Dining Out: Jersey Mike’s serves up tasty subs

EAST PEORIA — My name’s Tarter. I carry a bib. Instead of criminals, my dragnet is cast to catch submarine sandwiches. The Levee District, that fast-moving, franchise-laden shopping area, is turning out sub shops with abandon.

You might recall that Potbelly Sandwich Shop, located just a block away, was the subject of my last dining column. This time it’s Jersey Mike’s Subs, the latest eatery to open in the East Peoria dining district.

Everything is spanking fresh and clean; the place has only been open a couple of weeks. When you enter, you notice a big postcard-type message on one wall, “Greetings from Point Pleasant, NJ.” The small interior dining room houses a dozen tables or so surrounded by glass. Every seat’s practically a window seat here.

Thanks to the power of television, the Jersey shore has new-found name recognition. Nevertheless, I resisted ordering the Jersey Shore’s Favorite. That’s what they call a sub with provolone, ham and cappacuolo ($5.75). Instead, I went with the California club ($6.95) that includes avocado along with turkey, ham, provolone and bacon.

As big as this sandwich was (it’s classified as regular), I can’t imagine anyone devouring the giant ($11.95) unless, of course, they’re taking it home to feed a family of four.

You’re not faced with a barrage of bread choices as you start through the line. I went with wheat instead of white, a roll that proved to be both fresh and tasty.

I ordered all the fixings and, while the selection isn’t as vast as your typical Subway restaurant, the onions, lettuce, tomatoes and “juice” (their red wine vinegar and olive oil mix) team up to make a great eating experience.

I counted 16 sandwich choices on the menu with five wrap options. You can also make any sub a salad. As for dessert, there’s a very small display of cookies.

Overall, sandwich ingredients are fresh and the cold cuts used are top of the line. You’ll probably find cheaper subs around but you may not find any better.

My dining companion went for a toasted Big Kahuna cheesesteak ($6.75) that comes with grilled onions and peppers plus mushrooms, jalapenos and extra cheese. She called it a success, refusing to spare so much as a bite although I did wrangle a jalapeno out of the deal. My partner was willing to share her potato chips (99 cents), however.

We dined outside at one of the half dozen tables that surround the corner store with a nice view of the Costco store across the street.

The Levee District is churning out fresh storefronts each month so it’s easy to overlook some of the new players. Jersey Mike’s is one you’ll want to make note of, however.

Steve Tarter can be reached at 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com. Follow his blog, Minding Business, on pjstar.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveTarter