Gluten-Free at Subway

We interrupt this not-so-regularly scheduled program to bring you this special report…Subway is testing gluten-free sandwiches in its restaurants here in the North Texas area.

That’s right, a gluten-free sandwich, only a few minutes away.

Normally, I am one to plan in advance for hectic days. Not sure where/when I’ll get to eat? I stash my purse with nuts, dried fruits, LARA bars, or a banana. I pack my lunch nearly every day for work, which often is a salad, soup, or leftovers from dinner. I rarely eat out, and when I do, it’s almost never a fast food chain. There’s just not many safe options, and they’re not all that appealing to me. I have my small circle of restaurants that I trust (Which is to say that I still explain my whole situation to them every time, share my Triumph dining card, and they are accommodating, and I haven’t gotten sick. These restaurants are also the ones that receive a generous tip from me for their efforts.), and I am cautious about when and how often I venture outside of that circle.

When I heard that Subway was trying out gluten-free sandwiches in our area, I was skeptical. There are bread crumbs everywhere, I thought. In my mind, it didn’t seem worth the risk. Then my brother called.

Guess what I’m doing right now, he says into the phone.

What?

Ordering a gluten-free sandwich at Subway.

I start to express my concerns for cross-contamination, and he responds with a description of all of the precautions they take.

I’ll call you back afterwards to let you know how it is, he says.

A few hours later, he calls back to tell me that it pretty good, and he was headed back for another for dinner. This was a reassuring sign, but I wanted to see for myself.

This past week, when I was swamped with training for work, I decided I would try it out for dinner. I look online beforehand at their allergy chart to determine what I could safely put on my sandwich. I decide on roast beef with lots of veggies and some brown mustard. I call the store near my home to make sure they’re offering the gluten-free sandwiches. (They were.) I arrive in the evening, and see that they even have a sign inside showing the “safe” ingredients for sandwiches. I place my order. Immediately, the guy behind the counter takes off his gloves. He goes and washes his hands thoroughly. He puts fresh gloves on. He takes a gluten-free bun, which is individually wrapped and sealed in cellophane, and opens it and places it on a brand new piece of uncontaminated paper. He takes out a plastic knife, which is also individually wrapped and sealed in cellophane, and opens it. He splits the bread, and moves the bread (still on the paper) to the toaster. He removes it, and tops with my meat (which has been underneath that paper that separates the slices, so there was little chance of contamination there too). Back into the toaster, still on the paper the whole time. Then he tops with my requested vegetables and mustard, and wraps the sandwich. Never does my sandwich touch their counter, and gluten-y fingers never touch it. (In fact, the guy making my sandwich held that piece of paper containing my sandwich so gingerly, so carefully, one would have thought he was carrying a small infant for the first time.) Sure, there is still a slight possibility for cross-contamination (there always is when there is gluten in the same kitchen), but Subway has obviously trained their employees well. My brother’s description of the process he encountered was identical to what I witnessed. Being able to watch the employee like a hawk also gave me some peace of mind – even in the best restaurants, I have to trust that that they understand what I mean when I describe how my food should be handled. This time, I can watch for myself.

They also offered a French Meadow Bakery gluten-free brownie. To my surprise, upon reading the label, it was also dairy-free. I opted to give it a try, just so I could share the results. See the sacrifices I make for you?

So…how was it? Good, actually. Not gourmet, of course (this is Subway, after all), but the bun was soft, which honestly, is more than I can say for their regular buns, which as I recall, were sometimes stale and hard on the bottom. It is a smaller sandwich than the typical 6-inch sub, but for me, that was just fine. They did have a sign guiding which chips were gluten-free (I didn’t buy chips), if one was interested. As for the brownie, it was surprisingly tasty – better than I anticipated. It was fudgy, and darn good for a packaged brownie, gluten-free or not.

