Recession approved: Affordable subs

Laspada’s meat tosser Mike Lenz chucks salami to employee Jen Garcia as customers watch. Photo: Kyle Teal

No need to hit the chains when you’re looking for a delicious submarine sandwich that’s easy on the wallet. Many mom-and-pop South Florida businesses sell recession subs – massive sandwiches that could easily count as dinner (or lunch for a couple of days). So, pile on the onions, the olives, add a little mustard, and remember that money doesn’t necessarily make people happy – scraping it together to buy a good sandwich does.

Disclaimer: To the best of our knowledge, skinny man Jared Fogle has not endorsed any of these establishments. Somehow, we don’t see that being a problem.

La Sandwicherie: parlez-vous delicious?

This Miami Beach sandwich shop makes no sense. Connected to a tattoo parlor, directly across from “The Deuce” on 14th St., you might expect an eatery of this location to serve greasy, artery-clogging-munchies to late night hooligans. French-themed La Sandwicherie does quite the opposite.

The freshest veggies, mozzarella cheese, a juice bar, fat free frozen yogurt and quality proscuitto: The goods behind the open counter are enough to draw anyone – sober or nowhere near. But perhaps the biggest attraction is a tan-colored, slightly spicy sauce that customers vigorously splash all over their veggies, croissants or French bread. The secret sauce, which manager Hugo Garcia calls “liquid magic,” is pretty darn good and I was able to discover some of its key ingredients from a reliable source: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey-Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Measurements and how to mix is still a secret. “The sauce is probably what people come here for,” said customer Nisan Oren. “And the fact it’s always fresh here.”

Garcia says he sees fights all night, between “drunk people, high people, good people, bad people.” He’s served actor Matt Damon, heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield and retired NFL star Warren Sapp (perhaps best known for his stint on Dancing with the Stars). Spend a little more money to slurp down some fresh juice or a milkshake, wake up with a café con leche, or just guzzle that incredible magic sauce. According to Garcia, you wouldn’t be the first.

229 14th Street, Miami Beach; (305) 532-8934; 8:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. (delivery 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

Subs Serious: no joke

Sub Serious’ large grill sizzles with meat all week. Here, the smell of the grill is inviting and it carries itself with you – literally – back to your office or home. You might end up dreaming about the serious sandwiches (done it a couple of times).

The finely chopped meat, doused in your choice of sauce, makes the sandwiches especially unique and tasty. For a $7 special, you get a junior Philly cheese steak, a 20 ounce drink, and cookie. Teriyaki chicken and meatball subs are satisfying. Omelet sandwiches and breakfast platters are served until 11 a.m., and fresh salads, cold subs, hot subs, burger subs the rest of the day. Goofy paintings of American icons like Vito Corleone and ball player Sammy Sosa decorate the wall. Staff is all smiles.

The casual restaurant serves Coral Gables professionals, lawyers and UM students. Owner Felix Mendez is a former computer consultant who owns another sub shop in Miami Lakes. The recession hasn’t slowed his business. “As long as you have a quality sandwich at a good price, people are going to come,” said Felix, 42.

Bring cash because plastic’s no good here.

262 Andalusia Ave, Coral Gables; Mon. – Fri. 8 am – 6 pm, Sat. 9 am – 3 pm (delivery)

Casola’s Pizzeria and Sub shop: cheesy, but good

Casola’s mammoth, New York-style pizzas look like they were grown in a nuclear power plant; they taste pretty good too. But it’s worth a trip to the casual dining spot just to try the subs and bulky croissant sandwiches. The steak and cheese is scrumptiously cheesy and sloppy, but not too greasy, with heaping portions of steak. A large meatball and cheese sandwich costs $6.99 – you can also choose from a decent selection of deli meats like Genoa salami and pastrami. “Small” subs are 10 inches long, and large sandwiches are a foot. Salads are nearly impossible to finish in one sitting. Dessert is covered: Dolce Vita gelato is served in the restaurant or in to-go boxes.

The family-owned business right off of U.S. 1 stays open until 5 a.m., so it’s not unusual to see a drastic change in the type of customers that walk, or stumble, into the pizzeria, according to manager Agustin Bunuel, son of a co-owner. “The middle of the night crowd is quite the lively bunch,” he said. “We have a wholesome, family atmosphere and a few hours later, it feels like a club. Sometimes, I want to dim the lights.” He grew up working in the restaurant, after his family moved from Boston. His father, of the same name, was Ramon Casola’s business competitor in New England. After moving to Miami, they joined forces to open Casola’s in 1982. Ramon Casola died in 2006.

It is a little noisy. Order numbers are shouted over a loud speaker system and the large restaurant is almost always crammed with crowds – the natural result of affordable eats in huge portions. Credit cards are for delivery only, but there’s an ATM on premise.

