The sandwich: Club Supreme What's on it: Roast beef, turkey, Swiss cheese, bacon, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, vinegar, oil and spices Where to get it: Jersey Mike's Subs (555 Broadway, 303-825-1744) How much: $6.95 for a regular
It was 1990, and I needed a job.
Togo's, the ubiquitous and well-loved California sandwich chain, had just announced that it was opening a new store on the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz, where I was majoring in Anthropology. A big fan of Togo's (especially their No. 24 avocado and turkey, and sometimes the No. 27 avocado and cucumber), I seemed like a good candidate for a job there. And I was, getting hired shortly after the store opened.
But things went poorly. The manager took an instant disliking toward me, despite the fact that I was a damn fine sandwich-maker, having learned how to slice tomatoes and slop mayo a few years earlier in Denver at La Petite Boulangerie and later at the Gourmet Alternative, two long-closed purveyors of meat and cheese between bread.
Why didn't she like me? I will never know. The reason she fired me? Well, let's just say it had to do with pickles. A large sandwich took five and five only. A small took three. My manager alleged one day that I had put four pickles on a small, which I may or may not have done -- I'll never tell -- and wrote me up.
A day or so later, while again working the line, a man asked me for extra pickles. Was it a setup? Maybe. But I acquiesced, and was once again spied by my manager, who hadn't heard the man's request, or who denied having heard it. Anyway, that was it. I was done.
All of this is to say that I understand what it's like to work behind the counter between noon and 2 p.m. at a place that has to turn out sandwiches faster than they can be eaten.
I know the pain of special requests from rude customers, the secrets of making mustard and mayonnaise look fresh when they aren't and how to hide the fact that the turkey got mixed up with the roast beef and none of the cheeses are the right color.
And that's why I know how bad the service sucked at Jersey Mike's Subs, a massive chain with several locations in Denver. From the intimidating guy who interrogated customers in line about whether they wanted cold or hot sandwiches, to the guy screaming "next," to the guy who made my sandwich and then tossed it up on the counter without looking back, I've never seen such a surly staff this side of a motor vehicle department.
Maybe it's a Jersey thing. Which I would have understood, even appreciated, if the food itself hadn't matched the attitude of the employees.
Sure, it looked good, but the massive mound of shredded lettuce on my Club Supreme seemed to have sucked all the flavors of the other ingredients into a no-taste vortex. The roast beef tasted like the filmy stuff that comes on one of those $8, pre-made, pre-wrapped airport hoagies, and when I bit into the bacon, I thought I was chewing glass.
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Then there was the vague tuna-fishy taste. Not sure where that came from, but it made me uneasy. The topper was the stale bread, which crumbled with every mouthful. It may have been fresh-baked on a Tuesday, but it wasn't the Tuesday I was there.
Extra pickles? I'd be afraid to ask. But then, I don't think I'll be going back.
For previous sandwiches, see the Our Weekly Bread archive.