Review: Chipotle Chicken and Cheese from Subway

Check out Adam’s new blog,  Option Pitch and Waffle Crisp: How Faith, Breakfast Cereal, and College Football Explain the World.

There are certain reviews I almost dread writing. Horribly bland items which shun my gastronomic lexicon notwithstanding, most of these reviews revolve around products I either love or hate. It makes sense if you think about it — people seem to have love-hate relationships with everything these days, and one man’s (or woman’s) epitome of fast food perfection might be another’s prime example of everything wrong with our country. And considering the feelings some people display towards chains like Subway or Burger King (two often-bashed here on GrubGrade) that may not be a hyperbolic statement.

So I am sorry to the serial Subway haters out there, but the Chipotle Chicken and Cheese is a damn good sandwich at its price. Yes, not a good sandwich (although not quite a great sandwich), it is a damn good sandwich. And — if by any intentional or unintentional circumstance — you find yourself being stared down by a “sandwich artist” in your local Subway, you’d do well to roll the dice and take a chance on January’s featured Five Dollar Footlong.

Start the New Year with a bang! Tender, juicy chicken and meltalicious cheese with a pop of Chipotle Southwest Sauce for a creamy, smoky, subtly spicy taste sensation. It’s like fireworks for your taste buds!

A little background is in order. I didn’t intend to order anything from Subway for lunch the other day, and certainly didn’t consider what I thought an over-hyped marketing ploy of “Chipotle Southwest” to be enticing at first glance. It’s been a solid year or so since I’ve actually gone to Subway with the intention of buying a sub, but having forgotten my lunch while out and about for the day, I figured I’d wander into one of those nicer gas station mini marts and pick up something cheap to hold me over. Low and behold the embedded Subway unit in said mini-mart though, and the “oh yeah” moment where I remember I have that $10 Subway gift card.

If I was going to order anything I figured I might as well try the “Featured Footlong.” God knows “Chipotle” has run its course in the buzz words of food marketing, but at 460 calories and $3.75 for a six-inch sub it had enough punch to be a halfway affordable meal for an afternoon. Why not? Stepping up to order, I ordered a 6-inch sub, designating Jalapeno Cheese bread as my starch of choice. This is the part where some will inevitably take issue, claiming that when objectively reviewing something, said reviewer should order and then keep quiet, letting the default choice of condiments and accompaniments stand. That might be the case in the Soup Nazi’s kitchen or communist China’s burger chains, but an essential component of the Subway business model is customization. So I took advantage.

That advantage serves you well. Why settle for American when you can have a creamier, slightly spicy Pepper Jack? It melts fantastically into the bread and chicken, and gives the sauce a bit more fat to tighten up the viscosity. The chicken, my old nemesis when I chose to order Subway in the past, was surprisingly missing that “enhanced” flavor of sodium and fake-char-grill. In fact, it had a slight tang not unlike Chick-fil-A’s grilled chicken breast, and a juicy and slightly sweet flavor. The veggies, of course, were fresh and portioned generously — something too many fast food places still struggle with. The idea of adding tomato and cucumber for relief and sweetness cannot be overstated, but the Chipotle Sauce shouldn’t scare you. This is not a sauce trying to be hot for hots sake. It has a pleasant smoke flavor and depth to it, as well as a buttermilk tang and sweet kick. Not one to usually get sauces that are mostly composed of fat, a little nevertheless goes a long way, and is worth it in this case.

What I like about this sandwich is that it stays physically warm and holds its structure and flavors. Given that a half-hour wait from ordering to eating (with some of it spent walking in near-single digit temperatures) was part of my experience, I have to commend this as one of the better grubbing-on-the-go options out there for those who might not be able to eat right away. Points, as well, for condiments not squeezing out of the bread while eating.

Like I said, a damn good sandwich, but it does have flaws. The bread-to-filling ratio is slightly skewed in favor of the bread, particularly a denseness which leaves the end bites short on flavor.  Likewise, the flavor of the Jalapeno and Cheese, while working great in consort with the sauce, Pepper Jack, and chicken, doesn’t extend through the dense underbelly of the bread. Other problems include the possibility of getting some rubbery chicken pieces, although I fortunately only got one such piece. And yes, the two triangles of cheese and a pre-portioned container of meat is not a lot, but then again, consider the price point, especially in regards to a competitor like Quiznos. Given this, and given the availability of customization, and I’ll take Subway over Quiznos anyday, although I stand by my feelings that Arby’s makes the best beef subs with their Premium Angus line. A good sub? Nope, and not a great one either. But Subway manages to create a damn good sub at a price even a perennial bring-your-lunch-to work ‘looking for work guy’ can enjoy.

