During my four years at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, I ate an obscene amount of Potbelly's Sandwich Works' toasty subs. I couldn't go more than a few days without suffering a massive craving for their tuna with provolone on whole wheat with tomatoes, lettuce, Italian seasoning, and extra pickles, please, and would regularly make an appearance in the quaint and charming primarily Midwestern chain. The $4.40 sandwich was the perfect antidote for lackluster dining hall choices or a bare kitchen cabinet when I moved off campus for my junior and senior years, and it was with a heavy heart that I left Evanston in June, 2005. As I chowed down on my last sandwich the day before I had to fly back to Southern California, I knew that from that point on I would have to rely on (gasp!) Quiznos for my hot sub fix.
In the three years since graduating, I have been back to my Evanston Potbelly's three times, and each time, was filled with intense nostalgia as I devoured my precious toasty tuna sub. When I booked my trip to Washington DC (one of the few East Coast locales where Potbelly's resides) earlier this summer, I told my friend Ashley that it was compulsory that we visit Potbelly's at some point over the long Labor Day weekend. It had been nearly two years since my last experience, and I was primed for another taste of my favorite former lunch.
As I walked into the wood-paneled, old-fashioned style sandwich shop this past Sunday, I couldn't help but feel a bit giddy with excitement. It was like coming home. Ashley, a fellow Northwesterner Lisa, and I got in line to place our orders, and minutes later were seated at a small table with our subs. While it wasn't as good as I remembered (maybe the Midwestern locations are better?), Potbelly's still makes the best $4.40 sandwich I've ever had. The ingredients are fresh, the pickles are crisp and sweet, and the toasty bread maintains the perfect balance of a crunchy exterior with a soft interior.
The sandwich may not have left me dying for another fix, but I was more than happy to consume one again the next day while I waited for my flight at Dulles Airport. It wasn't perfect --in fact, the tuna was a bit dry-- but it filled me up. With my hunger pangs satiated, and my nostalgic heart finally satisfied, I flew back to Los Angeles feeling "okay" that I wouldn't be able to enjoy Potbelly's again any time soon.
The pictures help ease the pain. And so do my new favorite lunch eateries -- Joan's on Third, M Cafe de Chaya and Urth Caffe.
"Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold..."