind of gross. they microwave the meat in little pre-portioned cardboard trays, as they do their chicken and other ‘specialty’ meats, but its method of delivery may as well have been scoop, a la subway’s tub o’ tuna. it warms the bread, and the sauce begins to seep through it, resulting in soggy bread that will disintegrate if you don’t eat it fast enough. the flavor is alright, but the texture is what throws me off. it chews like something you might prepare for the elderly. the barbecue sauce is entirely ordinary, and almost immediately forgettable. the meat played well against the vegetables, though, which is nice considering that’s half the sandwich. going fairly simple with the sandwich was the right choice to make.

i finished it quickly, having only gotten the six inch (five bucks), and wanted to eat it before it completely fell apart. i was largely unimpressed. the day went on. very little time passed before i was hungry again. i regretted not getting the footlong. but it wasn’t that great a sandwich. just hungry. an hour later, all i could think about was the sandwich. why hadn’t i gotten more? why didn’t i just get extra meat? i could have a little tray all to myself right then and there. delicious processed pork meatstuff. i began to feel itchy all over. what was this? why did i want more of that stuff?! i thought back to the strange subway… those people!! THOSE PEOPLE!!

i ran back to the cooper hall, where the scent of fresh bread was replaced by the foul stench of burnt flesh. there were university police, cops, paramedics. crowds of people looked on. i asked a nearby student, who was sedately munching on a pulled pork sandwich, what had happened. “they all went crazy. they all… they all wanted the pork. the people working there, they kept screaming. ‘it’s so good’, they said. ‘best meat.’ they all began grabbing at the pork, clawing at each other to get to it. one of the employees had been locked in a bread oven. they said she wanted the pork too much… they turned the oven on.” all the while, the student was mindlessly eating the pork. and all i could think was how much i wanted that detestable meat, that slime. still i think of the meat. what has subway done to me? what has subway done to us all??

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Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on April 29, 2011


subs-n-such. your friendly neighborhood submarine sandwich emporium. they will provide you with both subs and such. and they do both so well. subs-n-such is a little mom & pop joint on the corner of livingston and bearss in lutz. and if nobody ever told you about it, you’d probably never see it.

subs-n-such interior

it’s small. so very small. you might wanna just pick some subs up and run. they have some tables in there, and seating reminiscent of classrooms from elementary school. there is a small counter behind which the staff works tirelessly to bring you subs… ‘n such. the most noteworthy feature of the shop are the millions upon millions of bottles of old sodas. BUT I AM GETTING AHEAD OF MYSELF!


part one of the subs-n-such model is the “subs”. by which they mean sandwiches. many, many sandwiches. how many many, you ask? well, they have three different types of italian subs. that’s how many. stop asking so many questions. look at their menu. you can download the .pdf, or request they fax you a copy! fantastic.

when i go to subs-n-such for a sub, i often will get one of their italians. classic sandwiches. but they also have some more interesting options. the dagwood, for instance, has ham, salami, roast beef, turkey, and roast pork, with swiss, american, and provolone cheeses… my god. they also have something quite unique called the greek sub, with salami and ham, lettuce, tomato, onions, black olives, greek peppers and dressing, and feta cheese. surprisingly delicious.

12 inch cuban

the most simple and quite possibly best sandwich they offer is the classic cuban. available in four sizes (7″, 9″, 12″, and a full yard of sandwich), they put together a really solid cuban sandwich. and they’re cheap, too, between 4 and 6 bucks for the regular size ones, and 17 bucks for a yard of cuban goodness. they make them the traditional way, with ham, salami, roast pork, swiss, pickles and mustard, but you can ask for whatever you want on them (if you’re into ruining a classic)… (which you are). (how dare you put mayo on a cuban)

cuban goodness

you can see the delicious layers of meat. the pork is sliced rather than shredded or pulled, which is fine, but not preferred (by myself, at least). all the meats are pretty decent deli quality, as are the cheese and toppings. as i said, it’s a solid cuban sandwich. they will press it with butter for fifty cents, which is always worth it. the bread is fresh and flaky, and perfectly crisp when pressed. a great sandwich if you’re in the mood for it. but it is not the best cuban i’ve had in tampa; that honor still goes to ruben’s cubans’ cuban sandwich.

