Although Potbelly has already been getting sufficient attention with its opening week, we thought we’d head into the new sandwich shop on St. Paul’s to check out the food behind the balloons. Staff, wearing tie dye shirts and smiles, welcomed us into the swarming crowds of customers and guided us to the long line. We joined the herd and looked up at the menu — which includes originals, skinnies, salads, soup/chili, desserts and extras. Since committing ourselves to this article, we have tried: (drum roll please) A Wreck, roast beef, Italian, Mediterranean, T-K-Y and a mushroom melt. We’ve tried the broccoli cheddar and southwestern chicken soup. And also the chocolate chocolate milkshake and sugar cookie. Needless to say, we were pretty determined to get the full Potbelly experience.
The subs are pretty straightforward and true to their description on the menu. It is up to you, the Potbelly-er, to decide how you want to put your own personal twist on it. You decide between white or wheat, and also between a number of toppings including mayo, mustard, hot peppers (they’re fairly famous for these), lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle, oil and/or italian seasoning. You’re also given the option to add bacon, mushrooms, cheese, extra meat or double meat. So, we highly recommend you give your creation a little bit of thought before joining the line, or else you’ll awkwardly linger by the drink selection while lacrosse players use their agility to sneak by you. First you must approach the counter and declare the backbone of your sandwich (from the originals or skinny portion of the menu). Then you shuffle past the chips (we recommend Zappo’s Salt and Vinegar) and arrive at the toppings station. Here, we highly suggest you don’t stint with the add-ons.
The sandwiches have quality bread, meat and cheese that make a good and reliable sandwich, but for a little bit more flavor you need to be creative with the toppings. If you’re into spice, devotees swear by the hot peppers — so definitely consider adding these. The pickle also provides a nice tang to any sandwich (note: if you are just craving a pickle, order a huge one for a dollar, it’s a great deal). Although there is a good selection of toppings, an essential one we think is missing is honey mustard, which would provide a subtle sweet flavor, much less dominating than typical deli mustard.
The T-K-Y, a less-bread-less-meat-less-cheese take on the regular turkey breast sandwich, and the Mediterranean, a hummus and veggies combo (with the option to add grilled chicken) were solid options, but neither of us were blown away. Potbelly’s biggest strength, we decided, is its reliability. These two sandwiches were satisfactory and satisfying, yet the flavors were nothing special. (Side note: the “zippy hummus” in the Mediterranean is spicy! It tasted similar to a roasted red pepper Sabra with more of a bite). We added lettuce and tomato as toppings, which we recommend, to our T-K-Y. Without condiments though, the T-K-Y was pretty dry. Neither of us are mayo fans, and we turned down the mustard option when we learned it was yellow deli mustard. We’re not generally too picky, but we were craving that honey mustard!
After our many visits and great deliberation, we formulated our ideal Potbelly meal: broccoli cheddar soup, A Wreck and a sugar cookie. A Wreck is so good for meat lovers. (Any freshmen trying to avoid the FFC on Meatless Mondays??) The new Buffalo Chicken sandwich has also gotten amazing reviews, so definitely consider giving that a try as well!
Even if you’re not craving a meal like we always are, visit Potbelly to check out some Hopkins archives and learn about the history of the chain! In addition to the typical Potbelly decor necessities (the “Ya Gotta Get It Hot” sign and the antique Potbelly stove), this location is adorned with old photographs of Hopkins teams. These wall hangings lend the sandwich shop a familiar and comfortable feel and suggest that it has been in this place for a long time. Potbelly does indeed value its history and still greatly values its beginnings as a quiet antique store in Chicago, IL. Today, the St. Paul location marks the 303rd Potbelly location in the U.S. As its other claim to fame, Potbelly boasts the largest antique stove collection in the world!
So there you have it! A taste of history and deliciousness — all within reach on St. Paul Street!