Sub Showdown: Berrigan’s vs. Steph’s

By: John Kubik

There are plenty of places to get subs in Bloomsburg. Fortunately for hungry Huskies, the two best sub-shops in town are located just down the hill form campus, mere yards from each other. This week, we pitted Berrigan’s versus Steph’s to answer the highly contested question of just who is the best sub-shop in downtown Bloomsburg.

Such a highly charged topic requires a second opinion, so I enlisted my roommate to help out. The rules of the competition were simple; one of us would purchase a sixteen inch Berrigan’s sub and the other would purchase a sixteen inch sub from Steph’s. We then split the subs between us and compare our notes on each experience. We then averaged them to get the scores listed above.

Our first stop was Berrigan’s. Nestled into a narrow storefront, Berrigan’s could be easy to miss. Once inside, the first impression is that Berrigan’s is small and dingy. The layout is long and narrow with almost no natural lighting and the flat grill is located at the front of the restaurant near the door, either adding to or creating this impression. The service, on the other hand, was good. The server was more than willing to make suggestions and answer questions and even made a little small talk while we waited for our food.

After coming from Berrigan’s, Steph’s feels clean, bright and spacious. The food is prepared in a kitchen at the rear of the restaurant, out of sight from the customers. On the tables, napkin holders with built in picture frames give Steph’s a sense of personality, and a TV hanging in the corner competed with the voices of one of the cooks singing in the kitchen. These things filled the time as we waited for our order, but the noise quickly became a bit annoying. Had we stayed to eat at Steph’s, rather than taking our food to-go, the feeling would have probably gotten worse. Despite the personality of the location, the servers at Steph’s seemed impersonal compared to the service at Berrigan’s. This isn’t to say that the servers weren’t polite or helpful, but the servers at Steph’s seemed to show professional interest rather than genuine friendliness.

Once we got home, we dug into our meal. A cheesesteak topped with sweet pepper, provolone, onion and mushrooms represented Berrigan’s. Steph’s competed with a buffalo chicken sub served “in the Garden.”

Steph’s buffalo chicken consists of breaded, light meat chicken fingers coated in a rich and spicy hot sauce that you can appreciate for the fraction of a second between when you take your first bite and before the burn begins. Steph’s menu states that “All hot garden subs are served with mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and hot peppers unless otherwise specified,” but the buffalo chicken only had mayo, lettuce and tomato. This criticism will probably seem like quibbling however, since the buffalo sauce wilted the lettuce and tomatoes and completely overpowered the mayo, rendering them into non-entities of taste and texture. Fortunately, adding ranch dressing provided a simple solution that took some of the edge off of the sauce and improved the overall dining experience. In defense of Steph’s, the sub we ate was not a badly prepared sandwich; rather it was a sub whose concept had some significant design flaws.

Berrigan’s cheesesteak, like Steph’s buffalo chicken, was generous with the meat portions. Unlike Steph’s, Berrigan’s also loaded on a fair amount of veggies, although they were mixed unevenly within the sandwich. The meat was reasonably moist and juicy, but I thought it was on the drier end of the scale (my roommate disagrees, saying that it is one of the few cheesesteaks that don’t require ketchup). One truly stand-out feature of Berrigan’s cheesesteak was the sweet onions. The onions were incredibly sweet with a tangy, vinegary aftertaste that gave an extra pop to the sandwich, although in some bites it could be a bit overpowering. I wouldn’t get them every time, but they added a nice change of pace to the typical cheesesteak.

Berrigan’s and Steph’s are both outstanding restaurants, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Berrigan’s won our competition, but with only a sliver of a margin. So, the next time you pick up a sub, check out Berrigan’s and Steph’s. Either way you in for a treat!

The Competitors

Steph’s Subs: 150 E. Main Street, Bloomsburg (From Campus: on left just past the intersection of 478 and Main)

Open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. (Delivery: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. & 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m.); Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (Delivery 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. & 5 p.m.-9 p.m.)

Berrigan’s Subs: 142 E. Main Street, Bloomsburg (From Campus: on left just past Steph’s)

Open Sun.-Thu., 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. (Delivery service during normal business hours)

Reviewed: Wed, Oct. 29 2008 (7:40 p.m.)

The Breakdown

Quality: Berrigan’s: A- ; Steph’s: B

Cost: Berrigan’s: A- ($7.90+ drinks & tax for two)

Steph’s: A- ($7.90+ drinks & tax for two)

Service: Berrigan’s: B; Steph’s: B-

Ambiance: Berrigan’s: C; Steph’s: B-

GPA: Berrigan’s: 3.09; Steph’s: 3.00

The Winner: BERRIGAN’S!

Questions, suggestions, comments, concerns?

E-mail John at thevoicefoodcritic@yahoo.com

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