Hippo Manchester
July 28, 2005

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Go ahead — run silent, run deep ...

But it doesn’t take sonar or a fleet of ships to find a good sub around here

By Jack “jaQ” Andrews 

Occupying a small section in the part of our brain dominated by pizza and Chinese, the submarine sandwich may in fact be the perfect take-out food.

Subs come in their own edible container. They can be eaten with one hand. Many aren’t that messy, and they come in both hot and cold varieties for all seasons and moods. They can be meaty, cheesy, veggie and bready all at once, and you can customize them to your heart’s content.

The sub makers

Spinelli’s Cafe & Subs, Route 101A in Nashua, specializes in catering to customers’ whims.

“People ask for things not on the menu all the time. That’s not a problem,” said owner Sam Brest. You won’t find grilled chicken, for example, on the plastic placard behind the counter. But before the bird goes into chicken salad, he can grab a few cuts, add some olive oil and seasonings, and he has another happy patron.

He’s even added the occasional item to his repertoire when it proves to be popular. Falafel is made from deep fried chickpeas that have to be soaked for a day. Brest groans as he tells the story of his wife encouraging him to serve it in his shop.

“If it takes off,” he told her, “you’re making it. I’m not.”  It did take off, and she does still make it – from scratch.

Subs are also easy to grab for lunch, seemingly no matter where you are. In addition to selling 600 subs a day at Danelly’s, 87 Allds St., Nashua, Steve Fulton has about a thousand a day distributed to local gas stations and convenience stores. In his kitchen sit long rows of bread split open and bursting with lettuce, ham and roast beef. Each will be cut into five sandwiches and packaged for retail sales.

Sometimes, the crew stays up all night making subs.

“I majored in Aviation and Flight Operations, and look what I’m doing!” Fulton joked. He comes to it through family – his father started the business, and his sons work there now. He takes pride in his crew, and says customers greet them by name, and vice versa.

He doesn’t even mind competition from brand-name sub chains.

“I love ’em. They advertise like crazy,” he said. “When Subway sponsors the Super Bowl, we have a great day. They get you hankering for a sub, are you gonna go there?  Maybe. Or maybe you’ll go to your favorite shop.”

Matthew Thomas isn’t so big on chains. He just bought The Stuffed Sub, 1293 Elm St., Manchester. He wants people to feel like a part of the business.

“Every sandwich I make as if I’m making it for myself,” he said.

Jeremy Nadeau is another second-generation shop owner. His father Bob opened Nadeau’s in 1969. Jeremy and his cousin Dan have just opened their third Nadeau’s on Hanover Street in Manchester – and he has a secret weapon.

“Our steak and cheese put us on the map,” Nadeau said. USDA choice sirloin tip is his meat of choice, and he’s introducing a new Philly cheesesteak that he promises is authentic.

“Most places use like a shaved steak. I buy the meat directly from Philadelphia. I wanted what they use in Philly,” he said.  (As a native of southeast Pennsylvania, this reporter can tell you – he’s nailed it.)

Advice from the pros

 So what’s the secret to a really great sub?  That’s simple.

“High-quality meats, fresh bread,” Brest said.

“Obviously making sure everything is fresh,” Thomas agreed.

“First-quality meats and cheeses,” Nadeau said. “I won’t buy it if it’s not top-notch.”

“You have to have a really good roll. All the meats we buy are fresh. We buy directly off the broker,” Fulton explained.

When you serve hundreds of subs a day, it’s easy to go through enough ingredients to know that everything is fresh. What should someone look for in the supermarket?

First off, Brest advises, don’t buy those packages of soft, white bread rolls.

“A real roll has some substance to it,” he said.  It doesn’t need to be hot out of the oven, but it should be baked the same day if at all possible.

Your meats need to be superb, as well, and not what Brest calls “deli meats.”  It turns out that those giant turkey breasts you see all ready for slicing in some markets might have five or seven separate chucks of meat glued together with an edible binding agent.

“The more pieces you have glued together, the more it’ll taste like rubber,” he said.  Several sub shop owners recommend Old Neighborhood Thin & Trim meats.

Brest is also very selective about his condiments: “I’m real picky about the mayonnaise I use. It’s thick, it’s not watery. If I change my mayonnaise, the whole taste changes.”

Matthew Thomas has recently discovered sweet banana peppers and highly recommends them.

“They’re not hot. They have a sweet vinegary flavor that adds a different kind of taste,” Thomas said.

Steve Fulton of Danelly’s has one more piece of advice: “From one end of the sandwich to the other end of the sandwich, it has to be the same. Presentation is everything. A lot of people eat with their eyes.”

Not only that, but if you have a glob of pickles in one spot and an overabundance of tomatoes in another, you get a segregated, ghetto-ized taste experience that fails to blend the flavors together.

And like America, a sub draws its strength from diversity.

Area subs

The best sub shop is, inevitably, the one on your street corner. In case you’re not lucky enough to have one of those and you want to go beyond the chains, here are some of the choice shops in the area.

Bob Shaw’s Italian Maine Subs — 915 Elm St., Manchester, 622-3723, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Caesario’s Pizza & Subs — 1057 Elm Street, Manchester, 623-8286, Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Chelby’s Pizza & Subs — 284 Mammoth Road, Manchester, 669-4329, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon - 9 p.m.

Christopher’s Subs & Pizza — 264 Main Dunstable Road, Nashua, 883-2362 Daily, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Ciao’s Pizza & Subs — 495 Amherst Street, Nashua, 889-3111, Monday to Wednesday,  10 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Thursday to Saturday. 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Danelly’s Pizza & Subs — 87 Allds Street, Nashua, 882-6820, Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Dave’s Cosmic Subs — 10 Lake Ave., Manchester, 623-1555, Daily, 10:30 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Merrimack House of Pizza — 563 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 424-3003 Sunday to Thursday, 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Friday to Saturday, 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Moe’s Italian Sandwiches — 1093 Elm St., Manchester, Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Nadeau’s Subs — 100 Cahill Avenue, Manchester, 669-7827, Monday to Saturday,  11 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Nadeau’s Subs — 776 Mast Road, Manchester, 623-2650, Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Nadeau’s Subs (inside Mobil Kwik Stop) — 1095 Hanover Street, Manchester, 623-9350, Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Papa Romano’s Pizza of Nashua — 189 Kinsley Street, Nashua, 595-4808, Monday to Thursday, 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Friday to Saturday, 10:30 am - 11p.m.; Sunday 4 - 10 p.m.

Souvlaki Pizza & Subs — 256 Bridge Street, Manchester, 625-9354, Sunday to Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Thursday to  Saturday, 10:30a.m. - 10 p.m.; Friday, 10:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Spinelli’s Cafe & Subs — 379 Amherst Street, Nashua, 578-0700, Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. - 9 p.m.

The Stuffed Sub — 1293 Elm Street, Manchester, 622-9090, Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. - 2 p.m.

TJ’s Deli — 2 Pittsburgh Drive, Nashua, 883-7770, Monday to Friday,  9 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.