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  • Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Coliseum Shappes plaza on Coliseum Boulevard.

  • Chicken and cheddar on flatbread from Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Coliseum Shappes plaza on Coliseum Boulevard.

  • Tuna salad sub from Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Coliseum Shappes plaza on Coliseum Boulevard.

  • Little shortbead cookies are wrapped around the straws for milshakes at Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Coliseum Shappes plaza on Coliseum Boulevard.

  • The chewy oatmeal cookies were great at Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Coliseum Shappes plaza on Coliseum Boulevard.

  • Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Coliseum Shappes plaza on Coliseum Boulevard.

  • Meatball sub from Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Coliseum Shappes plaza on Coliseum Boulevard.

  • Roast beef sandwich with mushrooms and giardineira from Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Coliseum Shappes plaza on Coliseum Boulevard.

  • Chli from Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Coliseum Shappes plaza on Coliseum Boulevard.

  • Mediterranean sub from Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Coliseum Shappes plaza on Coliseum Boulevard.

  • Potato soup from Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Coliseum Shappes plaza on Coliseum Boulevard.

Sunday, September 10, 2017 1:00 am

Name misleading, but sandwiches pass test

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Potbelly

**1/2

Out of a possible five

$

The old saying, “the name says it all,” does not always apply to restaurants.

Take Potbelly Sandwich Shop, for instance. Figuring I could be the mascot for the restaurant chain with that name and not being familiar with it other than its name, I figured it would have either big sandwiches or some sort of stuffed sandwiches bursting at the seams like my khakis.

The sandwiches come in originals or “bigs,” but the bigs were not eye-opening at all. There were plenty of good points about the place and not really any bad. But was it good enough to separate itself from the many other sub chains out there?

The one thing truly unique about Potbelly, in Coliseum Shoppes along Coliseum Boulevard West, was its setting. It was more coffeehouse than fast food and provided a comfort level the others don't have. Having live music daily is a good way to reach out to the community – another thing most chains don't do – and I liked watching and listening to prospective artists as I dined.

The sandwiches are made in an assembly line fashion. You tell the first person what kind you want and what kind of bread or cheese, then shift to the other side of the conveyor oven where other employees added the fresh vegetable and condiments and take side and drink orders. The line ends at the register where an array of cookies and such can also be added.

My favorite sandwich had no meat at all. The Mediterranean had a thick smear of “zippy” hummus, red peppers, artichokes and cucumbers. Grilled chicken could be added, but was not needed.

On the soft, lightly toasted wheat bread, the combination of the vinegar-kissed artichoke hearts, sweet peppers, creamy hummus and crunchy cucumbers could not have been better. A dusting of Italian herbs was all I had added to it and all I ever would.

I would like to try it again on Potbelly's multigrain flatbread – the only other option than white or wheat – which had herbs in it that added a flavor punch.

Other than that wrap, there was little punch from the chicken cheddar sandwich – as is the case with most grilled chicken, so I wasn't expecting to be wowed. But I didn't like that Potbelly uses diced onions instead of longer pieces that would have had more impact.

The roast beef sandwich had the most flavor, but that was not necessarily a good thing. I had mine with Swiss and provolone cheese and paid extra for mushrooms. When asked if I wanted hot peppers, I thought that sounded great, too.

The meat was tasty and the cheese oozed, but it could have used more mushrooms. I did, however, find plenty of carrots, cauliflower, olives and celery. Apparently, when Potbelly asks you if you want hot peppers they mean giardiniera, which does have hot sport peppers in it, too. I like the classic Chicago pickled vegetable mix, which added a lot of heat, but someone who doesn't and was only expecting peppers might be upset by the misnomer.

My tuna sandwich was worthy of having again. Though the menu suggests Swiss cheese on it, I asked for cheddar thinking it would be more like a classic tuna melt. I had it with pickles, tomatoes and onions and was impressed at how the tuna salad stood out in terms of flavor.

The meatball sandwich did not stand out at all. There was just a little marinara on top of the dry meatballs, which badly needed a heavy coating of the sauce. There was enough cheese and the flavor of those meatballs was good, but with so little sauce it didn't do the job.

The soups all proved to be suitable – about what I would expect from a chain sandwich place – with the chili being my favorite. It was not too spicy, had a thick starchy base from its beans, was full of ground beef and had a little hint of sweetness to round it out nicely.

The potato and chicken noodle were pretty standard fare prepared soups with no interesting twists.

If I return, I will have a milkshake or smoothie with my meal. The coffee shake was my favorite as it had plenty of coffee flavor in spite of its pale color. I also loved the little circular shortbread cookies wrapped around the straws.

It was a fun twist I did not expect.

Potbelly's soft oatmeal cookies were fabulous, too. They were chewy and gooey and went perfect with my shake. The Dream Bar, which a man behind the counter said were guaranteed to give me good dreams, was also yummy. It was basically a super buttery blondie with chocolate chips on top.

I didn't remember having any good dreams that night, and I am not really dreaming about my next visit to Potbelly. It was different, but not different enough from the other sandwich places out there when it comes to the food.

So it doesn't look like I will be vying to be its mascot. Guess I will just have to wait until Fatburger comes to town.

Restaurant: Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Address: 501 Coliseum Blvd. E.

Phone: 471-3138

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Mediterranean ($5.55 original; $5.75 flat; 6.85 big), roast beef ($5.40; $5.60; $6.70), tuna salad ($5.30; $5.50; $6.60), meatball ($5.35; $5.55; $6.65), soup ($3.30 cup; $4.65 bowl), chili ($3.60; $5.05), cookies ($1.35), Dream Bar ($1.55), shakes/smoothies ($3.30)

Rating breakdown: Food: * (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.