While I’m not likely to eat this often, I do hope that this endeavor is successful for Subway, and that they soon expand it nationwide. I’m much more in favor of eating whole, unprocessed foods whenever I can (my body much prefers it, and I can ensure what I’m eating is indeed gluten-free), but for many, this would be a wonderful option. It wasn’t extremely cheap – my sandwich and brownie cost over $8 – but it was fast, and as safe as one can get eating at a fast food restaurant. If I was on the road traveling, this would be a nice option to have available for sure. So many companies and restaurants have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon lately, and many times, it seems more as a response to a fad than an actual help for those of us that have real gluten issues. In my opinion, it seems a lot of these companies give little thought to cross-contamination, and there is often a lack of education in the restaurants. I was happy to see the care that the Subway employees took. I hope to see this trend continue. While those of us with food intolerances/allergies often have to be our own advocates when it comes to our health and food safety, it comforts me to know that someone else is paying attention.

Comments

  1. InfamousQBert says

    that’s really awesome. thanks for sharing! as a vegetarian, there aren’t many fast food places i can eat, either, so i always appreciate it when i see a company trying to accommodate more people.

  2. Elizabeth says

    I have gotten this sandwich 2x. I was very excited to try it out and you are wise to confirm which stores carry it as they all don’t currently. They are very meticulous in their prep. I almost felt as if I owed the person behind me an apology for the lengthiness of the assembly. My chief complaint was that the inside contents were skimpy. Both visits. Tiny bit of meat, tiny bit of each veggie…but adequate and a nice new G/F option to be sure.

  3. says

    This is awesome news for the GF community! We were headed out for a PF Changs (where we’ve had good GF experiences) last night, but the wait was incredibly long. My gluten-eating husband asked me what fast food we could do instead and I had to admit defeat. My son and I get sick with cross-contamination and it was better to suck it up and stop at the grocery store for steaks than it was to go for the convenience.

    I hope the test in Texas shows Subway that they can expand their program!

    Thanks so much for all the detail too!

  4. says

    Thanks for taking the time to post this detailed review, Alta. I admit I’m still skeptical. My primary concern stems from the fact that their gluten-full bread is made by them. Is that brought in from elsewhere or baked on the premises? Flour hangs in the air for up to 72 hours. You’re right that seeing the sandwich being made does give a level of comfort that we don’t always get as far as the possibility for cross contamination. I’d go to Subway occasionally if I could resolve my concerns.

    Thanks!
    Shirley

  5. says

    Thank you so much for your review! I really hope this comes to Canada. It would be wonderful to have another option available when you are on the run!

  6. says

    Our Subway receives the rolls frozen. They thaw/rise until ready to be baked so they don’t actually mix it there. I wish they would offer gluten free!

  7. Charlene says

    I have gone to Subway in Canada and found that they are extremely conscientious about gluten and pepper allergies. I ordered a salad with grilled chicken and black olives – I noticed that the there was a slice of pepper in the olives and before I could say anything the black olives and tray were removed and a fresh container was placed into the refrigerator tray. Very nice. I was so pleased with the fact that everyone who looked after my meal removed their gloves and washed their hands and put on new gloves. I thanked them for their caution and they just smiled and said that they take care when they know. I’ll have to get back to you on where the bread is made – a friend works there.

  8. says

    YAY! That is so awesome Alta! I can’t wait to share this post with my gluten free support group! I don’t know if they will ever make it available nationally… but seriously there is at least one night a week that my husband and I have to run errands and knowing I could get a gluten free sandwich somewhere would be so awesome!! I would definitely be willing to try it! Thanks for your great review! I am impressed with the care that your sandwich maker/artist? lol took in making your sandwich! Very, very impressed!

  9. says

    Wow! Alta, thank you so much for letting us know!! I have been wondering about how they were going to manage to make this work. I am impressed with the education that they have given their employees and their efforts to minimize contamination. Thanks for all of your sacrifices in order to get this info to us!! ;0) We all greatly appreciated it!

