Eat fresh, or have it your way, or something.

First things first: There is nothing inherently lowbrow or gimmicky about snack chips on a sandwich. Peanut butter and honey with Ruffles was a staple of my childhood diet, and BBQ chips are a critical component of renowned sandwich innovator Tyler Kord’s brilliant Zucchini Parmesan at No. 7 Sub in New York. Crisps, as our friends across the pond call them, are a quick, smart way to add all-important textural contrast; if anything, they’re underused.

Yet in the minor hubbub that followed Subway’s rollout of its Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt, the well-known corn chips seemed to be singled out for mockery, their mere presence pointed to as an indicator of the sandwich’s absurdity. Yes, in fairness, they are probably its most noteworthy ingredient, and undoubtedly its most aggressively-promoted. Still, in the long history of Subway’s limited-time-only specials, the Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt is far from extraordinarily preposterous. Immediately, I knew I had to have it.

Having successfully avoided eating at Subway for years, I was caught unprepared when my “sandwich artist” asked me which toppings I would like on what I had presumed was a carefully predetermined sandwich. For reasons unknown, I was eager not to out myself to all present as a Subway rube, and I hastily mumbled a few vegetables that struck me at that instant as passably Mexican. The result: lettuce, tomato, black olives, and white American cheese atop specially-seasoned chicken and enchilada sauce on Italian bread.

This is not a very good sandwich. The six-inch sub contained somewhere between seven and ten Fritos chips of varying sizes, the endlessly ballyhooed main attraction hardly bringing the cruncha-muncha I was promised. Flavor-wise, the overpowering lava-hued enchilada sauce is nothing short of caustic. It’s been a cold winter here on the East Coast, and after a couple bites my lightly chapped lips felt like they were melting away from my face, and not at all in a good way. The mushy, mostly flavorless chicken has the consistency of refried beans, which, in hindsight, could have made for a better enchilada facsimile anyway. A consistent distribution of these ingredients would have been an easy way to score consolation some points, like putting your name on a pop quiz, but—as the photo evidence clearly shows—even this simple task was beyond the ability of my sandwichmaker at the 14th and K Street location.

Subway restaurants were not, of course, named in honor of a subterranean transit system, but I’m not going to let that stop me making a forced comparison with D.C.’s own underground commuter rail line. Like Metro, the Subway chain is, at best, moderately dependable, a bit more costly than it should be, and, as evidenced by the forgettable Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt, similarly prone to the occasional catastrophic failure. Just be thankful the sandwich shop doesn’t have escalators.

Chain Reactions features sandwiches offered at national chain sandwich shops.

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February 28, 2014


I find Subway’s consistent quality, fresh bread, and reasonable pricing very acceptable. If you stick with the basic sub and the usually fresh veggies like lettuce, onions, and cucumbers, add pickles and olives, you really have a quite a healthy, good tasting and cheap meal. We are talking $5 for a foot long sub. That’s two meals for me!

I’m not sure if I detect any irony/sarcasm in “Jeff’s” comment, but I’m hoping it’s implied regardless.

For a long time, I would have agreed with you completely. The best you could say about Subway was that it was cheap and consistent. Unfortunately, in the last few years, despite not eating there very often, I’ve noticed a lot more variety in the quality level among different franchises. I’m not sure the Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt would be a good sandwich even if constructed perfectly, but mine was made so haphazardly that the negative qualities were magnified. Even in a crunch, Subway is now nothing more than a last resort.