by Eric Ginsburg

They claim to have the best chicken salad in town, which definitely isn’t true, and the line for the drive-thru always seems to take an inordinate amount of time, but Sub Station II is my go-to quick lunch spot.

When Triad City Beat opened, moving into the Nussbaum Center just south of downtown Greensboro, I asked the guys running the place where to find the good food nearby. They kinda shrugged.

Since then I’ve crawled up and down South Elm-Eugene Street and the parallel thoroughfare Randleman Road, looking for the best eats. Some of us have developed a fondness for a sub shop adjoining the nearby gas station, and of course I already knew about the legendary Stephanie’s soul food restaurant on Randleman.

I hit Pakse, the banh mi joint next to the Smith Homes housing projects, tried Paradise West Indian American (pretty good, actually) and for a while frequented Taqueria Hidalgo with coworkers. I toyed with Japanese and Chinese spots, smashed some heavy fare at a meat-and-three café someone recommended and experienced a pretty awful Mexican restaurant without adequate air where I’m pretty sure I saw a few drops of blood on the floor.

The best lunch I found didn’t show up until later, Dee’s Juke Joint, a gas station pop-up by Donnie Suggs with some crave-worthy turkey barbecue sandwiches. So I put Suggs on the cover of the paper, only to have the county health department run him off (I’m still not clear that their actions were justified).

Through it all, I’d been going to one hold-steady, a sandwich place with an expansive array of options and a drive-thru that made it all the more appealing: Sub Station II.

As a journalist whose schedule always seems to be overflowing, who more often than he’d like to admit finds himself eating in the car between appointments and who — despite his best intentions — never seems to cook as often as planned, Sub Station II fills an important need. And given the financial limitations of the profession, I need somewhere cheap and that taste better than most fast food.

I’m sure you can relate.

Sub Station II has become that destination, both for its proximity to the office and to the interstate, often roping me in before I shoot out to Winston-Salem for my newspaper delivery route (yeah, we still do that ourselves) or High Point to check out a bar. And pretty much every time I’m there, I order the chicken Philly.

In the few dozen times I’ve gone to Sub Station II, I’ve tried several of the sandwiches: the Italian sausage, the pizza steak, the chicken salad, the Italian meatball and the scrap sub (with leftover ends) among others. But I’ve settled on the chicken Philly ATW — an abbreviation I can only remember seeing in the South meaning “all the way” — which in this case includes lettuce, tomato, onion, pepper and a whole heap of mayonnaise.

The half sandwich is plenty, though on occasion I’ve loaded up on the full. I generally add a pink lemonade, in part because I like to tell myself that it’s healthier than soda (just let me have this). If I’m driving, I’ll stop first and eat some of the chicken off the top of the open mouth of the sandwich — some will inevitably spill anyway, but this reduces the risk — but if I’m stationary I’ll just dig in, picking up any spillover and adding it back in with my free hand.

This is a sort of workingman’s lunch place, frequented by people who work with their hands for a living and most of whom, I have to assume, are on break from a job in the immediate vicinity. There’s a patio, sure, but I almost never see anyone out there taking in the view of the empty lot that used to house Jeb’s Bar-B-Q next door or the imminently affordable Reed Tires across the street.

There are usually a couple cars ahead of me in the drive-thru line, but even when it’s empty the food doesn’t arrive a whole lot faster than it does when you order inside. But it’s still plenty faster than the Arby’s downtown (seriously, don’t go there) and much easier to get in and out of than my preferred sandwich spot, First Carolina Deli, over on Spring Garden Street.

It doesn’t appear that a Sub Station I exists. Maybe it went the way of a good number of the lots on Randleman, overcome with weeds or as part of a revolving door of failed restaurants. But it doesn’t matter much to me, because I’ve still got the sequel, my go-to restaurant when I’m on the go. And that’s pretty much always.


Visit Sub Station II at 2414 Randleman Road (GSO) or call 336.370.9136.

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