I don’t get a lot of opportunities to review chain restaurants. I’m not going to just walk in and rail on something I know I will hate, but every so often a chain is worth reviewing. That’s especially the case when said chain is something your friends need to know about. This is the story of Jersey Mike’s.

It starts with sandwiches. A great sandwich is the equivalent of a fancy meal to me. It’s kind of the same with wine. I’ve been really disappointed by $80 bottles of wine and wowed by more than a few $15 bottles. Being let down by a $200 dinner for two is inexcusable, but when an $8 sandwich catches your attention it at least helps your feelings.

This sandwich found its footing near Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, around 1956. In the early ‘70s a 14-year-old kid named Peter Cancro began working there part-time and bought the place in 1975 at age 17, the tender age when he wasn’t even old enough to legally operate the meat slicer. He began franchising in 1987 and now is the owner and CEO of the company, which has more than 1,000 locations. The Dauphin Street restaurant came our way late this year.

I’ve been laying off the bread since I gained about six pounds a day during the holidays, but Rob and Ulysses convinced me to take them to Jersey Mike’s. Hardcore fans, the place has been open just a few months but has already won their hearts. This was my maiden voyage. It’s near Dauphin and Interstate 65, just west of Sage Avenue and across the parking lot from Rite Aid and, you guessed it, Subway.

These guys opened a sub shop rock-throwing distance from what is probably the largest dealer of $5 footlongs, hot and cold sandwiches and flatbread pizza. Subway has to still be the largest and most powerful sandwich chain. That’s pretty gutsy, even for Jersey boys, but they aren’t scared.

So the three of us (one of us green) packed up in Rob’s family truckster so I could see what it was all about. There’s the assembly line you are used to at sandwich shops. Cases of meat and cheese, unsliced and still in the plastic were in plain view as we watched the sandwich artist operate the meat blade for the couple of people in front of us.

Ulysses was making fun of me for not standing in the line properly and I was making fun of his hair. I figured I’d let him go first so he could “show me how it’s done.” Of course a 15-year-old goes big with a Giant Chipotle Cheese Steak ($12.95). Grilled onions and peppers are what you are accustomed to with any cheese steak. This one goes the extra mile with chipotle mayonnaise, a condiment Ulysses and his father refuse to recognize the glory of.

Rob and Ulysses hate mayonnaise so much that it’s torture for them to watch me slather it on anything. However, this sandwich was amazing. The bread was soft, and ordering it giant-sized is something only a kid with the metabolism of a channel swimmer should do. I was afforded a good-sized bite but Ulysses ate the rest of it. It was like a modern-day Shaggy low on Scooby Snacks taking down a sandwich you’d normally find in a cartoon.

Rob was slightly more conservative in his order and decided on a Buffalo Chicken Cheese Steak ($7.45) in the moderate regular size. Don’t think for a second that regular is small. It’s larger than most sandwiches a decade ago. But with Frank’s Red Hot sauce, lettuce, tomato and blue cheese dressing, it’s pretty hard to leave any on the table.

I would have loved to keep the cheesesteak thing going but I knew we needed variety. This led me to pulling the trigger on a couple of cold mini subs, the first of which was The Original Italian ($5.25). Some of my favorite meats that don’t make it to the walk-in coolers of most sandwich shops are on this sub. Ham, prosciuttini, cappacuolo (how many ways can you spell these things?), salami and pepperoni lay the bedrock for a blanket of provolone. It was suggested that I make it Mike’s Way with onions, lettuce, tomatoes, spices and “the Juice,” a blend of red wine vinegar and olive oil. I loved it.

Keep in mind that what they call a mini sub is something I would consider a normal-sized sandwich. My second mini was the Club Supreme ($5.25). Roast beef, turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese and mayo made this sandwich equally as impressive. Of course I also got it Mike’s way. I ate half of each and took the rest home.

For a couple bucks more our meals were turned into combos with fountain drinks, Miss Vickie’s Jalapeño chips and Doritos. I noticed there were two-liter bottles of Mountain Dew in a cooler and thought for a second we could just get one of those and pass it around like a demijohn, but cups with ice were probably the better option.

Dessert was a pair of cookies ($1.98 each). Baked in the store, I believe the name of these monsters was something like Hershey’s Kiss Chocolate Chip. Of course there was a fight over dividing two cookies into three.

I pray these guys keep up the good work because right now they are killing it. Goldfinger’s wings and chicken fingers should be open soon, and that little neck of the woods will be full of quick dining options.

Reviewing a chain isn’t so tough. I’ll personally review this again. And again. And again!

Jersey Mike’s Subs
3151 Dauphin St.
Mobile 36606

(Photo | Jersey Mike’s) Jersey Mike’s Subs recently opened in midtown Mobile as part of a franchise expansion that began in 2014.