March 9 2011 12:00 AM

California-launched Submarina chain brings great food to Lansing


California subs: They’re now in Michigan, — warm fresh buns, avocados on top.

If the "California Gurls" beat of Top 40 sugar-pop sex-kitten Katy Perry doesn’t draw you to Submarina in south Lansing, the jalapeno bacon just might.

The Golden Coast chain was founded in sunny San Diego in 1977, but it took 30 years to reach the Third Coast of the Great Lakes State. Franchise owner Tammy Reed opened Michigan’s only Submarina three years ago in the Edgewood Towne Center near Celebration!Cinema. Her patrons have a way of telling her they were ready for something different.

"Once I get a new customer, I usually don’t lose them," Reed says.

She wears her confidence on her sleeve, a by-product of having a family to support. Such moxie came in handy early on: A few months after she first opened shop, Reed took her swagger to Michigan State University and landed a coveted concessions contract.

If you’re a football or basketball fan (men’s or women’s), you might have consumed a Submarina creation without knowing it. Reed is one of two outside contractors allowed to serve food at Spartan Stadium and the Breslin Center. Business has been so good for Reed at Breslin that she has set up a mobile cart in addition to her permanent concession spot to handle the volume.

The concessions contract has been a lifeline for Reed, along with occasional catering gigs, as walkup traffic to her restaurant has slowed in direct proportion to the emptying retail fronts of the shopping mall Submarina is anchored in.

The challenge seems to invigorate her, though. From hustling to get the MSU contract, to her perfectionist tendencies as a caterer, to pre-dawn forays on the Internet — the only time she has available for marketing research — Reed has one thing in mind.

"I’m not afraid to make money for my kids’ future and my family," she says. "I love my life."

Reed has a passion for the food she serves, too. Careful to not badmouth her competition, Reed says what sets Submarina apart is the quality of food.

For instance, subs begin with meat that you actually watch being sliced on a commercial slicer, the kind you see behind the butcher counter at the supermarket.

"I’m not going to pull out something from a tub I cut on Sunday and sell it to you on Tuesday," Reed says. "You see exactly what you get."

The food is, to borrow more directly from Ms. Perry, fine, fresh and fierce. On a sixinch Santa Fe ($5.99), freshly sliced chicken breast is smothered under a blanket of pepper jack cheese. Adding to the bite of the cheese is an ingenious concoction: jalapeno bacon, fierce in design and flavor. Fine slices of avocado are added before the sandwich is personalized with fixings. The yellowgreen crescents of the avocado spoon each other atop cheese still bubbling from the toaster, a mild, creamy taste and texture detail that sandwich lovers revel in.

Some sandwiches are destined to be toasted, but even those not intended for heat may find their way to an oven on request. Subs can be transformed into wraps or salads, too.

The Santa Fe salad ($6.49) takes all of the same ingredients from the sub, save the cheese, and adds peperoncini, then mixes it all in a bed of dark green leaves for a punch of nutrition, the kind of lunch one might expect to find a health-conscious Californian eating on a hot sunny day.

Reed vacations in San Diego once a year to visit her father, who helped her start her franchise. There are many similarities between the Midwest and Southern California, Reed says, in the way people want to be treated and in what it takes to run a successful business. One difference is quite noticeable, though.

"It’s sunnier there than it is here," Reed says, "so they don’t wear as many clothes."

We may not be so sun-splashed in the Midwest and might not have all the glamor of California, but at least we have greattasting subs.

So, Katy, when you’re on tour in Michigan this June, and the sun kisses your skin and you get a little homesick, stop by Lansing for a taste of the West Coast — clothing optional.


438 E. Edgewood Blvd., Lansing 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (8 p.m. Apr.-Oct.) Monday-Saturday Noon-5 p.m. Sunday (517) 882-7707 TO, D (large orders only), OM, $