Entrée NWA: Green Submarine

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 190 views 

FAYETTEVILLE — Say what you want about filet mignon and foie gras and escargot. There’s no denying the power of a sandwich. This is food that was handed down from on high, from real, blue-blood royalty. And although the fare today is firmly in the province of the working man, the sandwich remains special.

Here’s how special. The sandwich is so special that when you eat one that’s good enough, you forget you’re eating that sandwich in a chilly, run-down shack attached to a gas station. You are so focused on the tender, smoked pork and the homemade chipotle pesto that you don’t mind that the woman who served it has green fingernail polish. When you are eating a sandwich with homemade aioli and built with thick local bread and stuffed with freshly sliced vegetables, cheeses, and meats, you forget where you are. You forget because you are only with that sandwich. That means you’re not with the car alarms going off in the parking lot. And you are not with the abandoned lot next door, overrun with trash and weeds and storm water that laps against the concrete slab that used to be someone’s house.

That’s what a good sandwich can do. Maybe a filet mignon can do the same, but not for $6.

The Green Submarine Espresso Café & Sub Shop is a hole in the wall on Wedington Drive, on the west side of Interstate 540. The diner is clean, but it is not what most people would call “nice.” The walls are green, which is fitting, but garishly so. The floor is cold concrete. The chairs are mismatched. There isn’t much seating. Most people pull up to the parking lot – some fill up their cars – and run in, and take the sandwich out. That’s fine. These sandwiches have staying power. That power has been joined by another force: a feverish word-of-mouth campaign generated by college students and others in the cheap-eats crowd who are overjoyed at what they have discovered. The Green Submarine offers some of the best sandwiches anywhere. And you can afford to eat them over and over.

This restaurant is the anti-Subway. Most of what you eat here is made here. The place features homemade basil pesto, chipotle pesto and aioli. They wait until a customer arrives before slicing the meat and the vegetables. That helps keep them fresh. That also means you have to wait a few minutes. Everyone who goes, and keeps coming back, knows the wait is worth it.

The menu has hot and cold sandwiches, and they offer a worldly and sophisticated expanse of options, in sharp relief to this humble shop. The “Hot & Tasty Sub” menu includes three pork sandwiches: Chipotle Pork, Pork Cubana, and BBQ Pork (pork is prepared on site and is so tender you could cut it with a noodle). Other options are Bang Pow Chicken, Patrami Mommi and the tantalizing Mess-Hall Meatball.

Vegetarian options include Infused Portabello (balsamic-infused Portabello mushrooms with Swiss cheese, homemade aioli, tomato and sprouts) a Caprese sandwich (basil, fresh mozzarella, balsamic reduction, lettuce, sprouts, etc.) and Leslie’s Delight (spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers and Italian vinaigrette).

Cold subs include standards such as Tuna Salad and a club sandwich, but there’s also Hog Heaven, made with Ozark pit ham and bacon; Cajun Roast Beef; Turkey Pesto; and the U.S.S. Nautilus, with turkey, Ozark pit ham, bacon, veggies and aioli. The Cheeseboard sandwich comes with provolone, Swiss and cheddar and other fixins.

All sandwiches come in large and small sizes, both generously proportioned. Other options include soup and side dishes like homemade homemade mustard potato salad and cucumber salad. Every sandwich also comes with a homemade pickled cucumber. It’s a cucumber that tastes like a pickle, which is surprisingly different than a pickle cucumber that’s been pickled! Who knew?

We had Chipotle Pork off the hot menu and Chicken Caprese off the cold. Both were stuffed and tasted fresh out of the garden on meat that tasted fresh out of the cooker on bread that tasted fresh out of the oven. My partner lunged for the Caprese first. I don’t even know if she swallowed before exclaiming, “My God, it tastes like Italy!”

In that bite, the sandwich took her to another continent. Away from the trash in the empty lot next door, away from the trucks pulling in and out of the gas station. And toward a land of fresh sprouts and tender pollo and aioli. Not every sandwich can do that, but the Green Submarine makes very powerful sandwiches indeed.