…so what? subs don’t impress you? is that not enough for a simple sandwich shop? alright. fine. let’s discuss…


once again, the first thing you’ll notice when you walk into subs-n-such are the rows and rows of old collectible soda bottles lining the walls, unopened and boasting advertisements for super bowls long past, college sports teams, racing cars… pretty much all sports. large soda-themed memorabilia decorates the store. this is a hint about what the “such” in subs-n-such represents. it’s like a soda consignment shop. it’s crazy. obviously these people appreciate a fine soda. and this is nowhere more evident than in their drink selection.


sodas sodas sodas. as far as the eye can see. subs-n-such features a huge selection of sodas that you will find nowhere else in tampa. it’s a soda specialty shop. if you appreciate soda even in the slightest, you will delight in this. the majority of their sodas are from independent soda makers, many of which use pure cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup in sweetening the drinks. you’ll find some you will be familiar with (dad’s rootbeer, boylan’s sodas, stewart’s, RC), but the majority are going to be brands you’ve never heard of, sodas you can’t find anywhere in florida (cheerwine, anyone?), or sodas you’d never even imagined existed. and the stock seems to be constantly rotating, so there will always be something new and interesting to try.

on one of my more recent visits to subs-n-such, i asked if a particular soda favorite of mine (bubble up) was going to be back in stock any time soon. one of the employees told me that their soda stock has kind of dwindled lately, and that they are concentrating on buying drinks that sell more reliably. that is understandable, but a bit saddening. regardless, their soda stock for outguns any nearby shop i can think of. and as a lover of soda, i appreciate this.

in fact, in an effort to expand my soft drink horizons, and as an excuse to buy more sodas, i will be starting a special series called “the sodas of subs-n-such“, in which i will attempt to review all the different sodas they offer at subs-n-such. let’s hope i don’t lose all of my teeth doing this.

so yes. subs-n-such. sodas and sandwiches. a must visit, i think. one of my favorite spots.

Subs n Such on Urbanspoon

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Lenny’s Sub Shop

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on April 18, 2011


lenny made a sub shop. and he named it lenny’s sub shop. they sell subs [submarine sandwiches, to those of you not in the know]. and they’re all over the place! that is to say, this is a chain restaurant, with stores all over the south east. so maybe there’s nothing particularly unique or magical about lenny’s… but they sure do make one hell of a sammich.

lenny's sub shop

this is the lenny’s near the university, on 50th and fowler, conveniently located right next to “d’lites“, which is a porn shop (my best guess). lenny’s is a modest little restaurant, the insides of which i neglected to photograph. think a subway, but a bit wider. and probably cleaner.

lenny’s’s big claim to fame is that they offer “Authentic Philly Cheesesteaks & the Deli Fresh Experience™“. oh well that’s interesting because last time i checked you were born in LONDON, lenny. london. or texas. whichever. not philadelphia. authentic philly cheesesteak, huh? naturally, this is the obvious choice of sandwich to have there. does their philly stand up to the real deal? is this shit authentic? do they got game?

lenny's italian sub

enter: lenny’s authentic philly cheesesteak.

packed to the brim with real capicola, tender prosciutto, and glorious genoa salami, then topped with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, mustard, and their super special hot pepper relish! just the way philadelphia likes ’em.

…okay, by now you probably realize that this is in no way a philly cheesesteak. and you may suspect me of lying to you. you’ve got a lot of nerve. but you’re right. i am lying. i didn’t order the cheesesteak. i didn’t even think about it. i knew what i wanted, and what i wanted was an italian. i’ve never even had a philly cheesesteak from lenny’s. another time, perhaps.

if their other subs are any indication, lenny’s philly should be pretty damn good. every sandwich i’ve had from this place is great. the meat and cheese is delicious, deli-style, cut-in-front-of-your-face fresh goodness. the bread is quite nice. the toppings are all adequate. but the real kicker is the pepper relish. good shit. it’s made from cherry peppers, and has a nice light spiciness that is more about the flavor than the burn. it’s good. a lot of their sandwiches come with it, and you can buy it directly from them if you want it for your own personal use. go ahead. do whatever you want with it. no one’s watching.


