Which Sandwich Chain Makes The Best Turkey Sub?

We tasted Subway, Jersey Mike's, and Jimmy John's to determine a winner.

Fast food might be getting more expensive, but sandwich joints can still offer a quality, hearty sub at a pretty darn good price. That seems to be pretty universally understood: At the average sandwich shop here in Los Angeles, you'll see customers with paint on their jeans, a parking lot full of sedans and landscaping vehicles, and suits walking over from their industry jobs at the studios in North Hollywood. Sandwiches, in short, are for everybody. So which sandwich chain serves the best classic turkey sub?

As far as made-to-order submarine sandwiches go, Subway, Jimmy John's, and Jersey Mike's are the top three chains in America, so those are the establishments I visited. At each, I kept my order as simple as possible. Though you're allowed to throw, say, spinach and olives on your sandwich at Subway if you want to, I adhered to the basics of a turkey sandwich: white bread, turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise.

Now, in the case of Jersey Mike's, I actually added onions, because ordering the sandwich "Mike's Way" is seemingly the encouraged default. Ultimately, I ordered each sandwich as it came, while trying to keep it as true as possible to a basic, classic turkey sandwich.

A turkey sub should be hearty, filling, and—I mean this in the best way possible—forgettable. It's not meant to be too wild or adventurous. It's what you order for lunch when you don't want to think about what to order for lunch. You should think about where you get your turkey sandwich, however, because each chain does it differently. Here's how they shook out.

Jersey Mike’s

It's been a long time since I've visited a Jersey Mike's, but people always say that it's very good, so I was excited to get a refresher here.

Jersey Mike's makes its turkey sandwich deli-style: meat that's sliced while you wait, thinly shredded lettuce, and a generous squirt of oil and vinegar. As mentioned, I ordered this sandwich Mike's Way (lettuce, tomato, onions, salt, pepper, oregano, oil, and vinegar), which seems to be the move among Jersey Mike's customers. Hell, the chain even nudges you in that direction, so I felt obliged.

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The person making my sandwich, Juan, was super on top of his game. He used a pastry knife to apply a thin swipe of mayonnaise instead of crudely glopping the mayo on in haphazard dollops. He was swift, attentive, and friendly, and had great sandwich technique. Are all of the employees at Jersey Mike's this skilled?

As far as the sandwich itself, every ingredient at Jersey Mike's is thin. The turkey, sliced on the spot into thin ribbons, is super light and airy. The lettuce is also served in thin strands. The tomatoes are thin, too, as are the onions, the latter of which I don't think belong on a turkey sandwich. But that's what ordering a sandwich "Mike's Way" entails, so, when in Rome.

It's a wonderfully unique turkey sub, though. I actually love that every ingredient is so damn thin—it's like if a chopped salad sandwich were made entirely with a mandolin slicer. Every ingredient sort of melds into the next. Every bite is totally even. I was really impressed.

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This sandwich is meaty, tangy, fresh, filling, and delicious. The onions are a bit much, but the oil, vinegar, and oregano give it such a distinct flavor. It cost $11.15 for a 7-inch sub, and from a quality standpoint, it was well worth that price. The only bummer is I'm still tasting onions, but to each their own.

The bread at Jersey Mike's is tough to beat, too. It's not totally spongey or homogeneous like most fast-casual bread. It's got a decent crumb and an excellent crust, and the bottom of the loaf has got a coarse semolina undercarriage, too. A nice touch. This feels like freshly baked bread. It's sliced in half and rolled up in butcher paper to keep the ingredients nice and tight, just like a great Philadelphia hoagie. God bless Jersey Mike's.

Subway

Subway's turkey sandwich sounds like a great deal. A 6-inch turkey sub that only costs $7.69! Lucky you! Purchasing it, however, is the equivalent of wishing for a sandwich while holding a monkey's paw.

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This sandwich is so, so bland. Especially in comparison to the other two eaten for this taste test. The bread is soft, yet still tastes a day old. The lettuce and tomato are exceptionally dry. Normally that's a great thing (nobody wants wet vegetables), but this is like somebody used a vacuum to suck away all of the vegetables' natural appeal. The iceberg is astonishingly flavorless, even for iceberg.

The provolone is okay, and it provides a little extra bite. But the hardest thing to accept about Subway's turkey sub is that it contains only two—two!—slices of turkey, and they aren't even that substantial. This sandwich is mostly bread and vegetables. Mayonnaise can help even the worst turkey sandwich, but Subway definitely isn't using Hellmann's, so it's automatically a rung below Jimmy John's. More on that later.

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Subway's turkey sandwich is nondescript and uninteresting. Still, it's cheap, it's everywhere, and the lines are never too long.

Jimmy John’s

Jimmy John's simply nails every aspect of its Turkey Tom sandwich. It is the ideal turkey sub.

For starters, Jimmy John's uses Hellmann's—welcome news for anyone with high mayonnaise standards. The super rich, eggy flavor of the mayo is present throughout each bite. Surprisingly enough, the iceberg lettuce also rocks. It's fresh, crisp, and slightly sweet; I was enamored with the flavor of this lettuce, more so than the other two sandwiches. Good lettuce has the ability to lift a sandwich from an A to an A+. With this rough-chopped iceberg, you get more crunch at Jimmy John's.

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The turkey used at Jimmy John's is a bit of mystery. I've heard everything from Tyson to Pepperidge Farms. It's tasty, though, and you're given a lot of the stuff. Jimmy John's packs in way more turkey per sandwich than Subway, and in my experience, even more than Jersey Mike's. The meat is substantial and slightly coarse, not overly smooth and slick like those cheap slices of deli meat you find in plastic containers. The tomatoes are fine, though not farmer's market quality, and the bread is dense and soft, with a smooth crust. Jersey Mike's probably has better bread, but Jimmy John's isn't too far behind.

The regular, 8-inch turkey sub costs $11.15, and it's a whole damn meal. Subway's sandwich is bland and forgettable. Jersey Mike's is excellent, but you can get an extra inch of sandwich at Jimmy John's for the same price (as always, prices vary). Sandwiches are all about tasty utility, and using the best ingredients possible. For that reason, Jimmy John's has the best turkey sandwich. It's just hard to compete with Hellmann's.

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