People seem to have a pretty strong dislike for convenience store sandwiches. But most of their disdain is saved for those of the “salad” variety: tuna salad, egg salad, and chicken salad sandwiches packed into wedge-shaped containers and placed in the cooler for who knows how long. But you know what? I love them with all my heart, and will cherish them to the end of my days.
Will these offerings ever beat a freshly made sandwich from a local sub shop, or one you make for yourself at home by cobbling together the leftover shit from your fridge? Definitely not. But that’s not the point. They’re awesome in their own way, and they don’t deserve to be written off entirely.
These sandwiches have sustained me for decades now. Whether plucked hastily from the gas station display and scarfed down on a road trip or eaten right before a restaurant shift (I ate many in my restaurant days), they’ve always been there for me. I used to eat plenty of them in college, too.
In fact, guess what I had for breakfast at The Takeout HQ this morning? A chicken salad sandwich from Walgreens. Normally it would have been an egg salad sandwich, but those were sold out today. Probably because, you know, they’re good and people like them.
First and foremost, the price point is a big part of the allure. Though the cost has gone up over the years (inflation is fun), I still paid under $4 for a quick meal, which is increasingly difficult to do in downtown Chicago. A fast food order easily costs more than that, and even the most efficient McDonald’s experience doesn’t afford you the same nimble transaction that allows you to grab a ready-to-eat sandwich and check out immediately.
Second of all, I don’t care what you say—they’re fuckin’ delicious. Yes, they’re soft and don’t offer much in the way of textural contrast, but who says your meal needs crunch to be enjoyable? If you’ve ever enjoyed a burrito from Taco Bell, let’s face it, there’s so little texture in those things that you probably don’t even need to chew them as you eat. Similarly, these salad sandwiches are typically pretty sweet, soft, and easy to smash in the course of two minutes, if not faster. Japanese convenience stores are lauded for their soft little sandwiches. Why don’t Americans feel the same way about our own stuff?
If you decide to eat one, do so slowly; you’ll be rewarded with a creamy and sweet version of tuna, egg, or chicken salad that’s unlike anything you could or would replicate at home. I used to work for a dry ingredients company, and we supplied a business with a seasoning blend for its tuna salad sandwiches. Though the corporate chef didn’t tell me exactly what was in it, I do remember he said, “lots of sugar.”
Personally, I think the unique sweetness of the sandwiches is what carries them, along with the mayo content and soft texture. They’re also inconsistent, sometimes with more filling, sometimes with less, and never crust-to-crust—but that’s okay. It makes eating these things sort of like an adventure, since you never know exactly how much you’re going to get. More is better, of course, but you win some and you lose some. Just like in life.
While I love any sandwich filled with a “salad,” I don’t like the grab-and-go deli meat sandwiches layered with cold cuts. Those are always woefully underfilled, usually just a few slices of meat and cheese, a suspicious piece of limp lettuce, and if you’re lucky, a thin coating of some type of condiment. Why would you pick one of those when the egg salad sandwich is right there? (If you prefer these turkey and cheese abominations, pipe up; I’d like to hear why.)
It hasn’t even been an hour since my last one, but I’m sitting here already getting excited for the next time I can bite into a convenience store salad sandwich. I don’t eat them often, but when I do, I’m always reminded just how much I love them. They scratch an extremely particular itch, their straightforward contents making them an unadulterated delight.