Chef Mike’s Sub Shop had its humble debut for students on the meal plan on Tuesday, so expert food critics Camille Sensiba, Victoria Borlando, and Lillian Rountree reunited to check out what Columbia’s beloved Chef Mike had to offer this time.
In the fall semester, Columbia Dining announced in an email that beginning January 18, Chef Mike’s Sub Shop—a new dining option that only serves soups and sandwiches—in Uris Hall will allow students to use their meal swipes in yet another location. The email, unlike that of the Faculty House announcement, was simple: if you want soup, sandwiches, or both, this is a new, quicker option for dining. Unofficially, this is Columbia’s Diana Café, with just as many options for students and not a lot of variety on purpose.
So, because we did this last time, we decided to go to Chef Mike’s Sub Shop on opening day to give a full and honest review of both the experience and the food itself. Here are our thoughts:
How it works:
Upon entering Uris (anytime between Monday and Friday, 11 am to 7 pm) in all its Brutalist glory, go straight, then right, and follow the arrows for “Tasty Subs.” For one swipe (or $15.95), you can get a titular sub, side, soup, drink, and dessert—but don’t worry, because there are plenty of signs to remind you of all of this. Just note that you have to swipe in before grabbing those tasty subs, after which you can choose which line to stand in (either the hot or cold sandwiches).
Camille: The Sub Shop feels like a classic college student center spot, which Columbia was, in my opinion, lacking. Sure, it doesn’t have the drama of John Jay, and sure, you might have to go through Uris to get to it, but the casual vibe and the efficiency make the risk of passing by a few businessmen on the way worth it.
Vic: It’s exactly what a shop that exclusively serves soups and salads would feel like. There’s a line for the self-serve soup station (try saying that five times fast), and there’s a line for the sub station. What else could you need, really? It’ll be more fun (hopefully) when indoor dining resumes, but for right now you can just enjoy the club remixes of pop favorites like “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele and “One Kiss” by Dua Lipa while you wait for your made-to-order sub. The place gets a lot of natural light during the daytime, and the hours are actually considerate toward student needs! In other words, it doesn’t close at 2 pm.
Lillian: I don’t work in an office building, but it kind of feels like a place that would be open for workers on the ground floor of an office building. In a good way!
Camille: It could’ve just been because it was the first day, but the whole experience was pretty quick and painless (in spite of a few logistical confusions that can be worked out easily). There’s actually a really nice balance between meat and vegan/vegetarian subs, so if you have dietary needs, you won’t be relegated to a small dark corner like in some of the other halls. Also, the food itself was, I would say, surpassing decent. The sheer amount of food makes me feel like I’m really getting my swipe’s worth, and I can imagine it will be great when I’m wandering out of Avery, desperate for large volumes of bread.
Vic: I can’t believe it’s finally happening, but dare I say… the food! It was strange at first that you only are allowed to pick out five things, but after seeing the portion sizes of said things, you won’t need to worry! It’s also easy to carry your food to other locations, so it’s perfect for Grab-n-Go. It’s also really fun to get a massive sandwich served in a baguette roll because then you can stuff it in your tote bag and pretend like you were actually accepted into the Columbia Study Abroad Program in Paris.
Lillian: The portion sizes are out of control in the best way. The sandwiches are enormous, bountiful, plentiful. It’s like a cornucopia tucked inside Uris… The sandwich game at dining halls is not the strongest, so it’s wonderful to have a new addition addressing this need, especially one where you can watch the sandwiches being made to order and not have to wonder how long they have been sitting there, pondering themselves (hi, Ferris). Once the organizational kinks (see below) are smoothed out, it’s a clear, un-confusing process; a central location; and, as Vic says, perfect for Grab-n-Go.
We have every faith that the people of Chef Mike’s Sub Shop will work out the kinks we experienced on opening day. They were mainly organizational: it wasn’t immediately clear where to swipe or where to stand for a hot or cold sandwich (or where to awkwardly linger while your sandwich is made). But that is nothing a little rope and signage can’t fix!
