Last week I checked out the much-hyped new vegan subs, available at select Subway Café restaurants in the DC area. The Subway Café concept is a upmarket version of a usual Subway franchise restaurant--with a coffee bar selling Seattle's Best (Starbucks' downmarket brand), fancier décor (this location had a flat screen TV), and soft rock playing in the background. I visited the DC location at 555 13th Street NW.
Let me preface this review by saying that I don't eat at Subway chains regularly because there are normally such limited veggie offerings. White bread and banal salad fixings don't strike me as a satisfying lunch. However my boyfriend Matt, a trouper, eats Subway once a week with coworkers. He makes the best out of it. For example, he always asks for spinach rather than lettuce and gets as many veggies as the sandwich artists can pile onto his 12" sub. But he's never quite satisfied. (He confessed to his coworkers once that he could probably eat two 12" subs and not feel full.) So he was eager for me to beta test the new veggie options and report back.
I do think it is great that Subway is looking to extend their menu to include plant-based options. Sadly, I think this excellent idea suffers from poor execution at the moment. The Subway Café staff didn't seem to be trained to serve the sandwiches yet. They were confused about what I was ordering, how to heat the veggie patty, and what price to charge for the sub. In their defense, these new vegan sandwiches do not appear on the regular menu, but were advertised with small signs atop the glass counter.
I ordered the "Malibu Greek," a rather confusing name. I didn't notice anything particularly "Malibu" or "Greek" about it. The sub consists of a veggie patty and the usual fixings options. The individual veggie patties are stored on the fixings bar, in a silver container. The staff decided that the patty should be toasted like a Veggie Max. (Could it be eaten cold?) They also asked if I wanted cheese, which seems to be standard protocol but is an awkward question for the "vegan sandwich." (I also ordered an iced coffee and was offered milk twice.) The vegan sandwich moves down the fast-food assembly line, commingling with other sandwich prep--knives, gloves, stray bits of cheese, etc. (It's too bad they don't have a separate prep area but they probably have limited space.)
The Malibu Greek patty was reminiscent of falafel or a fried breakfast patty. It is definitely not trying to be a mock meat. You could see flecks of veggie pieces in the patty, not unlike some veggie burger brands. I definitely noticed corn, carrots, broccoli, and rice in there. Overall, I think this vegan sub could be a good option for vegan folks like my boyfriend, who dutifully eat out at Subway, and for non-vegans who'd just like to try some veggie fare. I hope these vegan options are introduced to conventional Subway franchises in less upscale environs soon.