This season, the Lakeland, Fla.-based grocery chain launched signature subs for the Falcons and three other NFL teams with which it has sponsorship deals: the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While the Dolphins sub shows a flair for the exotic by including fried maduros plantains, the Falcons hoagie seems to aim to be a mainstream crowd-pleaser. Hot maple-flavored chicken tenders and Boar’s Head bacon huddle on a white sub roll, with the special condiment team of Publix mango peach preserves and Sriracha mayonnaise playing to Southerners’ conflicted yen for sweet and spicy.
The subs initially were advertised as being a limited-time deal, available only through October. But, with the Falcons’ sizzling 4-0 start, Publix now says the Atlanta sandwich will remain in the deli counter’s playbook.
“We will continue to offer this sub through the entire season with full anticipation that the Falcons will make it to the Super Bowl,” spokeswoman Brenda Reid said.
Publix does not keep stats on sales of the special sandwich, which is offered at all metro locations. But Reid said that it has scored with fans.
So, from a flavor standpoint, does this hero “rise up,” to borrow the phrase that pays from those inescapable Falcons ads? I queued up at the deli counter at the Perimeter Publix in Sandy Springs to find out.
In the spirit of Matt Ryan and company going for the 2-point conversion late in the game against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, I opted for the whole sandwich at $7.99 instead of the half for $5.99.
The deli associate sliced a hulking sub roll and retrieved a dozen tenders from the hot-food case with industrial-length tongs. On went several strips of pre-cooked bacon and ample slathers of mango peach preserves and Sriracha mayo.
I noticed that she skipped the maple seasoning. But, as I prefer my sweets for dessert anyhow, I didn’t throw a flag. Instead, I hauled my catch back to the office and unwrapped the white deli paper.
This is one very brown sandwich, and a huge and heavy one at that. It would work well for tailgating, I thought, or even as a tailgate.
Sorry to report, it looked ridiculously starchy. Did the unnamed Publix chef who created it consider grilled tenders, I wondered. Wouldn’t, say, some tomatoes have helped?
But, then I started chomping the chicken, still warm, a little salty, winningly crunchy and, well, utterly addictive. I wasn’t sure about the mix of the peachy sweet and Sriracha hot flavors. But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s new food and dining editor, Ligaya Figueras, moseyed over for a taste and pronounced the combo “fun.”
When half of the sandwich soon disappeared, I decided that was plenty and wrapped the rest for the teenage son waiting at home who routinely caps immense meals by declaring, “I’m still hungry!”
An hour later, though, the Falcons sub unwrapped itself (OK, so I did it), and I started extracting the tenders one by one with a fork. In no time, all that remained was the limp, condiment-saturated bun.
I’m hoping the hometown heroes defeat the Washington Redskins Sunday, but I probably won’t celebrate with another Falcons sub. The official who administers my annual physical would penalize me 15 yards for unnecessary roughness … to his scales.
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