Restaurant Review: Carl's Steak Subs
Carl's Steak Subs
55 Prospect Street
Waltham, MA 02453
If you've watched The Phantom Gourmet, then you've probably seen Carl's. Dan and Dave Andelman, the brothers who host the show, love to shill their favorite restaurants, and Carl's frequently makes that list. It's kind of odd, because Phantom is a restaurant show and Carl's is a sub shop offering take-out only. There are a few tables outside, but inside you're trapped standing between the cash register and a refrigerator case; if there are more than five people waiting for orders, you're going to be squished.
Waltham is a 40-minute drive for me, which is ridiculous for a steak sub; but I'm a die-hard and I had to know. So I made the trek for the first time last year, and I've been nursing a jones ever since. The hook is that their steak isn't exactly "shaved"; it's more like "stringed" steak, about the width of heavy twine. Traditional shaved steak is easy to overcook because it's thin, and these guys figured out a way to dice it for the grill without sacrificing dimension. It's just thick enough to stay moist and retain its flavor. I suppose it won't earn anybody a Nobel prize; but they managed to fix a recipe that wasn't quite broken, and that's gotta be worth something.
Quality: Perfect. I'm telling you, these guys redefined the steak sandwich. It's like you spend your whole life eating Hershey bars, then someone feeds you a Scharffen Berger and suddenly Hershey's chocolate tastes like waxy sugar. Eat this sandwich, and you'll never look at another steak sub the same way.
Value: A small steak sub with cheese and peppers costs $6.10 — if you want to add toppings, you work your way up by nickels and dimes. Whatever you want, you'll eat lunch for about 7 bucks. And these guys don't skimp: Your roll will be absolutely packed, overflowing. Don't even think about ordering a large.
Hospitality: It's kind of ridiculous to discuss hospitality at a take-out sub shop, but I'll say that Carl's isn't going to win points for atmosphere. The inside is cramped standing-room only, and the outside is what you'd expect from a side street in a poor, industrial city. To be fair, I have to add that the service can be gruff. They're always bustling and you may not get a "Thank you," but the flip side is that I probably wouldn't be recommending any sub shop for its pleasant service. What Carl's lacks in style, they make up in substance.