Jersey Mike's Vs Subway: Which Is Better?

Anyone thinking Subway has cornered the market on custom sandwiches would be wise to consider Jersey Mike's as a worthy competitor. Both chains provide tempting menus filled with happy hoagies and groovy grinders, and each shop has its own following of hungry customers dedicated to the selections offered. There's so much overlap that it's as easy for a Subway diehard to be tempted toward a stop at Jersey Mike's if there's one on the way home as it is for a Jersey Mike's fanatic to swing by a Subway during a moment of deli-based desperation.

With such similarities on the table, which of these two fast food dynamos is the better option for anyone who might be on the fence about where to eat? Does one chain provide more satisfying selections or offer more appealing prices than the other? We couldn't live with the curiosity nagging at our appetites for one minute longer. We fired up the apps for both Jersey Mike's and Subway, placed orders for closely corresponding selections that included Italian subs, chips, drinks, and desserts, and tried them side-by-side to see which one makes the better option overall. We also took a look at the menus for prices and possibilities provided by these competitive eateries so we could make a determination once and for all.

Jersey Mike's has better sandwich choices

In addition to the usual lineup of cold sub combinations, Jersey Mike's makes the bold move of offering an entire menu filled with cheesesteak subs designed to be hot rather than just heated-up versions of their refrigerated counterparts. We spied deluxe vegetarian selections like portobello sandwiches, honest-to-goodness Philly steak sandwiches, and fun variations such as Chipotle Chicken and Bacon Ranch. It's a declaration of distinction between the two outlets and one that's bound to attract a curious crowd who favors fiery fare.

While Subway's classic sandwiches are a rote selection by now (Cold Cut Combo, Tuna, Veggie Delite ... the list goes on) with a few hot options like Meatball Marinara thrown in for good measure, the upper-level Subway Series menu aims to shake things up with deluxe takes on the standard selections, plus a quartet of Philly cheesesteaks. This feels like a direct play to keep up with the Jersey Mike's menu, a more static brand recognizing game in a competitor and stepping up its operation; where Jersey Mike's has a Stickball Special, Subway offers a Pickleball Club. But even with these premium options, Subway can't top Jersey Mike's for its delicious range.

Jersey Mike's edges out Subway when it comes to sandwich choices.

Subway has better bread selections

Subway sure makes a big deal about how many types of bread you can choose from. The smell of freshly baked bread catches you when you walk past the restaurant, drawing you in like those sneaky food-scented Disneyland Smellitizers. It has definitely enticed us in on more than one occasion, if for no other reason than to linger in the aroma. The chain has done an admirable job of providing alternatives to the straight-up sub roll, letting diners choose their bread for any sandwich on the menu as part of the "your sandwich, your way" philosophy. There was even a low-carb bread option for a limited time, a nod to the company's dedication to serving everyone's appetite. And while we went with basic white, we were pleased with the al dente texture that gave the roll the feeling of a real baguette.

Jersey Mike's tries to give a panoply of bakery takes of its own but stumbles a bit with a flavor-struggling foursome: white, wheat, rosemary Parmesan, and gluten-free. While the de-glutened alternative is fantastic for restrictive eaters, the others are similar enough to be mistaken for one another. A bit of herbs and Parmesan can't make enough of a distinction to count, and we couldn't smell anything but air when we picked up our Jersey Mike's order. Sure, the bread was soft, but that's no great accomplishment.

Subway comes up a real winner with its creative bread basket.

Jersey Mike's has a better toppings-to-fillings ratio

There's nothing new in the world of sub sandwich toppings. You've got greens, veggies, condiments, and zingy options like pickles and jalapeños at both Subway and Jersey Mike's, all customizable to your specific taste. If you order through the app, you can add special instructions for adding, removing, and even doubling up whichever toppings you like. With nearly identical lineups, it was a challenge to figure out how we could choose one restaurant over the other.

