I stopped into the Reston Penn Station East Coast Subs, a franchising operation that was founded in 1985 in Ohio, and now has at least 275 “units” nationwide.
Today, area franchises are in Fairfax (convergence of 236, 29, and 50), Reston (Plaza America Shopping Center with Whole Foods), Haymarket (Haymarket Village Center with Wal-Mart), and Richmond (W. Broad Street with Sam’s Club). They certainly aren’t shy about cuddling up next to the big boxes.
The moment I walked in, I knew I was in Sysco City – when you’re halfway down the line, you’re faced with a wall consisting of industrial-sized, gallon plastic tubs of items like Heinz, Hellman’s, etc. These are proudly displayed as *decoration* – I guess they’re trying to impress the consumer with their commitment to quality, but this consumer was, at best, repelled knowing the mediocrity I was about to dine on.
Penn Station offers their subs in 6″, 8″, 10″, and 12″ cuts, and I opted for a 10″ Steak and Cheese with a Large Diet Pepsi. Although I don’t remember the individual prices, and discarded my receipt, the total with tax (and maybe tip; I can’t remember if I threw in cash) came to $11.80. It was more than enough food, and I should have gotten something smaller for lunch.
The defaults with the Steak and Cheese were thin strips of steak, cooked to well-done, and provolone; options were sautéed onions (yes, and there were many), fresh mushrooms, (yes), banana peppers (yes, too many), spicy-brown mustard (no), mayo (no), and pizza sauce (yes, and it was Dei Fratelli which came from one of those industrial plastic jugs).
I’m always happy when I stumble across a diamond in the rough; it was not to be on this day. That this franchise currently has 275 units says more about America than it does Penn Station East Coast Subs. One and done.