Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
Subs by Any Other Name
Maybe you prefer grinders, bombers, torpedoes, or hoagies. Whatever your preference, Hungry Lu's in Ocean Beach sells them on the cheaper side of normal. The sub shop doesn't have much space inside--there's a short counter and a couple of tables out on the sidewalk--because the interior is packed with cookies and kitchen space.
All the subs come in one (large) size and cost $6.50-$6.99. The notable exception being the "torpedo special" that's just $5 and has mortadella, cotto and genoa salami, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onions, pepperoncini, oil, and vinegar.
I tried an Italian beef sandwich of roast beef au jus served hot with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, peppers, onions, and a spicy relish. The sandwich is a Chicago native, but this San Diego version had a pleasant tangy, saltiness and the beef was tender enough that it didn't all pull out of the sandwich when I took a bite (a most hateful phenomenon).
The meatball sub practically exploded with fillings. The meatballs were good, but the sauce had a generic flavor that lacked anything to distinguish it from the masses.
A more conventional cold cut of capocollo and provolone was filled with spicy ham, cheese, vegetables, oil, and vinegar.
The sandwich fillings were all good, but there wasn't quite enough of them. I don't want to leave the impression that I want my sandwiches overstuffed with enough meat and cheese to feed a small army, but I think the ratio of bread to filling was skewed in favor of carbohydrates. I would have liked to see more juice in the beef sub, zestier sauce on the meatball, and a few more slices of quality ham on the cold cut...but they were all better than average and well worth the modest (though not rock bottom) prices.
The surprise gem of the meal? Chinotto. It's a digestive soda made by San Pellegrino that's flavored with a kind of bitter orange. I found the bottle tucked at the bottom of the drinks cooler and I had to try it. The taste was much like Campari, a bitter liquor that I adore, and I image that a Chinotto over crushed ice with a twist of fresh lime might be the single best alcohol-free, post-prandial beverage around.
For dessert, Hungry Lu's puts bakes Italian cookies like biscotti and cannoli. Individual pastries are $1-$3 and a box of assorted cookies costs $5. I was surprised that they weren't stale. Even more surprised that they were delicate and flavorful.
Catering and delivery are available for large groups, but I think the idea of chewing on an Italian sub smothered in hot giardinera at a sidewalk table is much more appealing.
4920 Voltaire Street