I suddenly find myself friendless. The high-maintenance foodies in my life shudder delicately when I suggest heading out for subs. Then determinedly try to divert me with talk of three course wine dinners. The health nuts grimace and look at me pityingly before diving into another round of tofu-powered suryanamaskars.
Fast food’s never been so uncool. Ironically, it’s also never been so popular.
Head to any food court if you don’t believe me, and watch people scarf down buckets of fried chicken and fistfuls of French fries. The reasons are simple: fast, hot and tasty. An addictive layering of fat, salt and flavour enhancers. There’s no point being snobbish about it, or pretending you’re immune. I’ve shamelessly demolished chicken wings straight after yoga class, still in my gym clothes, egged on by my constantly-hungry friend. This friend — let’s call her French Fry — is one of those exasperating freaks of nature: eats like Michael Phelps, looks like Kate Moss.
My project for the day is trying newly opened Quiznos at Ispahani centre. It’s an American chain designed to be a relatively healthy take on fast food, featuring salads, vegetable filled subs and flatbread sandwhiches called ‘sammies’. I tempt French Fry and Broccoli (the essential vegetarian friend) into my car by waving cheesecake, and then drive straight to Quinzos before they can protest. “Healthy fast food?” screeches French Fry when she sees the board. “Are you trying to kill me?” Broccoli recoils with horror as we walk into the restaurant, which is loud with music, laughter and colour. “It positively reeks of college kids,” she hisses. I shove menus at them, and then carefully look around.
The obvious comparison is Subway, and Quiznos seems louder, shriller and more in-your-face with screaming red walls, fluttering hanging advertisements and Rihanna blaring on about finding love in a hopeless place. They do, however, seem to have far more choice, especially with the breads and sauces. Like the Chennai Subways, there’s no pork or beef.
A gaggle of college girls in front of us take about twenty minutes to order, of which eighteen minutes are dedicated to giggling alone. When I finally reach the counter, dreaming of my chipotle chicken sub, I’m told there no chipotle sauce. We settle for an Italian veggie sub and a classic Italian sub.
We also order a hot barbeque chicken salad, which arrives drenched in mayonnaise. So much for healthier choices. The French Fry’s eyes light up at the thought of greasy salad, but even she gives up after a few spoons of limp lettuce weighed down with pallid puddles of dressing. We try the six-inch Alfredo pizza, which is tasty, with a light thin crust and pool of molten cheese. The hot chocolate, unfortunately, tastes like sugar syrup with a little bit of cocoa stirred in as an afterthought.
Quiznos’s strength is their thoroughly toasted subs, made with assembly line precision. We choose garlic bread, which is light, airy and flavoursome. As my ‘sandwich artist’ grabs a bottle of sauce, I realize why they’re so heavy handed with the mayo. Each bottle has three nozzles! Once we convince him to hold back, however, the sandwich is satisfying, despite the chicken cubes being fairly bland.
Tipped off by friends, we drive to Indiska Magic off R.K. Salai, for dessert. This is a tiny new outlet of Nuts ‘n’ Spices specialising in fresh paneer, Bengali sandesh and dry fruit sweets. The guys behind the counter generously insist we taste everything. So we try cubes of spongy paneer dusted in spices, crumbly sandesh and fig-nut bars. They also have cleverly packaged sauces and dips. Think fiery Schezwan sauce, chunky salsa and thick hung curd.
Indiska will be opening more outlets soon. Call 91766 30605 for more details. Quiznos is at Ispahani Centre in Nungambakkam. Call 3018 0007 for more details.