This Grocery Store Sub Sandwich Is So Good, It’s Been Called a “Way of Life” (2024)

  • Groceries

Elizabeth Laseter

Elizabeth Laseter

Elizabeth is a writer, editor, and SEO specialist with over a decade of editorial, restaurant, and culinary experience in the food industry. She is a culinary school graduate and has worked as a line cook at a fine dining restaurant in Washington, D.C. (Don't ask her about the time she spilled an entire container of bordelaise sauce five minutes before dinner service.) She has previously worked for Whole Foods Market, Cooking Light, EatingWell, MyRecipes, Allrecipes, and the James Beard Foundation. She is currently the Senior SEO Content Strategist for Apartment Therapy Media.

published Nov 7, 2023

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This Grocery Store Sub Sandwich Is So Good, It’s Been Called a “Way of Life” (1)

A grocery store isn’t the first place you think of for a great sandwich — unless you’ve tried a Publix deli sub. Nicknamed the “Pub sub” by fans, these unassuming sandwiches rank high for their ingredient quality and variety, fair price point, and consistency.

Thrillist called them the country’s best sandwiches and Redditers have claimed, “Pub subs are a way of life.” There’s a Publix Subs Facebook page and a website solely dedicated to tracking when the Chicken Tender Sub is on sale. There’s even a song called “Publix Subs” that has over 28,000 views on Youtube.

If you’re new to Publix, the family-owned, Florida-based grocery store chain operates 1,380 locations across the South and Southeast and is known for a few things: excellent customer service, legendary fried chicken, and, of course, the beloved Pub sub.

What’s all the hype about? As a longtime Publix shopper, it’s safe to say that I have a soft spot for the Pub sub. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few criticisms as well. Before you visit your nearest Publix (even if that means driving 30 miles, like this guy), here are a few things you should know first.

What Is a Publix Sub?

First introduced in 1992, the Publix sub is a made-to-order submarine sandwich available in the deli section of Publix grocery stores. You can order a Publix sub anytime the store is open, whether it’s lunch, dinner, or even breakfast.

The Publix Sub Menu

The Publix sub menu is enormous, offering standard and specialty subs, as well as limited-time, seasonal twists. You could easily never try the same sub twice — in the deli department of my local store, I counted 79 different meats and 41 different cheeses, plus at least 15 different types of sauces on the sub menu.

  • Bread: Every sub comes on your choice of white, wheat, or Italian five grain bread — stores even sell the individual sub rolls in the bakery department.
  • Fillings: This is where the Publix Deli really shines. Not only is there an expansive selection of deli meats and cheeses, but also unique toppings like garlic pickles and guacamole. There’s a variety of meatless options too, like falafel and plant-based vegan meats. And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the famed chicken tenders.
  • Sauces: This is an easy way to really punch up the flavor of your sub. Standouts include classic oil and vinegar,lemon garlic aioli, and, my personal favorite, herby Boar’s Head Deli Dressing.
  • Customization: Any sub on Publix’s menu can be tailored to your liking or you can build your own from the menu of fillings, toppings, and sauces. You can also order any sub on a wrap (white, wheat, spinach, sun-dried tomato, or gluten-free), flatbread, Tutto Pugliese bread, or as a salad with shredded lettuce or spinach.
  • Size: Publix subs come in two different sizes: “half” or “whole.” In my experience, a half sub is around six inches and a whole sub is closer to 12 inches.

Popular Subs

These are a few of the most popular subs, according to Publix’s website.

  • Chicken Tender Sub: Publix’s top-selling sub — crispy fried chicken breast strips and cheese — has built a loyal following (remember, the sales tracker). There are also riffs on the original, like a Buffalo Chicken Tender Sub, Chicken Bacon Ranch Tender Sub, and Chicken Parmesan Tender Sub.
  • Italian Sub: I’ve overheard customers ordering this classic plenty of times. It’s made with Genoa salami, tavern ham, hot Cappy ham, and cheese —all Boar’s Head — plus, a mix of salad toppings.
  • Turkey Sub: A simple combo of turkey and cheese, this is the sub I always order. It’s basic, reliable, and easy to dress up with toppings like hummus, avocado slices, spinach leaves, and sub dressing sauce (herby, tangy deliciousness).

Unique Subs

If you’re feeling adventurous, check out some of Publix’s more creative offerings.

