Today, part of the family and I had to go to Tampa, Florida for an appointment. Of course, when the appointment was over, it was after lunchtime. We proceeded to look for a place to eat near us. We ended up finding what looked like another small business sub shop from the outside. I soon found out I was wrong, but it was still a great visit!
What I thought was a small-time sub shop turned out to be a nationwide chain of franchise stores. There are 13 so far in the state of Florida, with one in Orlando, and 3 in Tampa. Something confuses me about my post-visit research of this place though. Their door says, “Delicious Subs & Philly Cheesesteaks Since 1979.” Yet, their own website says that the first location opened their doors in 1998, in Memphis, Tenneessee. That’s quite a discrepancy in dates, and a poor display of branding. For a restaurant that appears to put a lot of effort in branding (see pictures below), I was pretty disappointed.
They have branded everything in the store, from the chips to hot pepper relish, and signs to napkins and everything in between.
The location in Tampa that we visited was in North Tampa on Fowler Avenue, which is actually known as Temple Terrace. They’re even part of the local Chamber of Commerce.
The service was really outstanding. For those of you that follow my blog, you know that of all things in the world, I am most critical of customer service. The two gentlemen working up front really did a great job of taking care of us, and making sure that everything we wanted was taken care of. It was definitely a challenging visit for them too. Kim had a really bad headache, the Coke tasted like the syrup was low, and the women’s toilet was out of order. We reported the the latter 2 things to them, and they were extremely accommodating of our requests.
The prices appeared to be average of what we’d expect to pay in any other sub shop in Tampa, or Orlando. However, the upcharge for making a sandwich a meal (a choice of chips or a cookie, and a medium soda) is a whopping $2.09 for a regular sized meal. However, large sandwiches have additional $0.30 for the upcharge, and it’s not clear why. My drink was the same size as everyone else’s.
They serve Coke products, and accept the major credit cards. This is always a plus for me, as I rarely carry cash. They also do not use preprocessed meats in the sense that they cut all of their meats onsite.
There were only 3 of us there today: Kim, Paige, and I. Here is what we ordered…
Kim ordered the Chicken Salad sandwich. It was #17 on the order board, and came with the typical options for their sandwiches. She chose wheat bread, and no other toppings, just plain. I tried her sandwich, and she made a great choice. The chicken salad is delicious all on its own. I found it to be full of flavor, moist, and the chicken was definitely white meat and fresh. The wheat bread was soft all over, and not even the least bit chewy – perfect!
Paige ordered the Kids Hot Dog (#25). She had a choice of having ketchup and mustard on it, and a wheat or white bun (not a hot dog bun). There are other toppings that I am sure she could have chosen too. Like the other meals, she had a choice of chips or a cookie. She chose Salt & Vinegar Chips. They were incredible! I wonder if they have their own brand, or if they rebrand someone else’s chips. I didn’t try her hot dog though, and I am not sure what brand of hot dogs they use.
Finally, it comes to me. I find that the defining moment for any sub shop on my first visit to any sub shop is how they make their Philly Cheesesteak. If I like it, I will return and I will like the restaurant. Otherwise, they permanently lost my business. If your Philly Cheesesteak sucks, please take the word “sub” out of your business name.
I do feel that I need to qualify my statement and my upcoming review of the sub. I am not one of those people that says that a Philly Cheesesteak needs to have any specific ingredients, or be cooked any specific way. I find such a thought to be close minded. Imagine if we felt the same way about pizza. We’d only have a cheese pizza. Food would be so boring if people did not put their own personal touches on a meal or dish. And just think about how few options we’d have in our daily restaurant selection. I believe that a Philly Cheesesteak begins with steak, cheese, peppers, and onions on a sub roll. From there, it’s whatever you decide.
I ordered the Philly Cheesesteak. Like the other subs, I had the choice of regular or large. I thought this meant 6-inch or foot long. I was very wrong. Apparently, this meant 1 sub or two. Hehehe… Among my other choices, I selected: wheat bread, lettuce, mayo, tomato, cheese, peppers, and their popular hot pepper relish. The relish was incredible! I have had similar relishes before, and they are so good! Just spicy enough to enjoy the flavor, with a touch of sweet to spike that extra bit entertainment into your palate. I also had their Jalapeno Chips, which tasted really good as well.
As you can see from the above picture, the large sub looks like two regulars.
I can sum up their philly in one word: DELICIOUS! The meat was tender and tasty. It tasted like it was definitely marinated, and kept moist before serving. The lettuce was typical lettuce and the same with the tomatoes – nothing special about them unfortunately. Everything about the sub appeared to be above average. The peppers and onions were just as delicious as the meat, and the hot pepper relish was a perfect compliment for the rest of the ingredients. It made my mouth do the happy dance!
Overall, our visit to Lenny’s Sub Shop was a really great visit. It was a lucky find, for sure. We enjoyed the service, and the food was delicious. They really seem to have their own flavor, for a chain. Typically, you find a homogenized menu and meals at chains. Despite a broken toilet, the place looked clean. The prices do not make you run out the door. I would say that my only piece of constructive criticism would be to buy fresher produce, perhaps from local growers.
Give them a try! I am sure that you will enjoy your visit like we did.
Here are some final pictures of the location we visited: