Would you like that steamed?

(Yuck. Do you want to eat this? A steamed sandwich from Sam and Jerry's)

(This comment is from 2012.) This page was written in the mid to late 1990's. Since that time, Jersey Mike's has moved to Lovell Road, Little Italian went out of business because the building was shut down for renovations for a year, and the Gourmet Market was so slow and incompetent that I haven't been there in over ten years. On the flip side, Publix has come into town, and surprisingly, those folks make a very nice sub. Try their multigrant roll -- it's a killa!

Also, I finally bit the bullet and figured out how to make a sub worth eating here in Knoxville. You can read that here.

Jim's review of submarine sandwiches in Knoxville

I grew up in an area of the country (Delaware) where even the tiniest of deli/sub shops/pizza places knew how to make a good sub. It was a shock the first time that I went elsewhere and realized that it was a regional thing.

Now I live in Knoxville, and the first thing that I do when I go home is drive to Casapulla's in Elsmere and get an Italian sub. Then the next day I go back and get a cheese steak. It's almost worth the 10 hour drive...

After my last trip, I decided that maybe it would be worth while to see if I could find a decent sub somewhere in Knoxville. The main hindrance is that the local culture here seems to encourage steaming the sandwich in this steamer thing. Why? After asking some native Knoxvillians, the answer seems to be this: There's not enough sub culture to maintain a business whose sole job is to make good sub bread. Maybe this is a lack of Italians. I don't know. Anyway, the sub rolls are bad -- typically flaccid, and slightly stale. The practice of steaming is to hide the bad bread. Also, it melts the cheese and heats the meat, which are good things. Unfortunately, it turns the bread into amorphous goo and the lettuce into mush.

Personally, I haven't had a steamed sandwich that's worth eating, but tastes do differ, which must account for the prevalence of the practice. Unfortunately, a place asks if you want your sandwich steamed, you're pretty much bound to say ``yes, please.'' Why?

Just cut your losses: get it steamed; eat a bite; throw the rest away. All of this leads to rule of thumb number 1:

If they ask if you'd like it steamed, don't order a sub.

Below are my observations on trying to get a good sub in Knoxville. For reference, I usually try to get an "Italian", which is typically ham and some, perhaps multiple, forms of salami. I lump the places into three categories: ``Worth repeat business,'' ``Edible but not worth the drive,'' and ``Only if you must prevent starvation.''

Note that I haven't gotten into cheese steaks, because I think it might be a lost cause.

Worth Repeat Business

Jersey Mike's

On the UT strip: 1707 Cumberland Avenue, 525-1500.

This is a budding franchise from (duh) New Jersey, and hopefully I have given them enough business personally to keep them here. It's not Casapulla's, but grades at about 80%. Certainly reminiscent of the subs I used to get when I lived in New Jersey.

They have a web site: http://www.jerseymikes.com/, daily specials, and accept fax orders.

Little Italian Subs & Pizza

5102 Kingston Pike, 584-1204. Just west of Kroger in the Homburg area of Kingston pike. Across the street from the Gourmet's Market.

Until Jersey Mike's came into town, this was the hands-down winner of sub-making in Knoxville. Instead of asking the dreaded steaming question, they put the meat/cheese on a bun and grill it for a bit. This heats the meat, melts the cheese, and gives some mouth feel to what would probably be a pretty mediocre bun. Then they put the rest on, for an excellent sandwich that is dirt cheap. They also have pizza, and the ubiquitous ``steak in a sack'' (i.e. in a pita), but I haven't tried them. Excellent fries too. You can fax them your order if you want.

I like these guys enough to scan in a take-out menu. Mention this web site when you order, and maybe someday they'll give me a discount....

The sub from Little Italian.

Gourmet's Market

4107 Kingston Pike, 584-8739. Across the street from Little Italian Subs & Pizza.

It's too expensive, and not a real sub, but their ``heroic submarine'' is at least worth eating. Standard Italian sub meats on a hard french roll. The real question is: why would you get this when Little Italian is right across the street and you can get a better sub for less than half the price? Well, perhaps you're eating lunch with someone who wants a gourmet pasta salad with fancy coffee. You must learn to survive.

Edible but not worth the drive


All that these chains have going for them is that the food is of uniform quality throughout the globe, and that quality is better than many other ubiquitous places like McDonalds or Shoneys. I'd give these two the nod over Scholtsky's and Nixon's too.

Why does Subway tout that they make their own bread when that bread is so bad? Why do they make the sub in front of you so that you can see that the meat has been sitting in those wrappers pre-sliced for god knows how long? I don't know, but these are very successful restaurants, so the answers must be good ones.

Crescent Moon Cafe

709 Market Street (downtown on the corner of Market and Church, with entrances to each). 637-9700.

This is a vegetarian-friendly kind of place catering more to the XX's than the XY's. As such, they have good salads and sometimes good specials. They used to have pretty good sandwiches on this bread that they either made locally or had someone make for them. But it appears that the bread went away, and the sandwiches now aren't nearly as good.

Regardless, they'd still go into this category because in order to fill up, you have to order two sandwiches, and that would get you up into the $8 to $10 range. Still, if you're downtown and you're sick of the Soup Kitchen, and Tomato Head has too long of a wait, Crescent Moon is a good place to go -- you can drive-through Buddy's on the way home if you're still hungry...

They are very child-friendly too, and have good desserts.

Only if you must prevent starvation

Colonel's Delicatessen

4809 Newcom Ave (that's behind First Tennessee and the Common Market in the Homburg area of Kingston Pike).

"Would you like that steamed?" Ugh.

Sam and Andy's

1800 Cumberland Ave -- on the strip at UT.

They are revered locally as a place full of tradition. Why? I have no idea. Not only did they ask the dreaded ``steam'' question, but they didn't appear to be prepared for the answer.

Sam and Jerry's

6409 Chapman Highway (on the right, before Walmart), and 3522 E. Gov John Sevier Highway (Forks of the River).

I assume they bear no relation to Sam and Andy's above. Unlike Sam and Andy's, the people here are really nice, which made me not want to order a sub from them, because I saw two steamers sitting prominently next to the grill. To their credit, they didn't ask; they just steamed, and yes, it tasted just like all the others. Looks like you should order a burger or dog from these guys.

New York Bagel Cafe/Shop and Delicatessen

4622 Kingston Pike / 710 S. Gay Street.

Their bagels are fine, but recently I tried their ``Cajun Chicken Sandwich,'' which deserves mention in this part of the list. All I can say is that it was as bad as a McChicken sandwich -- flaccid bread, bland chicken breast, iceberg lettuce and tasteless swiss cheese. I saw some reddish spices on the chicken breast, but they too had no taste. Three bites and into the trash can. I can't believe anyone orders this twice, but perhaps I am mistaken.

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