|Name:||The Sub Station|
|Location:||3663 Canyon Crest Dr
Riverside, CA 92507
|Hours:||Mon – Sat: 10:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Sun: 11:00 a.m.– 6:00 p.m.
|Other amenities:||Free Wi-Fi, Caters, Bike Parking, Wheelchair Accessible, Good for Kids and Groups, Casual Attire and Ambience|
Uniting friends and family for 40 years through a network of passionate employees and frequent visitors, offering a friendly and well-decorated space suitable for both conversing and spending alone time, standing as a historical landmark in the midst of Riverside’s longest-running establishments … You may have been under the impression that I was describing an institution of some sort like a city library or cultural foundation. However, these characteristics fall under a spot that’s much closer to UCR both by location and by heart: The Sub Station. It’s been mentioned and praised time and time again by not only UCR students but the entire constituency of Riverside as well for serving up some of the most delicious sandwiches in the city — all at a considerate price and by friendly hands who are no more workers than friends to its faithful following. Does the food, atmosphere and service of The Sub Station, one of not only UCR but the entire city of Riverside’s favorite dining spots, truly live up to its applaud? The Highlander stepped foot on its spacious patio and tiled floors to see for ourselves.
Upon first entering the 100 percent authentic and never-before-remodeled interior of The Sub Station, I noticed that there were a few adults, or presumably non-student, customers indulging on a late-afternoon bite outside on the patio. This surprised me since Sub Station’s extremely convenient proximity to campus (directly across from Lot 24 within Bannockburn) held me under the impression that it was a solely student-frequented joint. I was greatly proven wrong, for along with many students dropping by to pick up something for dinner, Sub Station’s customers reflected the general diversity of any city: A middle-aged couple, what appeared to be an attorney from a glance at his dress shirt and tie, a young couple with two kids. Long story short: Sub Station is a place beloved by everyone, not just UCR students. Additionally, when I was given the free Wi-Fi password by the cashier joyfully conversing with a customer while making a sandwich, I was pretty much sold right then and there into coming back again if I ever needed a place to study while grabbing something to eat.
Decked out with homely wooden tables and benches, every single one of which both Richard, the owner, and his father built themselves due to their zeal for carpentry, and walls covered with picture frames of employees, team events and other friends and family members, The Sub Station provides a casual and fully accepting atmosphere in which everyone is welcome, to say the least: Richard greets all of his customers with an equal amount of enthusiasm, as though everyone is a niece or nephew stopping by his house for lunch, and doesn’t stop short even after you have purchased your meal.
When I first entered the delicatessen-fragranced atmosphere of The Sub Station, I immediately could tell who Richard was; he was wearing a casual white T-shirt and jeans, speaking in the corner with a customer who looked the age of a UCR student. Although I couldn’t make out what he was saying, I could tell, from his animated laughter and jovial pats on the back, that the conversation was no different than a friend-to-friend interaction.
I felt a special warmth when Richard was no less friendly to the Highlander video crew and I than he was with the previous customer, for I simply felt honored to be encapsulated by his benevolence that is so well-known and loved around UCR. He was in no rush to get back behind the counter and continue making orders for the good amount of customers still there, despite being it being around dinner time. Immediately, he swooped me under his arm, literally, and began touring me through a wall with so many photos that they had to be cut out and pasted into picture frames separated by the year. His mini “tour” began with a then-16-year-old boy named Andy, who was Richard’s very first employee in 1972 and held Sub Station in such a special place in his heart that he came back to visit in 2009, as shown in another photo.
Richard greets all of his customers with an equal amount of enthusiasm, as though everyone is a niece or nephew stopping by his house for lunch, and doesn’t stop short even after you have purchased your meal.
“He’s famous now, I tell you,” humored Richard after revealing that Andy was recently at one of President Donald Trump’s receptions. “Everyone who works at Sub Station comes back to visit. We’re more than just a place you work at.”
After giving us only a brief overview of Sub Station’s extensive wall of precious memories, Richard then turned to the important stuff: The menu.
