In this scary modern age, many find it nigh impossible to scamper out from under the ever-lengthening shadow of corporate hegemony. It seems that this ubiquitous presence of businesses and corporations in our day-to-day lives has birthed a peculiar, yet not at all unexpected, tendency towards total uniformity. The consumer notes how every store, every fast food restaurant, every individual instance of corporate space, has been meticulously designed to look exactly the same. How one can go to any McDonald’s anywhere in the world and have almost identical experiences each time.

So, naturally, the question gets raised: Is it even possible to find some sort of meaningful difference between spaces that have been so carefully crafted to avoid all variance? Exactly how much room is there for originality within any rigid corporate framework? This is what I hope to find out.

Studious scientician that I am, I’ll be going about this thought experiment in the most sensible and practical way anyone could reasonably expect: By eating at, and subsequently reviewing, every Subway restaurant in the greater Perth metropolitan area. By comparing each individual branch of the monolithic Subway sequoia, I hope to gain some insight into the exact nature of corporate space. To find out if any kind of varied experience can be dredged from this mire of capitalistic excess.

Furthermore, for the sake of authenticity and brevity, I’ll be avoiding any Subway that’s part of a greater shopping complex or food court.

Now, before this review starts in earnest I feel it prudent, for the sake of full disclosure, to mention that I am the single biggest Subway enthusiast that I, yourself, or anyone you know has ever met. I live, eat, and breathe lightly toasted footlong sandwiches. The worst day of my life was when I woke up, hungover, on New Year’s Day, wanting nothing more than to eat fresh (the purest and most base of human desires) and found my local subway closed for the holiday. I named my first daughter Eatfresh and now my entire family gets 70% off every order we make at participating Subway stores. I adore them.

Morley

Morley Subway is very dear to me. I grew up with it as an important and formative presence in my childhood. I’m intimately familiar with its every facet and crevice. It’s the yardstick to which I compare every other Subway. In fact, there’s literally no way I can review this store objectively.

Just walking through the frosted glass doors feels like crossing into some ephemeral liminal space. It feels like sanctuary, a second home. I know the names of every sandwich artist there and the extent of their sandwich-making finesse. They gave me a rewards card and they gave it like, four separate stamps the time I bought a group of my deadbeat friends in with me to buy lunch. One time, I showed up a full hour before opening hours and they let me in anyway! Everything about this place is beautiful and pure and good. On a scale of 1 to 5 subs, I give it 6 subs.

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Waterford

I know I said that I’d avoid reviewing any stores that were part of a greater shopping complex, but listen. Listen. Go fuck yourself. This is the best Subway I’ve ever eaten at and I can’t for the life of me figure out why that is. Located in the throbbing heart of Bentley, this store’s a quiet and unassuming place, occupied solely by tradies and beleaguered Curtin students. And yet, the salads are crunch with freshness that can only accurately be described as ‘immaculate’, the bread is toasted to crisp perfection, and the employees swan through the store with a celestial grace that is, frankly, unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed.

If you’re anything like me, you probably live in constant and unrelenting dread at the idea that your fragile life could be snuffed at any moment, any day, any time. That unknowable and immutable forces far beyond anything you could imagine are wresting the tiny amount of control over destiny from your feeble desperate grasp, and careening you, headlong, into the inevitable jaws of doom. Just being confined within the four walls of this Subway feels like reprieve, like control. It carries the weighty presence of hyper-competence, the furious rage of living snarls outside, smashes impotently on the glass walls, yet inside you are safe from the horrors of the world. You know that if you just asked these kind-eyed sandwich artists, they would force their dextrous hands deep into your throat and carefully, lovingly, extricate every demon from the pit of your stomach. But you would never do that. Could never do that. 5 subs.

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UWA

I generally tend to avoid UWA as much as humanly possible, but, like the best of us, I occasionally find myself dragged into its labyrinthine maw in the form of some necessary errand or obligation. I’ve found that these occasional, unavoidable visits have been vastly improved by the addition of the Subway. I don’t know which student party was responsible for this but, honestly, good call. Much in the same way that a certain room or space can act as a grounding and calming presence during an intense, otherwise unpleasant hallucinogenic trip, the UWA Subway provides vital succour in a sprawling maze of sadness and improbably designed libraries.