2437 SW 17th Avenue, Miami; 305-858-0090 (delivery); Mon. – Thurs. 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Fri. and Sat. 10:30 a.m. to 4 a.m.

Laspada’s Original Hoagies: meat-flying fun

Happy hoagie artists at Laspada’s chuck deli meats to fellow employees who easily catch the flying salami and ham using soft bread for a catcher’s mitt. Hungry hoagie lovers are given a good show and are sure to leave fatter; most sandwiches are jammed with meats and cheeses. The veggies here aren’t bad either – sweet peppers are tasty enough to eat as a stand-alone-snack.

Laspada’s three locations in Broward have steady lines of customers anxious to tear into the sandwich shops well-known Italian hoagies and the somewhat intimidating Monster hoagie – ham, cheese, roast beef and turkey. The hoagie-crews come in numbers – six employees were in the Davie shop on a Sunday afternoon.

You can find huge salads here and platters are often ordered, especially during football season. Six-foot subs are great party options. “Football season is our season,” says three-year employee Jen Garcia. She grabs a 12-inch piece of bread and braces for the airborne salami soaring her way. “We’re entertaining – we toss the meat.”

Surprisingly, it rarely hits the floor.

10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Laspadas Original Hoagies, 4346 Seagrape Drive, Lauderdale-by-the-sea, FL 33308; (954) 776-7893
2645 S. University Drive, Davie, FL 33328; (954) 476-1099
7893 W. Sample Road, Coral Springs, FL 33065; (954)345-8833

Hungry Bear Sub Shop: creative concoctions

“We’ve tried real hard to keep it mom and pop,” Hungry bear owner Chuck Smith said with a thick Boston accent. He hires only responsible, neighborhood kids who serve the many professionals, blue-collar workers, Miami-Dade college students and high school students at nearby Miami Killian Senior High that line up at the steaming grill.

Smith moved down with his wife and started the sandwich shop in 1979 – grainy photos along the wall document the first day the couple opened. Since then, they opened three more shops – two that shut down after Hurricane Andrew

The steak and cheese, called “Steak Bomb,” is a fan favorite, with onion, mushrooms, green peppers, steak sauce or BBQ, and cheese. The grill offers unique options like oriental chicken sub with romaine lettuce, sliced almonds and chow mein noodles. The fajita sub is also weird: onion, green pepper, sour cream, salsa, cheddar, lettuce and tomato. Don’t even th ink about going light, as the shop doesn’t offer half subs – it’s all or nothing. The cramped indoor arrangement offers no seating. The outside seating arrangement is fine on a nice day. Otherwise, grab and go.

College Park Shopping Center, 10521 SW 109 CT, Kendall; (305) 595-8385
Airport Business Center, 3399 NW 72nd Ave. #112, Miami: (305) 592-2515

The Manhattan Café and Market: big city taste

Facing the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the Manhattan Café and Market offers a great food selection and a metropolitan feel, surrounded by apartment units overhead and the Arsht Center’s flashy architecture.

The counter primarily serves the working crowds, as it’s only open until 3 p.m. during the week. Its impressive selection provides a variety of decently priced bagels, baguettes, crossaints, wraps and pitas, like the “Chicken Milano” – chicken, mozzarella, tomato, red onions and basil oil dressing. Nova, western, Greek and ranch-style omelets are served until 10 a.m., as is the $4.50 “Woman’s Breakfast,” complete with eggs, home fries, coffee, and a choice of bacon, sausage or ham.

The Manhattan brags about its chicken salad sandwich, a flavorful mixture of white raisins, mayo, basil, olive oil, Granny Smith apples and pignoli nuts. A half baguette with ham and cheese costs $3.50.

Free delivery to hotels, businesses, and homes

251 NE 14th St., Miami (305) 372-1966; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Best Sub Shop: in and out

It’s painful to use a cliché like “hole in the wall,” – but no other sandwich shop is more deserving of the title. Don’t eat here, unless you must have your sub sandwich piping hot and can’t wait to get home. No tables or chairs in the tiny shop, but there are a couple of outside tables for chomping with a less-than-majestic view of S.W. 77th Ave. Why not take advantage of a good sub and a good-looking area? If it’s the weekend and you have some time, grab any of the traditional subs offered and enjoy at a local park like Matheson Hammock.

The steak and cheese is hearty and likely one of the best sandwiches sampled. A foot-long American cold cut is proudly advertised for $3.49 on its outside sign – the most recession-friendly sandwich discovered on our voyage. And like most of the other casual restaurants featured here, Best Subs posts photos of good friends along the walls – friends that appreciate recession food.

9802 SW 77th Ave, Miami; (305) 279-0000; Mon.- Fri. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sat. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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