Tubby’s Grilled Submarines

Dusk in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. Cars accelerate from red light to red light, the drivers in a rush to get home and watch TV. A parking lot on Harper Avenue is bathed in the glow from a pale yellow Tubby’s Sub Shop set back from the main road. Occasionally, a car pulls in and parks, a hungry customer walking out and entering through the building’s glass door. A small vertical strip of stone panels by the front entrance adds a touch of class and sophistication to the whole affair.

It don't get better than this.OK, so the photo wasn’t taken at dusk. Cut me some slack!

“12 inch Steak & Cheese on white!”


Our man has done this before. He’s a seasoned grill cook, and he’s got the burn marks to prove it. A 12 inch Steak & Cheese? That’s nothing, as easy as asking a thief to steal or cheat to cheat. Natural; simple; obvious.

Like an artist dipping his brush into his palette, he takes a small ladle and scoops out the perfect amount of diced onions from the metal container to his right. He dumps the onions onto the grill in front of him with a flourish; the grill hisses and spits back at him in response.

As the onions sizzle he grabs two semi-frozen and quite raw slices of what we’re told is steak from the drawer below him and slams ’em onto the grill with a resounding smack. Wafer-thin, the meat bubbles in the searing heat, quickly browning around the edges.

Satisfied, he flips the slices of so-called steak over and cuts the meat to shreds with his two trusty spatulas, the ends sheathed in grill gunk. That task successfully completed, he mixes the onions in with the steak and waits impatiently for the steak to cook through as his equally greasy coworker to his left plops a bun from Tringali’s Bakery facedown on the grill to soak in the flavors.

The mise-en-scène.The mise-en-scène at Tubby’s.  The motion blur emphasizes the speed of the workers.

Once the steak takes on a nice light brown color – and it doesn’t take long – our cook flips the bun faceup and uses it for leverage as he lifts the steak and onions onto it. His work done, he lifts the bun with his spatula and plops it down on a wrapper at the prep station. Steam rises visibly from the steak, and its wonderful aroma fills the air near the front counter.

“12 inch steak and cheese, all the way!”

The prep girl takes over, swiftly sprinkling garlic salt on the meat and then covering it with triangular slices of processed white cheese that melt into a goo almost immediately. Lettuce, tomatoes, and hearty helping of Tubby’s Famous Dressing – a top secret creamy Italian dressing that’s sweet and not too tangy – tops the sub off. All that’s left now is to wrap it up and hand it off to the salivating customer.

Delicious.There she is!

And what a sub it is, a Detroit original made assembly line style at Tubby’s. Notice, too, how no oil or butter was used at any point in the process. The natural juices in the steak are, believe it or not, enough. When you consider that they’ve been doing this since 1968, they’re probably on to something, aren’t they?

Honestly, for only $7.29, you can’t go wrong with a large Steak & Cheese. OK, so maybe the “steak” tastes closer to what they serve up at McDonald’s or Arby’s than a filet mignon at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, but it hits the spot in that familiar way only cheap, greasy beef can.

And since a large Steak & Cheese has over 1,000 calories, it’d better!


5 thoughts on “Tubby’s Grilled Submarines

  1. Tubby’s makes a phenomenal Steak & Cheese. I can attest to that.

    They haven’t expanded past the immediate Metro Detroit area, but they seem to be holding strong there. If they would only modify their buildings to accommodate for more fake stone paneling, I too am certain that they would flourish!

  2. LOL it will be worth it! If you’re in the area, I also recommend Slows BBQ — some of the best food in SE Michigan.

  3. Oh, so you’ve had the Slows BBQ, eh? I guess it’s high time I check it out. I’ve always heard that wait is kinda long, so I’ve stayed away. I’m an expedient man. Gimme my slop and give it to me fast.

    And yeah, this was kind of a lightweight follow-up to my liquor store musings, but it’s all I had down the pipeline. Don’t worry, though, I have plenty of mildly depressed ponderous pieces stored within me just waiting to be unleashed. All I need is the time to write and observe/take pictures…

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