Pros: Chipotle Southwest Sauce has addictive mix of flavors capturing the best of heat, sweet, and tang. Pepper Jack cheese melts into bread and meat. Fresh veggies. Very filling. Attractive sandwich construction. Customization lends itself to flavor. Good price.

Cons: Some chicken strips have rubbery black edges. Too much bread dissipates overall flavor. Exterior edges of bread are slightly burnt in toaster. Holding up the Subway line is a horrifying experience. Inevitable person claiming I'm an idiot for liking something from Subway.

Taste: 8.50/10
Value: 8.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 8.50/10
Price: $3.75 for 6″ and $5.00 for footlong (January 2012 only)

Overall GrubGrade: 8.00/10

More Info:
Nutrition Facts:
Subway Chipotle Chicken and Cheese (6-inch with Pepper-Jack on Flatbread)
Calories – 460
Fat – 20.4 grams
Saturated Fat – 5.6 grams
Cholesterol – 75 milligrams
Sodium – 1020 milligrams
Carbs – 42 grams
Sugars – 4 grams
Dietary Fiber – 3 grams
Protein – 27 grams

29 comments on “Review: Chipotle Chicken and Cheese from Subway

  1. Chefprotoss says:

    I feel pretty much the same as you with this one. I give the overall about a point less, but if you have to eat Subway, you can’t go wrong with this one. The chipotle southwest sauce doesn’t taste anything like chipotle but it is really good. Nice review there buddy.

  2. Chris says:

    So many other places do the Chipotle mayo / Chipotle sauce thing better than Subway. I’m surprised to see it getting so much love on here.

    • Chefprotoss says:

      Really? Where?

      • Chris says:

        Around here in Kansas we have Quiznos, McDonald’s (if you count their Chipotle BBQ), and a bunch of other regional / local places like Schlotzsky’s and Jersey Mike’s.

        I’d much rather get a $5 large roast beef sandwich from Quiznos with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and chipotle mayo than anything that price at Subway. At Quiznos they actually toast the sandwich thoroughly rather than stick it in a toaster oven for 15 seconds.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been getting Chipotle SW sauce at Subway for years now. But after trying the equivalent at so many other places around here, it doesn’t really compare.

  3. Manavee says:

    I thought this was a fine sandwich, by Subway standards (which is bottom of the barrel low, in my opinion). The chipotle sauce is not spicy at all, but is actually quite good and is easily their best sauce, in my opinion. It even makes Subway steak taste borderline edible….it really is that good.

    Totally off topic: Adam, are you gonna review Krave on your cereal/football blog? Just tried it and thought it was excellent.

    I also got totally fooled today at the supermarket when I bought what I thought was French Toast Crunch. I need to get my eyes checked, as when I got home I realized it was something called Frosted Toast Crunch. Damn you, General Mills! Damn you to hell!

  4. Erin Jax says:

    ugh, I hate it when Subway comes up with “new” sandwiches that are essentially branded constructions of pre-existing menu items. Wasn’t the chipotle sauce added to the menu 10 years ago? Nice, thorough review, but in terms of this being a new sandwich, no dice.

  5. SkippyMom says:

    Good review Adam – and you are so right about the customization. I like subway because it is always [hands down] always fresh and I get what I want without the inevitable screw up behind the counter.

    I laughed at the “holding up the subway line” – yep, been there, done that, felt awful. 🙂

  6. Mikey F Baby says:

    Not a Subway fan, big love with Southwest Sauce. Even get it on my breakfast sandwiches if I have to go there!

  7. Keith says:

    I’d be afraid to see the ingredient list in Subway’s “southwest sauce,” which I don’t particularly care for – and I normally love sauces like this. I’m not sure what my problem with it is since I typically don’t go to Subway very often (and if I do, I stick to the sweet onion chicken teriyaki) but now I feel like I have to give it another go.

    I’ve really grown to despise Subway – their bread smells and tastes sort of artificial and most of their cold cuts seem to have been a liquid at some point (doesn’t their ham partially contain turkey??). But, they sometimes become a go-to place for a decent lunch when there’s nothing available but McDonald’s.

