There's been a lot of fuss made about $4 toast in this town and how it's indicative of a larger problem. I've yet to try that toast so I'll reserve judgement on that, what I say though is that it all started before the toast with the $8 and $9 sandwich, something I've railed against for awhile now. Sandwiches full or local, organic, artisan stuff that don't come with any sides--no chips, no fries, no salad, no nothing. I'm looking at you The Sentinel (one of the original purveyors of this), Salumeria, Deliboard, American Grilled Cheese--the list goes on. I mean, some of their sandwiches are good--but really--do they need to be that much? Especially when you can get an amazing bahn mi at several places in this town. And so it is that a new place is adding it's name to the list of slightly above cost sandwich spots--Merigan Sub Shop.
It's a cute industrial space in SOMA near all those techie start-ups that inhabit the South Park area and I have to admit I live about a block away and had been watching and waiting for this place to open. I was especially happy that they would have Saturday hours which doesn't happen that often with new places down here. All I can say is--I really wanted to like this place--so for now let's look past the prices of their subs which are $7 to $10 (no sides) for the half and $13 to $18 for a whole--basically full size sub (still no sides). I'll start with what I did like here--the panelle and the chocolate chip cookie.
The panelle is ground garbanzo beans with herbs, lemon and red pepper flakes made into a patty then deep fried and cut into strips with an aioli dipping sauce. They sprinkled salt on them as they came out of the fryer and I have to say I liked them. They had the texture of fried polenta and the pepper gave them a nice little kick at the end. The lemon gave it some brightness also, though I think they could have cut it back just a tad. The aioli dipping sauce, however, wasn't good, it tasted like tartar sauce, which might be fine with fish, but didn't work with here. Otherwise, I was just happy to eat them as is. These were only $4--a tasty bargain. The house made chocolate chip was also pretty decent. It was crisp around the edges and chewy chocolatey through the middle. It reminded me of the cookie from Craftsman and Wolves a bit, just without the sprinkling of sea salt on top (though the menu said it was there--I must have gotten the one without it). At $2.50 a pop though for it's size, a bit much, when you know my favorite cookie in town is huge and only $1.75. But enough about sides--lets get into the subs. All come on sub rolls from Pinkies Bakery. They have a selection of both hot and cold subs to choose from in either half or whole sizes. The ones I got were all half sizes and here they are:
The Arista $9 The Baccala $7.50
The Porchetta $9 The Egg Salad $8
The arista is roasted and braised pork, sharp provolone, rapini and long hots. Greens and pork on bread are the new hot sandwich in this town and while this is not quite a pulled pork, more like a chopped, the meat was tender and well cooked if a bit under seasoned. It needed some salt. They did pack a nice amount of meat on the sandwich which was good and the addition of the rapini gave it some pleasant color and crispness when you bite into it. The long hots were neither long or hot. These were cut into cubes and were not spicy--they actually tasted bitter and I had to take them off the sandwich. I did not like them at all. Also the supposedly sharp provolone was utterly lost in all this, had I not seen it as an ingredient I would have totally missed it as a flavor. Without the hots it's an okay sandwich.
The baccala is two salt cod fritters, shaved fennel and marinara. (This also normally has green olives but so not a fan of olives and asked to have them left off.) Initially leery, I did kind of like how the slightly bitter fennel mixed with the sweetness of the marinara--and if some cheese were added I could totally eat just those ingredients. The fritters were salt cod ground up, formed into patties, battered then deep fried. I was not a fan. They tasted extremely fishy and not in a good way. Deep frying then sticking on a sandwich is a tricky thing and sometimes mush happens, like here. I gave it three bites and then just couldn't finish it, maybe this is your thing, but definitely not mine.
The porchetta has slaw, hots, dressing, lemon conserva and cracklins. This would have been an okay sandwich without the lemon conserva which gave it a weird flavor that reminded me of the smell of lemon pledge. I like citrus but not sure why it was on here as for me it didn't work. Same with the hots, again, they were a bit bitter. I pulled the rest of the ingredients out to try them separately and the slaw, porchetta and cracklins were good on their own and would make a fine sandwich on their own. With the other stuff, not so much.
The egg salad came with shredded lettuce, scallions, pickled onion, mustard and mayo. I'll say this was the best of the lot. The egg salad was nice and chunky with hints of dill and relish, though a little salt and pepper would have been nice. What I really liked on here was the pickled red onion-both sweet and tangy it gave the sandwich the kind of flavor kick or specialness you kind of look for when you are up paying for sandwiches. My one knock here was the bread was not toasted like the other sandwiches, it wasn't even room temperature, it was fridge cold and a little hard which when you bit into it caused the egg salad to squirt out--I hate that. Okay, maybe it's just a personal quirk, but still annoying. If the bread was a little more malleable it would keep the egg salad contained. Otherwise I liked this but $8 gives me pause to say it was one of the best I've had.
These are just 4 of the 17 subs offered on their menu and because this place is just a block from where I live, I really want to like it. However, with some of the flavors not quite meshing and the cost, I'm torn about directly recommending Merigan Sub Shop. I will say since they've only been open a couple weeks I am going to hold out hope that they will make adjustments as they go on and if they are doing local and what not, menu items will change and evolve. As for whether that will also mean the prices will change too, sadly may depend a lot on neighborhood and techie tolerance for such things.