  10. says

    Thanks for letting us know about this, Alta. I love Subway, and although I’ve had their salads a lot since going gluten-free, I miss having an actual sandwich. Of course, there are too many things in their food that I’m avoiding right now to actually eat there, but eventually…

  11. says

    Alta, thanks for the review! I admit I was skeptical when I heard they were testing, too. I’ve never been much of a fan of Subway, but we don’t have Jason’s Deli here. *sob* Not that I eat a lot of sandwiches, especially since finding out I actually do well without a ton of grains in my diet. After your good experience, I’d be willing to give them a shot!

  12. says

    Well I did have a comment here I thought! Maybe it didn’t go through! At any rate, this is a REALLY great review Alta and I’m so glad you had a positive experience. Like Iris mentioned, it would be so cool to actually have a sandwich out somewhere… we have at least 1-2 nights a week when hubs and I have to run errands and it would be so wonderful to have somewhere quick to go to get a sandwich! I am impressed with the training you mentioned and being able to see exactly how they made your sandwich! Thanks so much for the review! I’m sharing this with my GF support group today!

  13. tastyeatsathome says

    Shirley – I “think” that they only par-bake their bread in the stores. So not much flour in the air. The gluten-free bread comes sealed, from another manufacturer. (my guess would be French Meadow Bakery, as they provided the brownies, and I know they provide gluten-free pizza crusts for restaurants such as Boston’s.) Does that eliminate cross-contamination issues? Probably not entirely. And as far as I’m concerned, if I’m going to risk eating out and risk the possibility of cross-contamination, it’s more likely going to be on something “fancier” than Subway. That said, I was impressed with the level of consideration they gave to address the cross-contamination concerns.

  14. says

    Awesome review. I had all those same doubts and questions. I’m going to post a link to this article!
    I hope we will be able to try these if they opt to expand the gf market nationwide.
    Thanks again!

  15. says

    Thanks for the review! Though my son isn’t old enough for subway sandwiches yet, hopefully they will have this rolled out nationwide when he is.

  16. says

    Sometimes, when I just can’t carry a cooler with me, and my husband and I are hungry, it’d be nice to know I could get a sandwich at a Subway. Their thoroughness sounds good.

    My son — who was recently on the road in north Texas with a group who mostly stopped at places with “dollar menus” — was happy to try a Subway GF sub. Unfortunately, the person preparing the sub must have missed the part of the training about being pleasant to the customer: she complained non-stop about how much trouble it was to fix him a GF sub! He said he wouldn’t go there again, gluten-free or not!

    I hope Subway gets over that glitch in their training soon and prospers in their providing GF sandwiches in every state!

    Thanks for your review —
    Pat

  17. says

    This is definitely great news! I hope the subway near our locale carry it too. I’ll have to check it out. I hope other fast food places start doing the same.

    • tastyeatsathome says

      Elizabeth – I felt the same way about the lengthiness of the assembly. I did ask the guy how often he’s received gluten-free orders – not often, he said. (That was disappointing to me, as I want it to be a success, but maybe the word isn’t out.) I too did wish for more inside contents, but then, maybe the sandwich wouldn’t close! LOL

      Eileen – I’m not the biggest fan of PF Changs. (have had issues after eating there, although surprisingly, not so at Pei Wei. Who knows.) But yeah, I feel the same way – it’s faster and easier to go to the store than to deal with the “convenience” of fast food – at a price of cross-contamination issues. The Subway GF option was definitely one of the best fast food options I’ve found so far. Not that they were 100% free from cross-contamination, but they did a decent job.

      Charlene – Your Subway sounds wonderful! Honestly, I was impressed with the cleanliness and organization in the store I visited. I haven’t frequented Subway in many years, but my recollections were that they had messy bins and less-than-fresh ingredients. Maybe they’re improving on the whole.

      Carrie – I hope it goes nationwide for sure!

      Ariana – No separate toaster. So yeah, this could be an issue. The sandwich never touched any part of the toaster, but if the toaster were to blow or drop a crumb, that could be an issue. I’m not sure if they have fans in those toasters – does anyone know?

      Barbara Bakes – Yes, there is indeed a learning curve when it comes to navigating a gluten-filled world as a gluten-free eater!

