By SUSAN ERICSON
On a visit to Elsie’s Sub Shop in Red Bank back in September, PieHole met Michael Mullins, a retiree from Middletown now living in Arizona. Whenever he returns to his Monmouth County roots, he told us, he makes a point of stopping at Elsie’s.
“In 1959, I’d take the bus down to the Carlton Theater [now the Count Basie Theatre] from Middletown. Back then the bus was ten cents,” he said. “Before I caught the bus to go home, I’d stop at Elsie’s for a number five,” or a turkey-and-cranberry-sauce sub.
That kind of loyalty helps keep the lines forming in this narrow but cheerful spot on Monmouth Street. Tongue-in-groove paneled walls painted white brighten the space, and cherry red trim brings an old-fashioned kitchen feel to the cozy four-table dining area.
At lunchtime, the aisle between tables fills in with customers waiting for their orders. Some stay to eat in, but most grab their order and take it back to work with them.
There are 50 different combinations of subs on the menu, and if one of those doesn’t float your boat, just tell Chris Covert — co-owner with his wife, Tish Reddington, for the last 20 years — what you’d like on your sandwich.
We go for half a number 15, an Italian sub ($5.30), which consists of ham, salami, and provolone cheese. We like the amount and freshness of both meats and the cheese. The addition of a hot pepper relish, along with the crisp-cold shredded lettuce, are also positive ingredients. We would have liked more onions, but the tomato slices were juicy and still in season. On a scale of 1 to 10, we give it a 9.5, with only the uninspired flavor and texture of the bread/roll holding it back.
We also order a half of a #35 Megga Veggie sub ($5.25) on a whole wheat roll that didn’t excite us as much. The canned black olives and Swiss cheese didn’t add much to the flavor of the sandwich, though we appreciated the addition of pickles to the shredded lettuce, tomatoes and hot pepper relish.