When Potbelly Sandwich Shop announced it was opening a Seattle store, I shared my ambivalence about the chain, angering Potbelly fans who felt their favorite restaurant shouldn't be held accountable for decorating decisions made at a Michigan location a decade ago.
"Next time you review a place, maybe critique the actual place and food," a comment writer suggested.
That wasn't an option back in May, since the restaurant didn't yet exist: The store at Fourth and Pike opened on Tuesday.
I was one of hundreds of people who decided to lunch at Potbelly yesterday; a staffer armed with a mobile order-taking device couldn't stem the line from spilling onto the sidewalk.
"Is it really that good?" a passerby asked a man standing behind me.
"I saw the line and I figured it had to be," he responded.
Many of the eager lunchers were Potbelly veterans, who dispensed ordering tips (peanut butter and jelly was surprisingly popular) and lamented the abbreviated menu. Grilled chicken sandwiches won't be available for a few months, a staffer told our section of the very patient crowd.
I opted for a "signature" Italian sandwich of capicola, mortadella, pepperoni, salami, and provolone on multigrain bread. I toyed with ordering a pizza sandwich, which was also highly recommended by the peanut butter and jelly contingent, but figured my familiarity with Subway's Spicy Italian would give me a good baseline for comparison.
Unlike Subway, Potbelly offers its sandwiches in only one size: Dainty. I'd wager most normal-jawed eaters could finish a Potbelly sandwich in six bites.
And despite the fancy Italian names affixed to the meats on my sandwich, they didn't taste like anything special. It was impossible to distinguish among them, as they all tasted highly processed and dangerously salty. Biting into the sandwich, I had the same uh-oh sensation that accompanies the first swig of moonshine: I knew I was going to be very, very thirsty.
But Potbelly lovers will be pleased to know I didn't hate the sandwich. It was served on toasted bread that was exceptionally good by chain-restaurant standards. The bread had distinct crust and crumb, and a fine nuttiness. It would probably make a great base for a peanut butter sandwich.