The menu was a little yellow thing that accordioned out into something very organized but very daunting. I scanned it desperately. The line grew behind me.
With less care than the choice deserved, I ordered the California. The sandwich had avocado. I had traded California for Washington one year prior. Everything would be fine.
I was introduced to Tubs Gourmet Subs—a sandwich shop on Lake City Way that sits squat in a strip mall next to a teriyaki joint and at least two places where you can buy actual joints—by a Seattle native, my boyfriend at the time. On the way, my-soon-to-be-ex found out that he was probably going to fail a class at UW. He didn't say a word during lunch. That echoed the remainder of our relationship.
Suffice it to say, I picked the wrong sandwich.
The boyfriend and I broke up. But I went back to Tubs again and again. I tried a new sandwich each time. First, the French Dip. Then the Philly Dip. The Smoke 'N Wrangler. Each was good enough to prompt my return. A big part of it was the bread, the most important part of a sandwich. Tubs' baguettes are warm, the outer layer firm and crispy. A take-a-bite-and-get-rewarded-with-an-ASMR-worthy-crunch kind of crispy. Beneath that crunch, the bread is light and fluffy. It's thick enough that it doesn't get soggy despite the goodness lathered between the layers. (Apparently, the Essential Baking Company created a specialty baguette specifically for Tubs about 12 years ago.)
But none of the sandwiches stuck.
Finally, after exhausting the trusted turkey section of the menu, I tried the Caesar Chicken. It was like fireworks (not to be confused with Tubs' most popular sandwich, the Firecracker). There was the zest of Caesar dressing, the sparkling freshness of tomato, the consistently decadent bread. That Caesar Chicken sandwich is like the first time you realize you're in love, because you don't want to gouge your partner's eyes out after spending a day with them. No matter how many times I indulge in that sandwich, I never get tired of it.
The trick is to shell out $11 for a large sub instead of $7 for a regular one. Unless you're a real growing boy or something, it's nearly impossible to finish both halves in one sitting. Two meals in one. Upon reheating your sandwich, make sure you broil it to keep the bread's integrity intact.
Tubs, established in 1983 (and also boasting a Lynnwood location), is a treasure. I've brought all my friends here, claiming it as my own discovery. One by one, each found their own favorite: the Sub Panini for Frieda, the Emerald Garden for Tonio, the California for Nicole.
Whichever sandwich you choose, it will be good. Bring a friend or two, gather around the beautifully out of place full mahogany dining room table that appeared one day last year, and compare notes. You'll find your Tubs sub to love. We all do in the end.