And then we tried the sandwiches, and the difference was clear — and pungent. Jersey Mike's was much more delicate with the application of toppings on our sandwich. Evenly dispersed red onions lay on a bed of just enough lettuce and juicy tomatoes, making every bite an equal experience. Subway, on the other hand, just sort of slapped on the onions in such a tongue-stinging mass, it was practically all we could taste. Maybe we had a grumpy sandwich artist on the line who didn't know to limit toppings when we ordered, but it feels like Jersey Mike's has a better process that doesn't depend on the mood of the server.

Jersey Mike's handily tops the topping game between these two dining hubs.

Jersey Mike's sandwiches are fresher

In 2023, Subway finally steered away from pre-sliced meats after decades of taking the easy way out, opting for deli slicers in every location. Now, customers can be confident that the fresh fillings they select are prepared onsite daily rather than watching the workers peeling pre-assembled packets out of deli paper when they order, as was the norm. It's definitely a step up, and we easily noticed the difference in the thinness of the slices. We also appreciated the generous inclusion of salami in our Subway Hotshot Italiano, which we were able to taste much more directly when we cleared up the onion overload situation.

Jersey Mike's also brings the freshness to the table where meats and cheeses are concerned. The ham variety in our Original Italian included cappacuolo, which made quite a difference in taste and texture. We were also pleased with the zing of the red wine vinegar used as a dressing, another refreshing touch we weren't expecting.

With two sandwiches comprised of essentially the same elements, it was a close call deciding which place came out on top. We went with our gut and chose Jersey Mike's as the fresher of the two.

Both restaurants offer similar sides

Jersey Mike's may have "deli" in its name, but it doesn't quite live up to the heritage. The restaurant brings nothing to its side game, just a selection of bagged chips that work as a standard wingman for the sandwiches without adding any further enticement. Proper delis have a slew of cold and warm side dishes, beloved scoops like potato salad and coleslaw or piping-hot tater wedges and soups. Mike must have left those back in Jersey because we saw no evidence of them in the location where we grabbed our grub.

With Subway, we knew well and good that we wouldn't be getting any macaroni salad with our sandwich; the company has never offered sufficient sides. We went with old-fashioned Lay's plain potato chips in both orders, simply because they were the most compatible for a side-by-side comparison. But we'd love to see both outlets get in gear and offer something much more exciting than vending machine chip bags that do nothing to make either restaurant stand out.

When it comes to deciding which restaurant has the better side hustle, the call is thoroughly even-Steven.

Subway has better upgrades

Subway may have made its claim to fame with the sandwiches in its name, but the company isn't above playing with format. With the current menu, you can opt to have your sandwich fixings nestled in a flour tortilla to get your hunger all wrapped up. You can choose full-fledged dinner salads with all the fixings as well as a new salad-style innovation called the No Bready Bowl, which piles the meat and cheese options from your favorite sandwich selection onto all the garden-green toppings you would ordinarily choose. It's a choose-your-own take on a chef's salad and a Chipotle-like twist that lets you leave the refined carbs on the counter. This fun development sounds much more delicious than reduced-carb bread ever could.

Good luck finding anything other than subs at Jersey Mike's. The company shows a true dedication to sandwiches, and only sandwiches, and nothing but ... yes, sandwiches. There are no side salads or fancy parfait cups waiting in a refrigerator case for lighter eaters. Newcomers may find this a bit limited, but the eatery knows what it does best, and it focuses all its energy in that direction. Talk about specialty dining.

In the upgrades arena, Subway is easily a slice above Jersey Mike's.

Both restaurants have decent drinks

Soda fountains are not created equal, and anyone standing on their chosen side of the Pepsi-Coke divide will tell you the same. If you're a Pepsi fan, you're going to love Jersey Mike's selection. The restaurant also sells cans of energy drink Celsius, bottled Pure Leaf tea, and a craft-draft canned beverage called Stubborn Soda. It's a fine selection of still and sparkling sips that can't be faulted for not going further. The drinks are not the focal point here; it's all about the sandwiches. Our to-go order didn't offer us a fountain drink, which we were disappointed to discover. We may have used the app incorrectly, but ordering a bottle of Mtn Dew made it easier to carry home anyway.

