Petty controversy: The Subway falafel flap

The chain is adding a Middle Eastern staple to its roster of sandwiches, and not everyone approves. Is Subway straying too far from what makes it popular?

Subway is testing out a falafel sandwich in the Chicago market but some Facebook fans are already begging for it to spread to the East Coast.
(Image credit: Facebook)

The controversy: Subway, the ubiquitous chain known for its "$5 footlong" sub, recently introduced falafel sandwiches for testing in the Chicago area. A Middle Eastern favorite made of chickpeas and/or fava beans, falafel has surged in popularity in the U.S. in recent years. Subway's experiment is part of a broader trend in which fast-food chains try to broaden their appeal by peddling new kinds of cuisine; Domino's now offers buffalo wings and pizza, Dunkin' Donuts sells pancake bites, and McDonald's serves up cappuccinos. But at least one Chicago critic is upset that America's chains have tried to experiment with menu items that fall outside their area of expertise. Should Subway stick to doing what it knows best?

The reaction: Fast-food chains peddling fattening meals is bad, says Steve Johnson at Chicago Tribune, but falafel at Subway is part of a "more insidious problem" — namely, that "too many of America's fast-food emporiums are failing to stay in their place." And "just as you don't often find the football and debate teams sitting together in high school," restaurants should focus on their mission statement, not try to do everything at once. But this sandwich gives vegetarians "reason to celebrate," says Eric Fortney in This Dish Is Vegetarian. "Anytime a major eating establishment decides to offer a new plant-based selection, that doesn't involve just simply slapping a piece of lettuce on a dry bun, it's big news." Even better, Subway's falafel sandwich tastes "way better than I had expected," says DJ Meltdown. Still, with so many other good falafel options around, "I'm not sure that this concept will fly in Chicago."

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