Penn Station East Coast Subs is a submarine sandwich franchising chain that has stretched over 310 locations throughout 14 states, and though the name says “East Coast,” the base of operations is centered in the Mid West.
Even during the pandemic, Penn Station franchises remained profitable, and the brand is slowly ramping up to another mass expansion as they’ve proven its sustainability through arduous times. Given enough credit, Penn Station stands as a tough competitor to the overpopularized Subway, Jersey’s Mike, and Jimmy Johns.
As for their vegan openness, Penn Station has 2 vegetarian subs: Artichoke and Veggie. While both are customizable to a degree, what hinders them from being vegan-friendly is the Premium Butter Flavored Oil made by Penn Station.
This buttery flavored, opaque yellow liquid contains milk and eggs, but in very trace amounts, and is smeared onto the proprietary bread before oven baking to improve its texture. Since the practice is very traditional, it almost seems as if it isn’t optional to skip the buttery oil.
Can The Vegetarian Options Be Veganized?
The Artichoke sandwich is composed of grilled artichoke heart, provolone, oregano, parmesan, and mayo plus mushroom sauce, while the Veggie sandwich is a Dagwood style, create-your-own sub and has options for grilling, serving cold, in a wrap, or as a salad. The Veggie sandwich can also be served with a drizzle of vegan-friendly teriyaki sauce.
Well, if you can ask at the register to have your sub without a smear of their prized buttery flavored oil, then maybe you can get away with a decently edible sandwich with lettuce, onions, and tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, bell peppers, and pickles.
Mind you though that baking bread without oil may cause the outer crust to be tough and chewy since according to BusbyBakery, oils act as natural tenderizers, flavor enhancers, and moisturizers in bread. Without any type of oil, the bread simply becomes bland, tough, and nearly unappetizing. Sadly, Penn Station doesn’t seem to replace their “premium” buttery oil with anything else.
More so, on one account by Mashed, 33% of 612, respondent customers thumb down on Penn Station’s Veggie Burger as its worst serving. It seems they were sorely displeased by how overly simple the sub was, pointing out that it was no better than a substandard, lettuce and onions sandwich and had a terrible onion taste that couldn’t be countered by any other ingredient in the pile whatsoever.
The Artichoke didn’t make out too liked either, another 32% of the same voters reject the unusual blend of flavors and ingredients within the sub. I mean, after all, Artichoke hearts, odd they may be, aren’t very popular in the West but are more appreciated by Orients.
If we were to customize the Artichoke sandwich into our vegan preference, then even more of its flavor and final shreds of redemption would be lost. Meaning to say, even if you were to have the vegan version of this unusual recipe, you might just end up being an additional digit within that group of 32%.
Let’s just say that Penn Stations vegetarian subs aren’t the best ones in the plant-based sandwich selection, especially for vegans.
Are There Any Other Vegan-Friendly Options?
Moving on from the sandwiches, there are some vegan options from Penn Station, which you can count on your fingers. The hand-cut, Idaho potato sticks are flash-fried in cholesterol-free peanut oil and are sold in small, medium, and large sizes. A bag of Lays classic potato chips; sometimes other chips are available. Beverages such as freshly-squeezed lemonade, freshly-brewed iced tea, Pepsi Cola, and Dr. Pepper are also available.
Their wraps are dairy-free, but not vegan since they contain egg components. You can opt for a Dagwood salad from the same ingredients as their Veggie sub, but remember to replace the mayo with a vegan-friendly dressing sauce instead, or perhaps skip it entirely.
That’s pretty much it for their vegan options.
Other Things You May Want To Know
- Penn Station East Coast Subs was founded by Jeff Osterfeld in 1985.
- The first opened Penn Station Restaurant was in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- It adopted the additional “East Coast Subs” as Jeff attributes his inspiration to the Philly cheesesteak he had on a business trip.
- Penn Station’s franchising concept was “fresh ingredients and display cooking” which greatly entertained and attracted customers.
- The grilled cheesesteak, fresh-cut french fries, and freshly-squeezed lemonade were part of the original menu, and are still widely popular today.
- Penn Station has 310 locations scattered across the Midwest and Southwest states; Ohio, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
- Penn Station is almost entirely comprised of franchisees, with only 1 location known to be company-owned.
- The average time you get your order from Penn Station is 6 minutes.
- Dine-in customers would usually spend 20 to 25 minutes inside.
- Present Penn Station president, Craig Dunaway says in a Forbes interview, “proprietary bread. Our bread has won awards, and the bread is served hot, an.d our fries are fresh cut.” Implying that this is their edge over their gigantic competitors.
- You can spend $11 at Penn Station and get yourself a hot sub, french fries, and a cool drink.