The food is good too! Better than it should be! Every time I’ve been there I’ve had to wait upwards of 15 minutes in a meandering queue that seeped out of the building, yet each sub feels like it’s been lovingly and painstakingly crafted for me and only me. Nothing about the preparation seemed rushed or harried, there was no overstuffing or clumsy fisting of ingredients. A delight for the senses, frankly. I’m giving it 3.5 subs, only because there’s no way to physically get to it without first crossing the UWA campus.

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Forest Place

I have come to believe that the Forest Place Subway has a vested interest in providing a virulently disappointing culinary experience for all those unfortunate enough to pass through its doors. Just walking inside, one is immediately buffeted with the collective psychic force of a million disgruntled sandwich makers. Everything that happens in this store is a slight against God, a meticulously calculated step away from salvation. From the semi-defrosted, gristle-laden chicken strips, to the stringently rationed mozzarella cheese containers, to the ubiquitous rot that worms through the salad bar, everything this store does reeks of a purposeful mediocrity that follows you long after lunch has ended.

My father worked as a journalist. During the first job he ever had he somehow, in some inscrutable fit of self-imposed martyrdom, managed to haggle for a lower wage than he was offered. I feel like that’s the only way to explain the sensation of ordering from this Subway. It feels like being disrespected. More than that, it feels like being wearily content with being disrespected. Not enjoying the disrespect, but seeing it as an inevitable outcome of your Subway experience, and learning to tolerate it. Because that’s what you deserve. Disrespect.

I don’t know what exactly happened in this store to make every sandwich they produce so deeply unwholesome and flawed. Current theory: Shaman curse. 1 sub.

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South Perth

This enigmatic Subway has always had complete control over the prime real estate of my intrigue. Before I started writing this review, I had never worked up the motivation to venture inside, although I would always pass it whenever I had occasion to catch the now-defunct 106 bus. Every time it caught my sharp, eagle-eyed gaze, I would be struck speechless by its presence. A stalwart wheelie-bin-green cube of concrete, conspicuously unattached to any other buildings, and flanked by dumpsters. It’s separated by only a flimsy chain-link fence from its most salient feature: a vast, deep pit that looks less like construction work than it does a fatal gouge in the meat of the earth. Naturally, I fell in love at first sight.

When I arrived at the bus stop just outside the dilapidated brickwork, I was overwhelmed by a rush of giddy anticipation, but also, a vague sense of nervous dread. For so long Pitway has existed, in my mind, as an idea. An abstract concept devoid of physicality. The liminal space I would pass occasionally and refer to, affectionately, as “the most hideous Subway u hav ever fukken seen, like holy shit guys what a hot wreck” was rapidly approaching material reality. A sensation akin only to meeting a long adored idol for the first time. I honestly cannot express how keen I was for this moment. It was bananas.

Naturally, I had nothing to fear. When I crossed the threshold I was greeted immediately with the underwhelming interior of a criminally neglected storefront. The fluorescent lights flickered as a preternaturally gaunt employee stared me down from behind the counter, his eyes slitted, and grey, and overflowing with poorly masked contempt. In the corner, an ageing repair man coughed wetly as he struggled with the broken soft drink machine. Overhead, the speakers blared a ceaseless stream of grating advertisements. Whether this was a prerequisite to actual music, or a yet undiscovered radio infomercial channel, I’m unable to say, since I only spent about ten minutes there.

The food however, was surprisingly adequate! I avoided most of the salads on account of some grimy looking lettuce, but still! A solid sub! Furthermore, sitting down to eat, I had a fantastic window view of the endless parade of cars crawling along Canning Highway, slogging along under the excruciating glare of noon sun.

Everything about Pitway was just as horrendously grim and depressing as I could have possibly imagined. I love it. I’m gonna buy out the property. I don’t know how yet, but, it’s gonna happen. 5 subs.

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Final Thoughts:

Does this continuing trend of cultivating identical corporate spaces bode well for society? Who can say whether removing the specificity of place acts as a symbol of contemporary suburban luxury, or the bleak harbinger of rampant, soul-rending consumerism? Who can say? Certainly not me, your local sandwich aficionado. All I can say for certain is that in this frightening and unpredictable world, Subway, the multi-million dollar conglomerate, is a trusted friend and confidante for everyone. God Bless.

Words by Fred Von Jorgs

Art by Lilli Foskett