8126 Transit Rd., Williamsville, NY 14221
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Amherst Buffalo Cheektowaga Clarence Fast Food Sandwiches Subs Williamsville
"As far as chain sub shops go, Subway offers a better meal for the dollar than we'd expected, while the more aggressively marketed Quiznos is a step below."
It's easy to assume that local is better - Western New Yorkers know that it's all but impossible to find authentic Buffalo-style wings or pizza whenever they leave town - but is that always true? Of course not; there are plenty of examples of national and international recipes that are better than local ones, and submarine sandwiches may well be one of them. After disappointments at Rochester-based DiBella's, we wanted to quantify just how much better or worse the subs actually were at the nation's most popular sub chains - Quiznos and Subway - two businesses that have spent years battling over their relative freshness and quality. We were surprised to discover that the tides have turned in favor of Subway, at least locally: our comparisons between several types of subs found better tasting meats and sauces inside its wrappers, even though we'd initially been more enthusiastic about Quiznos.
To make one point up front, though our comparisons were entirely objective - we have no ties to any of these restaurants and no interest in seeing any particular one come out on top - differences between the chains make direct comparisons challenging. Subway and Quiznos each sell multiple types of steak and roast beef sandwiches, with Quiznos offering roast beef, prime rib, and thin-sliced Black Angus steak on variously named and priced subs; Subway offers roast beef and prime rib on a lower total number of sandwiches, at generally lower prices. Subway's 6" subs range from $2.49 to $4.69 and uniformly jump by $2.20 (to $4.49 or $6.89) when they double in length; Quiznos' subs range from $3.49 to $4.99 for a 6" sandwich, jumping by $1 ($4.49-$5.99) for a 9" or $2 or $2.50 ($5.49-$7.49) for a 12". Compare this with DiBella's, which starts at $5.19 for a small cold sub or $5.59 for a small hot sub, and steps up to $6.19 or $6.59 for a medium, then $8.19 or $8.49 for a large.
A chain's higher prices might make sense if the more expensive subs were better tasting, but they weren't: in our testing, the less expensive Subway sandwiches tasted better than the mid-priced Quiznos and high-priced DiBella's options. Take for instance the Subway Fresh Toasted Meatball Marinara Sub (small, $2.99) versus the Quiznos Primo Meatball Sub (small, $3.49) and the DiBella's Meatball in Marinara Sauce Sub (small, $5.59). Each place gives you the choice of multiple breads, multiple included toppings, and the same key ingredients: tomato marinara sauce, some Italian meatballs, and mozzarella cheese. Yet as noted in the DiBella's review, the meatballs were big but almost flavorless, and coated in weak sauce; by comparison, the Quiznos version had slightly better meatballs and definitely stronger, more intensely flavored tomato sauce - even when ignoring the spicy peppers we'd added to the subs - while the Subway version had a ton of rich, slightly less spicy sauce and outstanding meatballs. Only Subway offered something with the exact texture and flavor one would expect from something called a "meatball sub;" we'd take two of these any day before buying a single DiBella's.
The various steak sandwiches we tested also went in Subway's direction, but by a less decisive margin. We were generally pleased with Quiznos' Prime Rib and Peppercorn Sub (small, $5), served with onions and a "mild peppercorn sauce;" we held the cheese. On this sandwich, we liked the sweet sauce, the fact that the meat seemed to be spilling out of the toasted sesame bread's sides, and the bread, which was a little better than in Subway's version. But the Subway Prime Rib Sub (small, $4.69) looked like an explosion of color, its onions, lettuce, and green peppers obscuring what initially looked like less beef. After tasting both, we actually preferred the flavor and texture of the Subway prime rib, which made up for the slightly more plain bread. We also tried Subway's Roast Beef sub ($4) with a "Hearty Italian" bread - one with cornmeal crusting - and though the meat quality was a step below than the Prime Rib, the pieces were larger, the price was lower, and the flavor was acceptable. We'd take any of these over the DiBella's Red Osier Roast Beef Sub ($5.59, small), which despite offering plenty of meat seriously lagged behind all of the others in flavor, or DiBella's Cheesesteak with Peppers and Onions ($5.59, small), which was similarly meat-heavy but flavor-deficient. Notably, Subway lets you double the good meat on its subs for a $1 surcharge, it wouldn't be necessary in our view, but it's an option for those who care.
We also tried turkey subs at both Subway and Quiznos: the Quiznos Tuskan Turkey Sub ($4.39) was, other than its beautiful Rosemary Parmesan roll, the less appealing of the two. With cold and relatively little sliced turkey, it also sported too little roasted red pepper sauce or tomato flavor to make a really good impression. It was an acceptable sub, but not the type we'd rush back for. By comparison, the Subway Turkey Breast Sub ($3.59) offered more and stronger-flavored turkey on a less exciting roll that had been so packed with extra ingredients that the bread didn't matter; another Subway poultry sub, the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki ($3.99), was even better - between its sliced onions, a sweet onion sauce, and reasonably large pieces of teriyaki-glazed fresh chicken, it could have been served on plain white bread and still been worth eating.
Though there are surely hundreds of Western New York shops serving subs - and great ones - as parts of their larger menus, there's no doubt in our minds that as far as chain sub shops go, Subway offers a better meal for the dollar than we'd expected, while the more aggressively marketed Quiznos is a step below, and the locally vaunted DiBella's manages to simultaneously offer less tasty subs and charge higher prices for them. Even the best of these three competitors isn't worthy of four stars by sub shop standards - Subway rates 3 stars, Quiznos 2.5 - but we definitely know where we'd spend our money first.
[Note: We have visited multiple Subway and Quiznos locations in the course of compiling this review; the specific items cited above came from Subway's location at 8126 Transit Rd., Williamsville, NY 14221, 716.688.2758, and Quiznos' location at 6703 Transit Rd., Williamsville, NY 14221, 716.565.1130]