- Penn Station has a unique and surprisingly effective franchising platform that includes a deal with zero percent royalty for six months and 50% off initial franchise fees.
- Penn Station is known as a super-regional brand in its respective states.
Vegan-Friendly Sub Sandwiches
As I’ve said, if you’re looking for delicious, no-skipping-this-and-that vegan sub, hero, hoagie, po’boy, rocket, torpedo, dagwood, Zepplin, or Italian sandwich, whatever you may call it, then Penn Station East Coast Subs isn’t the best place to look for one. So, on that note, here are some of the best, vegan-friendly sandwich restaurants recommended by VegNews, your best online website for the latest vegan news.
Grotesque food presentations, punk metal puns, and terrifyingly delicious vegan sandwiches, who wouldn’t be interested in swiping a sub from Snackrilege retailers when they’re around? Snackrilege is a family-owned business that travels across the states selling deli vegan meats and sandwiches that you have to try.
Don’t miss out on Snackrilege’s spicy and flavorful hoagies, The Steak Bite Love and Pig Champion, both housing delicious slices of seitan meat between Portland French Bread Ciabatta.
The Steak Bite Love is Snackrilege’s take on the classic Philly Cheese Steak. House-seasoned seitan smothered with sautéed onions and peppers atop house-made spicy cheese spread and house-seasoned spicy mayo. All spiced and everything spicier!
The Pig Champion is a champion indeed, just without the pig! A smokey, cheezy, shaved pork(less) sandwich with house-made smoky cheddar, house-made “In League with Seitan BBQ poor’k” with fresh Rainbow in the Dark Slaw (spiced black olives, green peppers, and pickles).
A fast-casual chain restaurant specializing in hearty vegan meals from sandwiches to salads, soups, sides, and desserts. Their menu changes based on seasonal ingredients, but some specialties are never off the options.
Try out their Chicken Fajita Cheesesteak with plant-based chicken fajitas, vegan cheese sauce, bell peppers, red onion, cilantro, creamy chipotle sauce, toasted baguette, and a side of your choice. I highly recommend their tempura asparagus with Szechuan dipping sauce for this spring. Add in with some hot, creamy Broccoli Cheddar Soup and finally a dairy-free Strawberry Cheesecake Parfait.
A Meatball Sub is also a good choice if you want something heavier and spicy. Loaded with spicy marinara, plant-based provolone, arugula, truffle aioli, and parmesan truffle potato chips, this chunky sandwich won’t disappoint.
If you’re from Georgia, surely you’ve heard of this rapidly expanding chain restaurant with the most scandalous burger names! I assure you, you get the best bang for your buck here.
Take a friend with you because you’d need a helping hand, or mouth (alright, enough with the dirty jokes!), in this case, to finish up one Hollywood Hooker hoagie filled with vegan chopped Philly with jalapeños, bell peppers, and caramelized onions, topped with vegan provolone, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and vegan mayo.
Now, Ike’s not a 100% vegan restaurant for starters, but it does house the so-called Best Vegan Meatballs in America recognized by none other than PETA. Also, their menu indicates other options that can be made vegan in-store, so pay a visit to one of their restaurants nationwide and they’ll be more than willing to cater to your vegan taste buds, and buddies.
Meatless Mike reels in both vegans and the most vicious carnivores, and for many good reasons. No one seems to easily beat the temptation of biting into those vegan meatballs doused with marinara, pepper jack, lettuce, tomatoes, and housemade dirty sauce!
Oh, remember that Artichoke Sandwich? Ike’s got them too, but this time, it’s done right! The Sometimes I’m a Vegetarian sandwich can be made vegan by replacing provolone with their plant-based pepper jack.
That’s not all, they’ve got more!
- James & The Giant Peach – vegan fried chicken
- Fall’ing for Ike’s – vegan turkey
- Handsome Owl – vegan chicken with teriyaki sauce
- Pee Wee – vegan turkey with purple slaw and French dressing
- Maya Angelou – vegan steak
All uniquely named sandwiches can be made vegan as you order, so what’re you waiting for? They’ve probably got a store sitting near you!
Penn Station may be one of the franchising giants for subs in the Midwest, but they’re not an option for vegans, since their vegetarian sandwiches are already disappointing to the commoners, what more to us? I also don’t advise people to go to restaurants with such limiting menu items. I strongly believe that every environment-friendly diet on Earth deserves more than just some finger-count options from well-faring restaurants.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of vegan-friendly sandwiches, restaurant chains, franchises, and stores out there, and they’re no less flavorful than their original counterparts too. Let’s continue to support these growing businesses as we all share the same goal of making a friendlier, guilt-free environment.