I'd say roughly half my weekly caloric intake comes from Publix subs. (The other half this time of year? Leftover Halloween candy and Olde English.) That's partly a response to the deficit of quality sandwich shops in our region. I love Casa Italia's sandwiches, those at Michelle's Brown Bag are nice and I'm partial to chain-ier varieties like Jimmy John's, but seriously, how many top-notch sandwich places are there really in this town? There's not a single worthwhile deli-style place closer than St. Pete.
So when I'm feeling lazy, looking for a quick lunch with a minimum of frills, I pretty much always head to Publix for a sub. That's not to damn Publix subs with faint praise, for they are one of the glories of Florida sandwichery, mainly because of your ability to customize. You can make these subs exactly as healthy or un- as you like, and you're not limited to the embarrassingly weak selection of sodium discs that most sub places refer to as potato chips, or the pathetic drink offerings. Would you prefer a family-sized portion of tortilla chips and a two-liter of Squirt or, God forbid, an apple? At Publix, a whole world of side orders is at your fingertips.
But you and I both know that the deli counter can get damn hectic come lunchtime — the one drawback to the Publix deli experience. I seem to always get stuck behind that guy who has absolutely nothing to do all afternoon and has no problem wasting my time flirting with the sandwich artists by showing them his fancy new watch. Seriously, Dude at Bee Ridge Publix, I hate you.
All this is to say that when I found out Publix had launched a new online ordering system, I nearly fainted. Endlessly customizable Publix subs I can pick up at a specific time, without having to wait behind that guy showing his expensive wristwear to employees doing their friendliest best not to rub jalapeños in their eye sockets so they don't have to look at him? Count me in.
The system is simple: Just go to publix.com/order and click "Get Started!" to, well, get started. You'll run through a list of options that let you pick whatever sub you want and load it up with the toppings and condiments you desire, then set the time you'd like to pick it up. Not every Publix has been tricked out with the technology yet, so not every store in the bi-county area can yet handle your sub-mission. And be careful about picking which store you want as your home base. The site kind of assumes that's where you'd always like to pick up your sub. Not so in my case, so I accidentally send more than one order to more than one Publix. Oops.
But when I get my act together and breeze into that Bee Ridge Publix, my sandwich is waiting for me on a rack next to the deli counter right on time. Success! Some tortilla chips and candy corn later, and I've got a well-balanced meal. Candy corn counts as a vegetable, right?
Then there's the satisfying rush of eating the sandwich itself. It just hits a certain pleasure nerve I can't explain using logic. There's the soft, moist bread, the freshly sliced cheese, the crisp lettuce, tomato and onion. It's all good. My one complaint is the mayo. Even when I ask for a little mayo, it seems like Publix applies a liter.
The Internet has brought us many great and horrible things, ranging from websites that let you make your own Successories on the wonderful side to vlogs on the despicable. Publix's online ordering system comes down firmly on the positive side of that balance.
This is the umpteenth entry in a weekly column dedicated to eats that are cheap. If you have an idea for a place to feature in Cheap Eats, comment below, email me at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter: @LeveyBaker.