they make their own chips. crunchy. decent. variety of flavors. went with “traditional potato” flavor. not bad. not life changing. but not bad.

lenny's cookie

and cooooookie. they make nice big cookies, in a few different styles. if you’re choosing between the chips and the cookie, i’d go with the cookie. they are large, not too soft and not too hard, happy smile time cookies. just like grandma used to make. before she died from heart failure. too many happy smile time cookies.

and that’s all. it’s lenny’s. LENNY! high quality fast food sub shop. not as awesome as, but better quality than jimmy john’s if you’ve got the extra minute to spare. this guy sebastian seems to like it. it appears he joined urbanspoon just to rave about it! and he looks ripped as shit. hell, if it’s good enough for sebastian, it’s good enough for me.

Lenny's Sub Shop on Urbanspoon

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Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on November 5, 2010

jimmy john's

it’s jimmy john’s gourmet sandwiches! GOURMET! and they offer free smells! well that’s nice. good for them. good for all of us.

jimmy john’s is a little chain of sandwich shops spanning across the country in over 1000 locations… so i guess it’s not really little at all. but its not huge! it’s not “the man”. it’s like… on the brink maybe. like those jedis who kind of dabble in the dark side cause it makes ’em better fighters. but they still fight for good and are on the light side. and stuff.

wow that got away from me a bit. so jimmy john’s is a restaurant with speed and a sense of humor. and sandwiches. so they got that covered. they’re typically set up like a subway, with seating around a counter at which you order and they make your sandwiches. this particular jimmy john’s is in a small plaza across fowler from the university mall. the staff is friendly, and frankly, perhaps a bit too cool for sub shop employees. but that kind of goes with their shtick. there seems to be a relaxed, laid back kind of attitude to jimmy john’s, and that sense of humor found on their website and their neon signs appears to be present in their employees too. so that totally sets you up to be amazed when the sandwich comes out before you ordered it.

i got a combo with the vito (an italian sub… their sandwiches all have wacky names, like “the ultimate porker”). the combo, like at most sub places, comes with a drink and a bag of chips or a cookie. they make their own potato chips and their own cookies too, so either way you’re going to win. and less than a minute after i ordered, my sandwich was ready – i didn’t even have time to fill my drink all the way.

the vito

this is the vito. their sandwiches come on an eight inch homemade french bread roll, and are packed with delicious fresh ingredients. by the way, the fresh ingredients are jimmy john’s claim to fame. they use really good meats and slice them fresh, and the same goes for their vegetables. and the cheese too! the vito comes with salami and capicola, provolone, onion lettuce and tomato, dressed with an italian vinaigrette. you can also get hot peppers on them, which i most certainly did. the meat was delicious… real deli flavor. and the cheese was really good too. the vegetables were nice and fresh, but really nothing special. the peppers were definitely a nice touch, and the vinaigrette was really good. the bread was perfect.

jimmy chips

the chips were nothing to scoff at either. i picked jalapeño, naturally. they are also homemade, and a quick look over the ingredients reveals that they are, in fact, pretty much just potatoes and salt. they are super crunchy and the perfect amount of salty. they had a light jalapeño bite to them, but nothing so hot as to require a drink; it was almost more of a suggestion of the pepper than the full on flavor, which worked really well. i rationed these out so i could snack on them all day.

jimmy john’s is definitely a nice alternative to any ordinary sandwich shop. their prices are comparable, but the product is definitely superior to any subway or quiznos or blimpies (do those exist anymore?? remember blimpies?). i’d have to say it’s not quite as good as the nearby lenny’s or jersey mike’s, but its personality and speed are reason enough to give it a visit every now and then. or get it from home! they deliver.

UPDATE: they just opened up another jimmy john’s location this tuesday, in new tampa. it is near the muvico and lee roy selmon’s, at 17521 preserve walk lane.

Jimmy John's on Urbanspoon

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