Thursday, July 07, 2016

Sabo's Subs, Hampton, NH

When I was younger, my family visited Hampton Beach every year for our annual vacation.  The boardwalk is loaded with options for food, ranging from pizza to fried seafood to McDonald's.  Of course, we usually packed a picnic cooler with the makings for sandwiches, so we didn't often get to explore the food options (well, besides the ice cream, slushies, and fried dough!)  But when we did, it was to go to Sabo's Subs.

Sabo's is located fairly far away from our family's specific spot on the beachfront, but it was never a question of if it was worth walking all the way to Sabo's.  Once we were old enough to be able to walk there alone, we were often sent to pick up the food for the adults who didn't want to go all the way there.  Such an important mission, to go get Sabo's!

Sabo's sells exactly one thing: subs.  Well, actually, not subs, they are Syrian wraps, but 40 years ago, when Sabo's opened, wraps were not a thing, and thus, they had to call them subs so that customers would still come to get sandwiches.  The choices are basic: ham, turkey, salami, tuna, italian combo, vegetarian.  They come standard with cheese (only American is available), iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mayo, and their special secret seasoning.  Hots and mustard can be added.  Besides bags of chips and cans of soda, that is it, and that is all Sabo's has ever sold, in my years of frequenting the place.  No frills, and certainly nothing like gluten-free options.

You order outside at a window, are given a number, and then can go wait in the shade inside for your sub.  There are tables inside, all self seating, or most people get the subs to go, since they are easily portable.  The entire place has a serious beach vibe.

Over the years, my love of Sabo's has remained largely unchanged, even when they went through some turmoil.  The shop has changed hands several times, I believe they are on the third owners at this point.  There were times where even in the height of summer, we'd venture there to find them closed, at 12:30pm, randomly.  There were times where the subs would come so lazily wrapped that they'd fall apart immediately.  Or that they would have so much mayo that they'd be soggy instantly.  But it didn't matter.  We loved our Sabo's.

And then ... I moved away.  First to college, then to graduate school, eventually to San Francisco.  I didn't visit Hampton Beach for years.  I turned into a foodie.  I completely stopped eating sandwiches.  Iceberg lettuce has not even been on a menu I've encountered in years.  I stopped considering American cheese "cheese" years ago.  Tomatoes are eaten only in-season, and only when they are heirlooms.  And what is mayo?  Don't you mean housemade aioli?

Um yeah.  I've changed.  I thought that there was absolutely no way that Sabo's could actually appeal to me at this point, let alone live up to my expectations.  I knew that I probably should leave it in my memories as that wonderful place, and not spoil it.

But I went to Hampton Beach for the day with my mom and sister, for old time's sake, and there was only one choice when it came to lunch.  We were going to Sabo's, for better or worse.

To say I approached the ordering window with apprehension is an understatement.  First, there was no line.  Back in the glory days, the line was always visible the moment you'd turn the corner onto 'C' street.  The wait always added to the anticipation.  But where were the crowds now?

Undeterred, my sister and I stepped up to place our orders.  She went for her standard choice of the Italian combo.  I hesitated and surveyed the options.  When is the last time I had deli meat?  Nothing sounded appealing.  Ham? Salami?  Ahh.  I almost just went for vegetarian, but it is just the standard lettuce/tomato/onion/pickles that come on every sub, with nothing additional besides an extra slice of American cheese.  So, I picked turkey, the one I always used to get.  It had been years since I'd had a turkey sandwich.

Spoiler: I loved it.  I even wanted to return to get a second one for dinner, rather than going to a nice restaurant as planned.  I can't wait to return, and you shouldn't either.
Turkey with Everything (half).  $7.
The subs come wrapped up in paper, very portable, perfect for walking along the beach with.  Normally one long sub, but I asked to have mine cut in half, so pictured here is just a half.  I always find it easier to eat this way.

The bread is Syrian bread, similar to a white pita, but thinner.  It wasn't stale, tasted fresh, and I liked how the exterior was a bit crispy.

Inside was a few slices of turkey and sliced white American cheese.  Tons of shredded iceberg lettuce, and little cubes of tomato, onions, and pickles rounded out the fillings.  I don't really have anything to stay about  these components, they were as generic and basic as could be.  Not offensive, but the tomato was totally flavorless, and iceberg really offers nothing to this world in general.  Except, on a hot summer day, the water content of the iceberg is perfect, refreshing, crispy, cooling.

The magic here is in the mayo and the special house seasoning.  I have no idea what is in it.  But it is delicious.  And the mayo isn't thick, it is runny.  As in, it seems like it is intentionally thinned out, or perhaps it is always just so hot that it is melting.  Or maybe it is moisture from all the iceberge?  Regardless, the mayo is very generously applied, and starts dripping out as you eat it.  And this is a good thing.  It keeps everything moist and creamy.

Sabo's was precisely what I remembered.  And, I realize that given my description, it sounds no different than something you could make with ingredients from just about any grocery store in 2 minutes.  And it sounds like something I'd loathe.  Yet ... I loved it.  The bread and the seasoning are really the special parts for me, but there is also something about the way all the different components really do combine together to create a perfect sub.

I'll be back.  And I'll get this again.  And maybe, just maybe, I'd even get a second one for dinner.

Price for a full sub is only $7, which is crazy for a beach boardwalk where prices of even order of fries is $5.50.
Sabo's Subs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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