At this point, my stomach was growling just absorbing the euphoric aroma of a combination of fresh deli meats and baked bread. Looking at its large menu, which had everything from classics like Ham and Cheese and Pastrami to more creative ‘wiches like the Pizza Wich and the Cool Ranch Chicken Sub, didn’t help with my instantly empty and impatient stomach. I was even more pleased to see that none of the footlongs exceeded $10, which wasn’t exceptionally cheap given that they don’t come with a side or drink. However, there was also the option to cut it down to a 7” for around three dollars less, which I wouldn’t have minded choosing given that, as I would find out later, the subs delivered in large loaves of perfectly toasted and crispy bread and were stuffed with plentiful fillings to equal out the bread content. I figured that, given the most significant sandwich competitor to Sub Station around UCR — Subway — options their footlongs for around $5-8 but are far less satisfactory (as I would later conclude with my order), the additional $2-3 for a footlong at Sub Station was well-justified and would not cave into students’ paychecks as much as more expensive options.
When we finally managed to select three sandwich options out of the more than 30 available (and amongst soups, salads, sides and desserts), we headed over to the separate dining area across the patio. Richard mentioned this cozy little area is loved by anyone looking for a quiet place to study or customers, like a 60-year-old regular named Janice, who likes to sit by the window and read the newspaper while munching on a delectable sub.
Although extremely hard to choose from since each looked equally amazing, we first got our hands on the Zesty Chicken Sub, which enfolded white meat chicken, spicy wing sauce, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and a side of ranch dressing that Richard urged us to use for dipping to counteract the spiciness of the chicken. Upon first bite, I was surrounded by the pleasurable “crunch” of the perfectly toasted bread that Richard pointed out is indicated by little brown marks on the crust, and the chicken was so tender and juicy that it almost tasted like too high quality of meat to be put into a sandwich. In terms of the spice itself, there was a distinct flavor to it resemblant of Indian curry spices and certainly added an unexpected yet scrumptious kick to the sandwich.
We then moved on to what The Sub Station apparently prides itself in being the home of (according to the sign next to the wooden-panelled menu): The Big Dude. This specialty contains capocolla (a thin Italian cut of pork), dry salami, pepperoni, ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce, seasoned cucumbers and of course the signature baguette — all toasted to perfection. The Big Dude was indeed a “big deal,” but at that point, I was so impressed with the Zesty Chicken Sub and Sub Station in general that the electrifying sandwich — as I would describe it, given its satisfying blend of flavorful meat with a pop of fresh vegetables and well-marinated cucumbers — was only a bonus to my newly developed vigor for Sub Station. That’s not to nullify the wonder of The Big Dude: I’m craving that sandwich in specific as I type these words.
What’s great about Sub Station is that they have a portion of the menu holding six items that are specifically dedicated to vegetarians. Richard is a vegetarian himself and claims that he refrains from eating meat “because I’m 70 years old now” (but certainly doesn’t look nor act it!). Being that the owner himself must know what tastes good to the vegetable-connoisseur, or anyone eating something full of vegetables, it’s no wonder why the final item that we tried, appropriately titled the “Rich Wich,” was so darn good and ultimately was our favorite sandwich of the night. I was surprised that an item without arguably the most flavor-filled and fatty type of food, meat, could turn out to be so delicious. But the Rich Wich only proved Sub Station’s attentiveness toward detail and quality, regardless of what category a sandwich may fall under. The cucumbers maintained its marinated spice fully, as though it had been soaked to just the optimal amount of time, and the smooth guacamole and crunchy veggies released a whole new wave of freshness and natural savor that my tongue had so few times previously experienced.
When all three sandwiches were devoured in a record amount of time and all of our backpacks and equipment were packed up much to my dismay (given the coziness and comfort of the quiet dining room setting), Richard came back to shake our hands and encourage us to visit him again. “I’m here seven days a week and will always be happy to see you,” he voiced, but he certainly didn’t have to remind me about anything to have already made plans to visit Sub Station again … many times in the future.
Although The Sub Station has become something of a legend and dining staple in Riverside’s vast culinary landscape (I mean — I have met people, both young and old, who don’t even live in Riverside and talk about it), it certainly would have been a goner on our part to not write about The Sub Station, restaurant review or otherwise. From its acuteness toward hospitality and unmatchable convenience for UCR students (both location and price-wise) to its unforgettable and for-certain crave-inducing menu and historic, snug atmosphere, The Sub Station is a legend, landmark and lasting establishment that you absolutely do not want to miss if you go to UCR. That being said, I’m sure most people here have tried The Sub Station, and heck, if that’s true, I’m sure they’ve been there many times. I guess this review was mainly written for that shy, small minority of you who somehow have not been curious enough to be enlightened by the life-changing (literally — just look at Andy!) Sub Station.
Stay tuned at @HighlanderTV on YouTube for our restaurant review on The Sub Station!