As a rule, I will generally favor local mom-and-pop style restaurants over a chain any day. In fact, if I have the option, I will generally seek them out. It isn't necessarily because the food is always better in these places, but because they will generally offer the diner something unique that can only be found in that restaurant or in that geographical area.
Like Marie's pizza, another longtime favorite of mine has been The Sub Station, located at 126 Main St, Wadsworth, OH 44281. In fact, I've been going here since I first moved to Wadsworth back in 1986. I don't get to eat there as often as I did back in high school, but every now and again when I am in Wadsworth and in need of a submarine sandwich, this is where I turn. And even though it is more expensive than say, Subway, I always justified this by telling myself that I would rather spend a little more on a local place that put uniqueness and quality over quantity.
I experimented with the menu quite a bit throughout high school and by the time I had graduated back in 1990 (no comments please), I had settled on what would become my standard order. First, a shot of the counter area that has changed very little since the mid-1980's.
The ordering process has also changed little from what I first encountered: place your order, pay the bill, grab the "call number" tab off the bottom of the order slip and wait for your number to be called.
Here is a shot of what I normally order ...
Half a turkey club, an order of onion rings, and a large root beer from the soda fountain and not from the can. This is one of the few times I will knowingly order a beverage with high fructose corn syrup. Although if they offered something in a bottle or can that used sugar instead of HFCS, I would order that instead. It just doesn't feel the same without a root beer from the fountain.
The turkey club comes with turkey, mayo, bacon, lettuce and tomato. The tomato is not so good this time of year (no surprises there).
What did surprise me this time (and maybe I just haven't been paying enough attention over the last couple of years) is that the bacon was pre-cooked and then warmed for service. Now I don't know if it was purchased pre-cooked or they cooked off a batch that morning for service later. Honestly I don't really care. It detracts from the original experience. I don't know if this was a cost cutting move or a labor cutting move, but unfortunately, it's the start down a slippery slope. Otherwise, the experience now was the same as I remember from high school.
I also want to say something about the cost. Since I've been coming here for over 20 years, clearly I expect the prices to go along with the economy. But my half sandwich, order of onion rings, and large root beer finally exceeded the $10 mark (no tipping required here). While that doesn't necessarily bother me from a cost perspective, I have to ask myself whether I am willing to pay nearly $6 for a half-sandwich that has pre-cooked bacon on it.
Nostalgia is a powerful force. The funny thing is that I would pay more for the real thing. And I know it's a delicate balance right now with the economy the way that it is, but I can only say that if they change the taste too much, if they finally reach a point where they violate the spirit of the original, I have no problem cutting my losses and just living with my memories.