      Caryn – Thank you for reposting!

      Pat – The complaining was something I worried about – it did seem like the process the employee has to go through is long, and after all, they’re minimum wage earners. I hope that Subway can deal with employees like that, of course, but I have concerns whether the diligence that my sandwich was given will continue to be the standard across the board. That’s terrible that he had such a bad experience – I’m sorry!

      Gluten Free Live TV – I’m actually in the Dallas area, not east Texas. :) Sorry!

      To everyone else – thank you so much for your comments! Glad we can have such a lively dialogue about this, as well as other restaurants. It’s so tough for all of us to try to eat out, and if we can be heard, hopefully the restaurant industry will take us seriously and will truly consider the seriousness that gluten-free means when it comes to preparing safe foods for us.

  18. says

    Alta, thanks for going the extra mile with that brownie! My friend told me a couple weeks ago Subway is doing gluten free I was excited but skeptical. But now that I read your post , and I know how carful you are with eating right , I think I will try one!

  19. says

    Thanks for the great post and detailed information on Subway’s new gluten free option. I heard they were testing the idea in California so it’s good to hear they’ve made it to Texas as well. After reading your post, I hope MN is soon! I’m not a huge fan of subway as a whole, but if the bread is good (and safe), I’ll purchase a loaf of the sandwich bread without toppings to serve at home with Italian night or something. I’ve yet to find an edible gluten free french bread or baguette to purchase anywhere here. Thanks

  20. Karen says

    I tried this today and LOVED IT! I haven’t had a sandwich in about 4 years so I was so giddy! I personally like that it’s not a huge sandwich. I laugh at the “$5 foot long” commercials. You could feed a small village with that. The sandwich was great, and didn’t fall apart like many gluten-free buns. Also, the extra prep didn’t seem to take all that long really, so I didn’t feel as bad about holding up the line as I thought I would. I will be going many more times to help promote the test market. I hope it sticks!

  21. says

    Alta,

    I really wish I could try this sandwich. It looks so good and I would love to be able to get something besides a salad at Subway! After finding this review yesterday, I did hop over to Subway’s website and leave some good feedback expressing my interest in the gluten-free menu. I’m hoping that this endeavor is successful for Subway.

    You had also asked me about where I found the list of ingredients in the bun on my website. I found them on a CNN Health website about the trial:
    http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/13/subway-tests-gluten-free-sandwiches/

    Thanks so much for your wonderful website!

  22. Jennifer says

    I was diagnosed with Celiac three days ago, so I’m super new at gluten-free eating. We are used to eating out a lot, and I know that will have to change. Today, we went to Subway. My mom has Celiac, too, and said the bread was awful. Seems like others like it, so that’s good. But since I had only heard her opinion, I opted for a salad. I first asked if they had a sample of the bread so I could taste it. The answer was no, which I expected, so said I’d get a salad since I can’t have gluten and didn’t want to try the bread today. He made my salad as usual. There was no changing of the gloves, washing of hands, or anything. My husband noticed that he didn’t change his gloves, and commented that the veggies are probably all contaminated, too, since all day they touch the bread then dip their hands into the veggie containers. I will likely try the bread the next time we’re in after these good reviews, but for those of you extremely sensitive, I thought I’d throw the contamination issue out there. Thanks for the review!

  23. sproutsmama says

    for other locals, the subway in the smu food court serves them!! their staff weren’t as savvy with prep standards, but were very accommodating when i explained what i’d need.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Since January, Subway has been testing a bun made of egg whites, corn starch and tapioca starches for customers with gluten sensitivities at 700 outlets in Dallas and East Texas.1 They are even offering a gluten-free brownie for dessert made by French Meadow Bakery. It sounds like Subway has trained their staff well, and has gone to great lengths to insure little chance of cross contamination. The gluten-free blogger at TastyEatsAtHome is lucky enough to live near one of the Subways that is test marketing the gluten-free offerings. Read her review about the new products. [...]

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