Sandwich: Hot Vegan Chicken Parm
Side: Green apple
Drink: Nothing, but I could have had my pick of anything from the soda machine
Dessert: Chocolate Chip Cookie
If you’re in a soup-and-sandwich kind of mood, this feels like one of the best uses of a meal swipe right now. With everything being grab-n-go for the time being, you get a truly massive amount of food that (unless you’re someone who can balance a tower of ten to-go containers) you could only dream of getting from Ferris or John Jay. It was a fresh, cozy meal that definitely left me feeling satisfied, and it was a much less confusing and emotional experience than Diana, which has a similar swipe structure but definitely has a learning curve for the uninitiated. I’m also just glad that there’s a dining hall option on the northern end of campus, because this is definitely a convenient location for when I’m leaving class, in need of fuel. Maybe this will be what gets me through the winter months.
Sandwich: Cold Vegan Italian Hummus with Lettuce, Onion, Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato, and Balsamic Vinaigrette
Side: Was the hoagie not enough? We were able to get sides this whole time? I must have misread the sign…
Soup: Three Bean Chili
Drink: Water in probably the biggest plastic cup Columbia Dining will ever give you
Dessert: Oatmeal raisin cookie (with seeds in the raisins!)
Listen. I have a passion for soup, sandwiches, and every and all combinations of the two. I’m also from Philly, so we’re calling them hoagies from here on out because the sheer size of the 10-inch roll filled to the brim with delicious content was Wawa-like in its proportions. The three-bean chili actually had spices you could taste and identify, so I was thoroughly impressed! It hurts a little that this dining hall is probably the one with the freshest produce, but going here will never make you want to eat a Ferris sandwich ever again (mostly because these are ready-made and not constantly fermenting in a lit-up box). The hoagie was cold, but sometimes they have to be! Especially with the delicious pairing with the soup, my soul and heart were warmed anyway, and I was able to waddle home with a full stomach and pure joy. The cookie was fine except for the fact that the raisins had seeds in them, but that’s not Chef Mike’s fault, so I won’t complain. I blacked out during lunch with the other two and woke up to a fully eaten hoagie. There isn’t anything that can get between me and this hoagie.
Sandwich: Hot Chicken Parm
Side: Given the size of the sandwich it felt like Hot Chicken Parm with a side of Hot Chicken Parm. That is to say, no side
Soup: Hearty lentil
Drink: Water from my 14 oz Nalgene
Dessert: Hot Chicken Parm, again
Like Insomnia Cookies, my sandwich’s quality was exponentially increased due to the simple fact that it was warm. As I ate it in the Lewisohn tent, variably bombarded by cold winds (New York weather) or warm (heating machine), my culinary taste for the sandwich waned even as I continued to eat it. The amount of foodstuffs, especially considering how much protein and dairy was in it, was formidable. This could tide me over for a week if I was careful about it, but I’m skeptical of the quality post-reheat. But it was indeed a sandwich, and I did indeed eat, like, ⅓.
The lentil soup was good dining hall soup, and I enjoyed it! No other notes.
Camille: While everything is grab-and-go, this is definitely an ideal spot for me. It’s a convenient and logical addition, which can’t be said for a lot of the choices Columbia has made in the past.
Vic: I have a passion for sandwiches. And soup.
Lillian: Based solely on the hot sandwich of the very first day of operation, I’d say the cold sandwiches are probably a more reliable bet (Vic’s sandwich looked much more appealing). As for the soup: soup is soup, and soup is good! Thanks to being open from 11 am to 7 pm, a streamlined operation, and a place with real options for those with dietary restrictions, I imagine it’ll be a hit. But if you’re looking for ~vibes~, you’re better off making the trek to Faculty House, or, hot take, Hewitt (I love the windows looking out onto Claremont!).
Food photography by Camille Sensiba