Subway keeps to the Coca-Cola side of the soda spectrum with its fountain and bottles. We kept things a little more conservative with a bottle of Diet Coke instead of the full-sugar stuff; a bottle of Mtn Dew in the ol' circulatory system is syrup a-plenty without adding cola to the blood chemistry. As far as drinks go, both Jersey Mike's and Subway keep things equally cool and carbonated (or not — your choice).

Subway has better prices

With prices rising in an unchecked inflationary flood, even purchasing small sandwiches can make sub fans feel like they're living high on the hog these days. The previously super price-friendly Subway has shifted from $5 Footlongs to $6 6-inch for its special promotion. Some Subway locations have even stopped accepting coupons. So we knew we'd be in for a bit of a wallet cruncher when our order was rung up. The total for our footlong sandwich, chips, bottled Diet Coke, and chocolate chip cookie was $23.26 — not terribly out of line with a fast food meal these days but a little surprising nonetheless.

Having made a similar order at a comparable total from Jersey Mike's, we realized that $25 is the going rate for a sub sandwich meal. It wasn't until we unwrapped our food that we discovered Jersey Mike's regular Original Italian priced at $13.63 is a 6-inch sandwich cut in half. Bumped up against Subway's $15.29 footlong, the distinction was staggering. We were fully expecting a 12-inch sandwich based on the app screen and the price we paid. It was such a rude awakening to find less food in the wrapper that we'll be smarting from the experience for quite some time.

Needless to say, Subway takes the price prize, hands down.

Jersey Mike's has better desserts

A foot-long chocolate chip cookie and an equally colossal churro as part of the Subway dessert menu? How did it take this long for the sub slinger to come up with such a genius innovation? The mere idea of having sweets the same length as the sandwiches is enough to send customers into a counter-side tailspin when asked if they'd like to make the add-on. As temped as we were by the oversized treats, we chose to forgo the ginormous cookie in favor of the usual round chocolate chip cookie, an option that's more comparable to the cookies served at Jersey Mike's.

Jersey Mike's serves up a wrapped chocolate chunk cookie lightyears ahead of Subway's chocolate chipper in both flavor and texture. The taste of real butter and brown sugar came shining through in Mike's soft, chewy cookie. With Subway, there was more of an oil flavor, and though the edges were crispy and the center was tender, it felt as if maybe the cookie had been in the case for a few days before making it to our table. There's no way of knowing for sure, but Jersey Mike's cookie also came tightly wrapped in a cellophane sleeve; Subway's was tucked in a wide-open pastry bag stained with grease — signs of exposure to air that can certainly compromise quality.

It's no contest here. Jersey Mike's takes the cake — er, the cookie.

Verdict: Jersey Mike's offers a better dining experience overall

We thought for sure the pricing difference would push Subway to the front of the pack for this competition. We did get twice as much sandwich, after all, even if the cookie was struggling. But we found so many valid reasons to put Jersey Mike's on top, from the fresh flavors and textures to the impressive sandwich selection to the dedication to a core product collection, we couldn't possibly have chosen the Subway standard when it went head-to-head with this delightful deli.

We would love to see Jersey Mike's go even further, offering salads like Subway and even branching out into more dessert offerings like cheesecake or ice cream. Moves like this would give the restaurant an even greater advantage and make choosing to spend so much more on the sandwich in the meal an easier bite to swallow. Even without those grandiose glow-up moves, Jersey Mike's still bags up a substantially better sandwich meal than Subway. And now that we know how the sizes stack up, we'll be sure to make a more informed order next time around.

How we made our determination

It was another one of those delicious dilemmas where we put our taste buds on the line in the name of hard-hitting food journalism. With both outlets offering the same general selections, we opted to stick with a basic sandwich layout so we didn't go too far afield in our comparisons. Chips, drinks, and desserts were practically identical in possibilities as well, though dessert quality was wildly different once we finally tasted them side by side. Making our selections this way allowed us to keep prices comparable as well.

Each sandwich got its own tasting session, in which we opened the bread and inspected the layout of the fillings. We took bites of each, letting our palate run riot to determine the interplay of bread-meat-cheese-toppings. Once we knew what we were eating, we finished what we could to confirm our initial findings. It was a lot of food, and to be candid, some of it was saved for a second round. We're looking forward to revisiting our results.