    One big point of kudos to Subway – they’re one of the first chains to seriously enforce a no cell phone rule when ordering. Our society is cell phone stupid, and more businesses need to take a stand, particularly during busy lunch hours.

    • Adam says:

      You bust my chops for passing on mayo for the fat then complain about the sauce?

    • Joe Cool says:

      So what happens if you use your cellular phone while in line? Do they kick you out? Just curious, how they actually “enforce” this rule.

      • Keith says:

        @Adam – I’m not complaining about the fat, but the last time I had Subway’s southwest sauce I wasn’t thrilled about its taste, I thought it was a little artificial and bland. Like I said though, I need to give it another shot since it’s been a while and I’d like to try this one based on your review. One of my other problems with Subway is their lack of innovation – this is sort of a by product of the “made to order” business model, but it also means “new” products like this are just thrown together via Ryan’s “Taco Bell Method.”

        @Joe Cool – the signs usually say that patrons on cell phones will be asked to go to the back of the line, or something like that. I’ve seen these signs at Quizno’s and Chipotle too. It’s particularly rude to be on the phone when ordering at a counter that asks multiple questions, so I certainly commend them for simply having the signs. Hopefully they don’t have to enforce it and patrons will simply respect the fact that the rule is there for the good of society.

        • Joe Cool says:

          It would be much more effective if someone just knocked the phone out of their hand. Seriously though, I remember seeing those signs awhile ago, but nowhere recently.

  8. Chefprotoss says:

    Have you ever had smoked jalepenos smoked and packed in adobo sauce? Aka chipotle chilies? Mcdonalds sauce just tastes like sweet bbq. My personal complaint is that nothing chain-ish tastes anything like chipotle. Other than subway, they all taste bad on top of that. Even the restaurant “Chipotle” doesn’t have anything with chipotle chilies other than tabasco’s hot sauce.

    This isn’t so much a reply to you as it is a rant.

    • Keith says:

      I’ve been eating chipotles since before they became trendy, so yeah – I’ve had them. I regularly make my own chipotle sauce which is usually just some mayo, a few chipotles in adobo and a squeeze of lime juice buzzed up in the food processor. Believe me, that beats Subway’s sauce, I can actually make it spicy and it’s great on nearly any sandwich. Here’s a tip, since they come in a non-resealable can when you only use two or three at a time: I like to freeze the rest in a plastic bag and when I need one, I can easily break one off and chop them up without making a mess of adobo sauce. This frozen, chopped chipotle can then be easly added to just about anything to make it more awesome.

      I agree that almost all fast food “chipotle” sauces have almost no chipotle flavor. Once again, it’s become another meaningless buzzword that, unsurprisingly, McDonalds has ruined. Maybe Subway changed their southwest sauce, but I recall not liking it so much last time I had it and I love all things chipotle flavored.

      Chipotle, the restaurant, does marinate all of their meats in a chipotle adobo – it may not have a distinctly chipotle taste, but I don’t doubt there are actual smoked jalapenos involved.

      Also, that chipotle Tabasco sauce is pretty awesome.

      • Adam says:

        I second the Chipotle Tabasco. When I was in college they had that stuff in our dining hall. Used to put it on my scrambled egg whites every morning. Yes Keith, egg whites 🙂 Dare I say the sauce was good enough you’d even be able to down just the whites with it poured on!

  9. Chefprotoss says:

    My reply was at chris not you keith. Sorry lol. For some reason my replies don’t work sometimes.

  10. Malcolm says:

    The first time I saw a commercial for this, I was certain that it would taste like throwup.

  11. Keith says:

    It’s all good, inline commenting can get confusing. There really aren’t many great chipotle sauces out there. Ever since canned chipotle became easy to come by, it’s a staple of my life. I’m a firm believer that spicy food is just plain good for you. I have a habanero cocktail I can provide the recipe for if anyone’s interested 😉

    @Adam – I don’t think you and I have much in common, so lets just take a moment and enjoy our mutual appreciation for Chipotle Tabasco 🙂

  12. […] a nicer person by yelling at the guy in front of you holding up the Subway line while he orders the Chipotle Chicken and Cheese? Personally, I’ve been trying to resolve to spend less money eating out, and definitely less […]

  13. Suzuka says:

    Say what you will about Subway, but it is January 31st and I’m getting this sandwich 🙂 I’m glad I ran across this post today before it was too late.