“My sausage sub is peppery, fennelly, oniony, a bit sweet, cheesy, and bursting with green peppers.”
  • “My sausage sub is peppery, fennelly, oniony, a bit sweet, cheesy, and bursting with green peppers.”
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“Okay, Goldilocks. Have a nice hair day.”

That’s me to Carla. It’s my day off. We’re in the Crown City — Coronado — for her date with Diane, “the greatest stylist in the universe.”

“Hair today, gone tomorrow,” Carla says ominously. “What are you looking at?”

“That.” I point to the top of the turret above the Avenue Liquor store, where orange tiles meet the blue sky. “See?”

“Oh, wow. A sailing ship. How cute.”

It’s a little old rusty white Spanish galleon, a wind vane pointing east, like that’s where it would like to sail. Beautiful. Something about it…

“Okay,” Carla says. “Gotta go. See you back — here?” We’re standing beside some shiny metal tables outside the liquor store. “Couple of hours? I’ll be the one with the green mohawk.”

I give my ship one more glance. It swings on its mast. That turret room be someone’s retreat, copying the towers of the nearby Hotel Del. But the building it sits on is your standard one-story white stucco block, housing the liquor store. Right in front of me there’s a big plastic banner.

“Grand Opening. Avenue Subs now open.”

The banner’s probably been there a while, ’cause geraniums climb halfway up it. But I see there’s a little kitchen just inside the liquor store.

So, why not? I walk in through the Orange Avenue entrance (they have another around the corner on Ninth Avenue). On the right sits the counter and work station built for the sub operation. It has a sneeze-guard glass barrier so we customers don’t breathe all over the subs while they’re being made.

The guy behind the counter sees me waiting. “Hey Larry!” he calls. “Customer.”

I study the menu board behind the prep station.

Larry appears. He puts on a blue apron and red visor and plastic gloves. “All the subs on the left side of the menu are $5, for the full foot-long,” he says. “That’s a special today.” He points to the “regular subs,” like the Orange Avenue Italian. It has quite a bit of stuff in it: ham, pepperoni, salami, provolone, and parmesan. Normally, it’s $4.50 for a half or $6.99 for a whole. Five bucks for the whole foot-long sounds good. It’s the same deal for tuna or chicken-salad subs, or the veggie deluxe, with the usual cavalcade of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, sprouts, avo, olives, onions, and your choice of cheese.

Specialty subs are a bit higher. The Super Orange Avenue Italian, with hot capicollo (kinda like prosciutto), plus smoked, peppered turkey, Genoa salami, and provolone cheese is $4.99 for half and $7.75 for the foot-long. Also in this column, the Philly steak, Philly chicken, Reuben, and pastrami. They have salads for $3.99 (for the Garden Salad; you can add chicken or tuna for $1.50), or $6.50 (for the Island Chef Salad, with turkey, ham, bacon, avo, parmesan, and various nuts and twigs).

I know Carla’s gonna be into this big time. But two hours? No man can last that long. Guess I’ll just go for a half-something to hold the fort. “How about those Island BBQ ribs,” I say to Larry. “Give me half. Love ribs.” I mean, $4.99 for ribs, even in a sub sandwich? On this island? A steal.

But first, Larry has a few questions.

“White roll, wheat roll, sliced sourdough or rye, or wrap?”

“Wheat roll.”

“Provolone, American, jack, pepper jack, cheddar, Swiss?”

“Pepper jack.”

“Toasted or cold?”

“Toasted.”

“Lettuce, onions, tomato, pepperoncini, oil and vinegar? Hot chopped cherry peppers? Sweet peppers?”

“Yes, yes, yes, sure, absolutely, why not?”

It takes ten minutes for Larry to prepare and cook and wrap. Meantime, I pick up a lemonade ($1.29) and head out to those sidewalk tables. Nice view of luminous, rose-filled gardens in the grassy median that runs down the center of Orange Avenue and an old stone Episcopalian church beyond. Love this lemonade, and when I finally get to the BBQ sub, it’s juicy, full of flavor, with lettuce, onions, yellow peppers, tomatoes, and a crusty wheat bun that’s toasted but not tough. The ribs are boneless, and even if they’re frozen and factory-prepared — and I don’t know for sure that they are — they taste real. They taste great.

So I sit, sip, and watch the world go by. Lotta kids with expensive tennis racquets, teens on bikes, old folks on scooters, hep parents in li’l electric runabouts. Lots of stopping and talking. It’s a nice town when you look at it from this angle.

Then I have this idea. I go in and put in a pre-order — this time, with a gal named Richalyn — for an Orange Avenue Italian, the foot-long (on special, it’s only $5), plus a half sausage sub, from the specialty subs side of the menu ($4.99).

When I see Carla making her way down the avenue, I run in to Richalyn and say, “Let her rip!”

Carla’s hair is…wow, short. “Summer, sweetie,” she says. Actually, I like it. Glows like a halo, backlit by the evening sun. I go get our subs. Richalyn’s cutting them in half, right on time.

Bottom line, at first bite Carla loves the ham-pepperoni-salami combo of the Italian, ’specially on the hot, toasted wheat bread. And even though I’m getting stuffed, my sausage sub is peppery, fennelly, oniony, a bit sweet, cheesy, and bursting with green peppers. Really interesting. Complex, like a good beer. (Pity is, they have every beer in the world sitting nice and frosty inside, but you can’t open them here on the sidewalk.) Carla says hers is fresh and meaty, with good brisk kicks from the jalapeños.

Then, halfway into her second bite, she wipes her mouth. “I have an idea,” she says. “Why don’t I call Diane, and we take her out to dinner.”

She sees the panic in my eyes. ■

The Place: Avenue Subs, at Avenue Liquor, Wine & Sub Shoppe, 878 Orange Avenue, Coronado, 619-435-4668
Type of Food: American, subs
Prices: Breakfast ham and egg sub, $3.50 (half), $6.50 (whole); regular subs, $4.50 (half), $6.99 (whole); include Orange Avenue Italian, with ham, pepperoni, salami, provolone, parmesan; specialty subs ($4.99/$7.75), include Super Orange Avenue Italian, with hot capicollo, smoked, peppered turkey, Genoa salami, and provolone cheese; also Philly steak, or Island BBQ ribs; garden salad, $3.99 (with chicken or tuna, $4.49); Island Chef Salad, $6.50
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–2:00 a.m., daily
Buses: 901, 904
Nearest Bus Stop: Orange Avenue at Ninth Street

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