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Publix subs offer speed, convenience and good value. They’re tasty too.

Chicken tender sub, this one on multigrain bread, is the No. 1 selling sandwich at Publix.

The deli counters at the supermarket chain’s ubiquitous stores sell sandwiches that have developed a cult following.

By ALAN J. WAX

The first time I ever bought a hero – sub, hoagie, or whatever you care to call it – at a grocery store I was a youth in Brooklyn.  It was at Pat’s Superette, a corner grocery store, just down the street from my home in Gravesend. As many other customers then, you picked a loaf of fresh Italian bread from the case under the front window and carried it to the deli counter in the rear where you told Pat, Frank or Sal what meat you wanted and how big a sandwich. I think a half loaf, probably with either ham, bologna or spiced ham, probably went for a dollar. And you’d probably add a squat glass bottle of Mission Orange or Cream Soda for an additional quarter to wash it down.

I never gave much thought to sandwiches, but while attending high school in Manhattan some decades ago, one of the first Blimpie’s sub shops opened just a block away from my school. The world had changed.

Hero or sub sandwiches, usually tuna, roast beef or Italian cold cuts, from the now erstwhile Fat Humphrey’s Hero Palace or Village Pizza, delivered to my Long Island dorm, kept me nourished through my college years – and added pounds. After joining the workforce, my choice for a lunchtime hero was either Subway, Blimpie or a hot parmigiana at one of the countless delis that lined the streets of New York.

It wasn’t until I arrived in South Florida that I became aware that Publix, the ubiquitous supermarket chain, also was a purveyor of humongous, fresh-made sandwiches. And that they had a cult following to boot. My sandwich buying life, it seems, had come full circle.

Deli worker prepares a sub at a Delray Beach Publix supermarket.

Publix first introduced its in-store-made sandwiches during the 1990s, according to one published report, but it was until earlier this year that I realized how huge a following Publix’s sandwiches, also known as “Pub Subs,” had. Publix, according to press reports, was attempting to shut down a Twitter account with 40,000 followers that announced whenever a Publix’s  favorite. the Chicken Tender Sub, was on sale. What’s more, fans have debated in social media discussion threads exactly how to dress up Publix sandwiches and Thrillist in December 2017 named the Pub Sub the best sandwich in the country.

The variety of Pub Subs seems endless, somewhere near a hundred combinations, including a vegan sub with tofu, according to Publix’s website menu.  Some of these, to be sure, are limited productions.  When they’re on sale, a whole sub goes for $5.99.

You can order a Pub Sub at the deli counter or in advance online with the store’s app. Ordering online, I’ve found, doesn’t necessarily translate into faster service.  The app usually allows 20 minutes leeway for you order’s preparation, so if you arrive early, as I have, you may find a counterperson hasn’t even pulled your order off the printer.

The baked-in-house breads, white, whole wheat or multigrain , are crusty loaves. The chopped vegetable additions, mostly sourced from the nearby produce aisle, are the same standards you’ll find at Subway: lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, black olives and pickles.

Publix says its No. 1 bestseller is the chicken tender sub ($9.49) of double-hand-breaded chicken tenders, cheese and a bewildering array of condiments stuffed into a chewy sub roll. Honestly, I’d never thought before of having fried chicken tenders cradled in a loaf of a bread but was intrigued when I first noticed them. The chicken tenders start off juicy and crunchy but tend to get soggy as time passes. Many fans recommend ordering the tenders tossed in buffalo sauce, but I’ve yet to try this.

Half of an Ultimate sub with ham, roast beef, turkey and provolone cheese,

For those who opt for one of the other top-selling Pub Subs, the Ultimate ($8.49) and the Italian ($8.49) are your best deli meat options. The Italian has a bit more character than the Ultimate with genoa salami, spicy capicola (gabigool if you’re from New York City), ham and provolone. The Ultimate is in reality an American-style cold-cut combo with ham, roast beef, turkey and choice of cheese, and various vegetable additions.

Another top seller is the Chicken Cordon Bleu ($8.79), which features Swiss cheese melted over Boar’s Head seasoned rotisserie chicken, hot ham, and bacon. Kick it up with a smear of Dijon mustard.

And, there’s also the Havana Bold ($8.79), made with tavern ham, garlicy peppenero ham (a proprietary Boar’s Head garlicky ham) and chipotle-laced gouda, all topped with bacon and pickles. It’s a bold mix of flavors, no doubt.

One thing I’ve learned when ordering at Publix is to skip the hot peppers and the chipotle chili sauce. They seriously distract your taste buds from the main event.

To be sure, Pub Subs aren’t world beaters. Indeed, I’ve had better at such sandwich specialists as V&S Italian Deli and LaSpada’s, both in Boca Raton. Still, Pub Subs are always fresh, high quality and reliable, and no matter which location you seek out, the result is a large, filling sandwich in most cases for less than $10. With a Publix store always close by, there’s convenience, too.

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