  • Chicken Cordon Bleu Sub: A twist on a comfort favorite, this hot sub blends Boar’s Head Tavern Ham and Seasoned Rotisserie Chicken with bacon, Swiss cheese, and Dijon mustard.
  • Turkey Cranberry Holiday Sub: This sub is available for a limited time during the holiday season. Essentially Thanksgiving in a sandwich, this sub has Boar’s Head turkey, bacon, smoked Gruyère cheese, mayo, and cranberry-orange sauce.
  • Off-the-Menu: Reddit is an excellent place to get inspired; be prepared, there are some wild ideas out there. However, out of respect for the Publix deli employees, I try not to go too out-of-the-box with my sub orders.

Boar’s Head vs. Publix Store Brand

A major decision you’ll make when ordering is choosing between Publix’s store brand or Boar’s Head for your sub’s meat, cheese, pickles, and sauce. Is there a difference? Reddit seems to have a lot of opinions, but, for me, the two biggest are cost and selection.

Boar’s Head is priced higher than Publix’s brand and offers greater variety. In my local store, Boar’s Head has 15 turkey breast options, including Maple-Glazed Honey Turkey Breast, Cracked Pepper Mill Turkey Breast, and Cajun Turkey Breast, while Publix has four. There are also more than 20 Boar’s Head cheeses like Vermont White Cheddar and Cream Havarti with Dill; Publix offers 10.

How Much Does a Publix Sub Cost?

The pricing of a Publix sub depends on your choice of size, filling (store-brand or Boar’s Head), meat alternative (such as falafel or plant-based vegan meat), and specialty toppings.

  • Sub with Publix-brand fillings: Half subs start at $6.09, whole subs start at $8.49.
  • Sub with Boar’s Head fillings: Half subs start at $6.59, whole subs start at $9.59.
  • Sub with veggies: Half subs start at $5.30, whole subs start at $6.99.
  • Extras: Add bacon, double cheese, avocado, guacamole, and hummus to your sub for $1 extra per filling.

Do Publix Subs Ever Go on Sale?

Yes! In fact, Publix offers a “Sub of the Week” deal, where you can save a few dollars on a select whole sub. The week I visited, the Boar’s Head Philly Cheese sub was $7.99 (normally $9.59). You can also save $1 by turning your sub into a combo — just grab a fountain drink and single-serve bag of chips.

How to Order a Publix Sub

  • Online: If you’re planning ahead, ordering a Publix sub online is very intuitive, thanks to the easy-to-navigate website and mobile app. Simply find your store, choose your sub, customize the toppings, select a pickup time, and you’re good to go.
  • In-store: Visit the deli section of any Publix during store operating hours to place your order. Keep in mind this method can be a bit more time-consuming — there’s almost always a line, in my experience.

My Honest Review of the Publix Chicken Tender Sub

On a recent trip to the deli in my local Publix grocery store, I order the Chicken Tender Sub on white bread with provolone, shredded lettuce, tomato, and a “drizzle” of buttermilk ranch, which is interpreted as a slathering (good thing I like ranch dressing). I also get it toasted. The entire ordering process from start to finish takes about 20 minutes. PSA: Order your sub online if you’re in a hurry.

One thing I’ve noticed in Publix grocery stores is that the customer service is consistently excellent, no matter the department. The person behind the deli counter greeted me with a smile and patiently waited for me to order, despite the five people behind me.

One bite of the Chicken Tender Sub is all you need to become a believer. The chicken tenders — crispy and golden-brown on the outside, juicy on the inside — are the stars. The sturdy, crusty bread is a close second, and doesn’t get soggy despite the weight of the toppings.

The lettuce and tomato are the low points, but I accept partial blame for this. Shredded iceberg lettuce doesn’t stand up well in a hot sub. The tomato slices are firmer than I prefer, but in Publix’s defense it’s not tomato season. Fortunately, neither of these toppings are enough to ruin my Chicken Tender Sub experience.

The Publix sub knows exactly what it is, and that is why I love it. It’s unpretentious, well-executed, and consistently good. Nothing more, nothing less. Isn’t that all you really want in a sandwich? Oh, and yes, the Chicken Tender Sub really is THAT good.

Have you ordered a Pub sub recently? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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This Grocery Store Sub Sandwich Is So Good, It’s Been Called a “Way of Life” (2024)

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