3411 Asbury St.
The ad guys who dreamed up that "You can't beat the real thing" line got it all wrong. Competition's always a good thing, and if the original New York subway-themed sandwich shop is going to be serving quick-bake pizzas and lettuce wraps in Walmarts, then someone had better show them how it's done.
New York Sub is no newcomer to the battle of the NYC public transit-themed sandwiches, with a few decades of sandwich-making dangerously close to Southern Methodist University, and another well established spot up in Denton. If we had one of these around my college campus, Jimmy John's would never have stood a chance.
Since Subway phased out their wallpaper with vintage New York subway system newspaper clippings, the chain's really lost its direction. New York Sub, meanwhile, still goes balls-out crazy with the New York thing, covering the walls and rafters with bumper stickers, lottery signs and even a mouse pad professing love for NY. If you can stomach a little commemorative 9/11 kitsch as you take a bite of a meatball sub, then this is your place.
There's even a sign at the counter to set anyone straight who thinks they might be at a Subway -- you can't get a 6-inch or 12-inch sub here, the sign says. Here they're called small or large.
A number 13, with all the toppings.
We walked in four-strong last week, through the shop's new enclosed patio, and stood under a sea of orphaned license plates to consult the sandwich board. The menu's arranged in two order-by-number columns, with combinations of basics like turkey, ham and pastrami, and a few choices of cheese. In a glass-fronted fridge behind the counter, a few of the meats are on show, unsliced, to prove that nobody's going to throw your sandwich together with a package of Oscar Meyer slices.
I asked for a large number 13 -- which seemed to stump the woman behind the counter until I clarified, "pepper turkey and cheese, with everything on it." (Subs here come with lettuce, tomato, onion and the house olive oil-cilantro dressing.) Behind me in line, the sober-for-now Girl Drink Drunk was paying attention, and skipped the sandwich number, just asking for a turkey and cheese instead. Again, somehow the counter lady got confused. "Number 11," she said, which cleared things up.
Once you order your sandwich, make sure you have a look aft and check out the chips rack, which may well be Dallas' most extensive. It's got the usual array of Lay's, Baked Lay's and Cheetos, plus flavors of Zapp's and Dirty potato chips I'd only known before in whispered rumors. Reviews elsewhere online made a big deal of the huge pickles in the jar at New York Sub, but there's no going wrong with a bag of Zapp's Spicy Creole Tomato.
Up at the register, I nearly didn't recognize my sandwich, wrapped in white paper with "BALL" scrawled across it in red pencil. It took a second to catch that it really read "13 ALL," a trick I wish I'd known back in sixth grade when the "PEN15" club was making the rounds.
The large was a whole lot of sandwich for one sitting, and might be best eaten in halves -- one at the table and the other a "bonus half" to be covered up in the passenger seat and rediscovered the next day. At under $7, their larges are a solid deal. Sure, they're about 80 percent bread by volume, but the pepper turkey added an extra kick to the go-to turkey-cheese combo, and the house dressing tied the whole thing together without making it greasy.
New York Sub may not heat your to-go cookies, but that's OK. That's what the dashboard's for.
Photos by Patrick Michels