Subway has increasingly taken the focus away from their Footlong of the Month offer by selecting subs which are either comparatively standard (this month’s Bacon, Egg and Cheese) or eye-openingly strange (last month’s Jalepeno Tuna Salad).  At the same time, they’ve been pushing themed groups of subs for full price.  This month’s theme is healthy chicken stuff.  They’re promoting the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki (which is always a pretty good bet), and a new BBQ pulled-chicken sandwich.

All that lettuce, who needs it? No one, that's who.

The marketing on a BBQ chicken sandwich as a healthy option seems kind of off to me.  I can appreciate that chicken as a meat is generally healthier than beef or pork, but to me, taking a BBQ pulled meat and loading it up with lettuce and other veggies is counter-intuitive.  I feel like if you’re going to eat healthy, you’re not going to eat a BBQ sandwich.  I’ve had this sub twice, and both times I’ve added onions and a couple of tomatoes, but that’s it.  The BBQ chicken is decent.  Chicken doesn’t separate quite as nicely as pork in a situation like this, but the meat still ended up with a nice flavor and consistency.  I’ve tried it with Pepper Jack and Monterrey Cheddar cheeses, both of which work well, depending on the level of heat you’re looking for.  I love onions with sweet or tangy flavors, although I could take or leave the tomatoes.

All in all, it’s a pretty good Subway sub.  Nothing earthshaking, but worth trying if you like chicken and BBQ sauce (and if you don’t, sorry there’s not quite as much here for you on Sandwichtalk).  The Smokehouse BBQ Chicken sub runs for about $4.50 for a 6-inch and closer to $7 for a footlong.  Try it, but ditch the lettuce.

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The newspaper I write for, The Kalamazoo Gazette, was part of an ongoing project last week by reporters throughout the state to find the best Coney dog in Michigan.  As a sandwich aficionado, I’m all for this.  A lot of people don’t realize that Coney Island hot dogs originated in Michigan, rather than New York.  Throwing chili, onions and mustard on a hot dog is one of the best things you can do with it (in my humble but correct opinion), and there are places throughout the state which do a great job.

A Polish and Chicago dog from Dogs with Style. I've tried (and enjoyed) their Coney as well, I'll probably be posting a review soon.

The full archive is available here.  I’ve also included a link to my thoughts on some of the non-Coney offerings at Dogs with Style, one of the Kalamazoo spots the team visited.

Panera Bread is not a restaurant I review frequently, and not without reason.  While their sandwiches are generally delicious and their baked goods top-notch, Panera Bread usually skews a bit more expensive than I’d like, especially when eating at a chain restaurant.  However, I’d like to branch out a little bit, so I decided to swing by Panera last week and see what’s new.

Full disclosure: I have no idea if the Cuban Chicken Panini is new or not. It just looked good.

Reviewing the Cuban Chicken Panini requires a little bit of background.  A Cuban sandwich is a ham and cheese variant which includes sliced ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard.  It’s sort of like a Reuben, in terms of flavors (the mustard and pickles give it a bite), but less kosher.  It’s a great lunch choice, and I recommend ordering one if you’re at a restaurant which offers it.

Here, Panera has chosen to trade out the roasted pork for roasted chicken.  It’s an interesting choice, and with the addition of chipotle mayo, it makes for a tasty sandwich.  It’s a little bit different than a usual Cuban, but still close enough that the name makes sense, unlike some other sandwiches (looking at you, T.N.T Reuben).  It’s about $8 for the sandwich and a drink, and well worth checking out, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the style.

According to research firm Technomic, Wendy’s has dethroned Burger King as the world’s number two fast food chain.  While Wendy’s narrowly edged out BK in terms of annual sales, both were still far behind McDonald’s, with an enormous $34.2 billion in sales.

There’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on, invoking everything from mascots to health food trends.  Some of it’s on point, and some of it (in my opinion) is way off.  To me, I think this is an indicator of Wendy’s hard work at managing their image as a higher quality, healthier alternative to McDonald’s.  They’re not going after Burger King or anyone else specifically, they’re just presenting themselves as a niche market, a drive-thru burger place with leaf lettuce and fresh(er) tomatoes.  McDonald’s is always going to be on top, because they’ve found the ideal point of convergence between price and quality, but Wendy’s can pick up the more discerning crowd, which lacks in volume but (hopefully) is loyal.

Winter is coming.

Remember, I’m not saying Wendy’s actually is a healthier, higher-quality alternative.  I don’t have any nutritional values in front of me, but it feels like if you’re health-conscious, any place with a drive-thru probably isn’t the best bet.  But through their advertising campaigns, Wendy’s has managed to project an air of quality, which seems to have caught on.  People know they can go there and pick up a salad instead of a burger in they so choose.  For their part, Burger King seems to be in a bit of a tailspin.  They’ve been trying a couple of different brand concepts and menu items, but nothing so far seems to have caught on.  They’ve relied on being a household name for too long, and now they’re going to have to work to stay in the game.

When you play a game of thrones, you win or you die.

The thing to keep in mind about this is that when chain restaurants compete, you win.  Prices drop, and franchises begin offering more creative, bold options in an effort to redefine their brand.  As long as Burger King puts in work and doesn’t thrash around, we should be in for some interesting sandwiches over the next year or so.