Saturday, March 08, 2014

Throwing in the Healthy Towel

It's hard to escape the commercials. Runners, swimmers, boxers, all talking about their favorite Subway sandwich. These are people to whom eating right isn't merely a good idea, it's essential to their livelihood. Sure, Michael Phelps could shill for McDonalds or Wendy's or Burger King. Odds are that any of them would be happy to pay him millions to stand there with a Big Mac/Wendy/King, and say just how important it is to his training regimen. But no one who has ever eaten one would buy his endorsement. Look, I love a cheeseburger as much as the next man. But I also know if Phelps had a few and dove into the pool, the only lap he would take would be straight to the bottom.

So it's a natural fit for Subway, which has built its image as the best house in a bad neighborhood. There's a certain ring of truth when he and Apollo Ohno and Justin Tuck talk about their favorites, usually some low fat, high protein variant. Even when they "go wild" and jazz it up, it's not with ranch dressing, but with veggies and hot sauce, toppings that would get a nod of approval from that doyen of good nutrition, Michelle Obama. It's all oh-so-healthy, with nary an onion ring or fry in sight. The kingdom that Jared begat appears to be as pure as shredded lettuce.  

But no so fast. Could it be that there is a crack in the quinoa curtain? In an effort to reach a wider demographic (in this case "wider" meaning greater numbers as opposed to waistline, though a Venn diagram would most definitely show some serious overlap between the two), is it possible that a world constructed on grilled vs. fried is crumbling like warm tofu? For how else to explain the latest taste sensation being promoted by the reigning king of healthy fast food, the Subway Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt.

Yes, you heard right. Subway has a sandwich topped with Fritos Corn Chips, those little curls of snacking goodness, and the corporate sibling of Lay's Potato Chips. While it's hard to place the blame for our bad eating habits entirely at the door of one company, it's probably not too much of a stretch to say that Frito-Lay's products have made a significant contribution to the estimated 16.5 million tons that we as a world are overweight. And so for Subway, it of the "Eat Fresh!" slogan, to embrace one of the originators of the "Eat Fat" movement is a bit of irony at the very least.

However, the holier-than-though posturing would be forgiven if it was worth it. While some reviewers have said it is a nice addition to the chain's offerings, even those who like it outright give it what can only be described as backhanded compliments. At Man Reviews Food, Taylor Tamlin wrote, "The combination of the chicken, corn chips, and cheese made the Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt feel like something straight out of Taco Bell." (In case you're wondering, that's considered a good thing.) And Dan Gentile at Thrillist said, "If you're craving a Jared-ified Frito Pie sandwich, you've come to the right place." As Nastia Liukin says in one of the chain's TV spots, "Uh, Yum?"

Alas, not all felt even that marginally positive. Shirley Qui at Grubstreet wrote, "If finding this sandwich not remotely as bad as I expected constitutes approval, then count me in." And Kevin at The Impulsive Buy put it this way: "Subway and Frito-Lay came together and birthed the half-breed antichrist of sandwiches. It gurgled and writhed in pain and asked me to put it out of its misery, and after I ate it, I asked the same of myself." Odds are he won't be asked to join Phelps on the set of the company's next spot.

Of course, you could just do it yourself. Buy a bag of Fritos, get your favorite sandwich and add your own crunch. After all, hand crafted is often better than corporate constructed. Or as Kevin wrote of the officially licensed version, "Titans meet but sometimes the story doesn't always have a happy ending. Sometimes it's more like when Freddy meets Jason, or when Alien fights Predator, or like whenever they try to make a movie with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Sometimes it just ruins chips on a sandwich."


 Marc Wollin of Bedford loves Italian combos. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

No comments: