Potbelly Sandwich Shop Sandwiches Ranked From Worst To Best

Potbelly might seem like an unusual name for a sandwich shop — or actually for any type of business selling food. Why remind us of one of the unfortunate consequences of chowing down on high-calorie offerings? As it turns out, the chain's namesake refers to an old-fashioned potbelly stove that was used to make the first toasted sandwiches sold to customers of an antique store that was owned by the chain's founder. When he found that the real money was in food rather than old furniture, he switched his focus from sideboards to subs. Although Potbelly now makes its food with up-to-date kitchen equipment, it still keeps an old-style stove in each store as a kind of inanimate mascot.

As sandwich chains go, Potbelly isn't one of the larger ones. Although nine of its larger competitors cracked the QSR 50 (a list of quick-service sandwich restaurants with the highest sales figures), Potbelly was not among them. Nor did Potbelly earn a spot on Mashed's own best sandwich shop survey, so we can't say how it stacks up against Subway, Panera, and other such chains in terms of popularity. Here, however, we're not comparing Potbelly to other chains, but rather, exploring its sandwich menu from the "meh" to the "mmm." Before we begin, however, one note on our findings: We are rating the sandwiches as is, meaning without any of the numerous tweaks, swaps, and customization options that are available should you order either online or in-person.

17. Veggie Melt

We'll admit upfront, ranking Potbelly's Veggie Melt sandwich at the bottom is a pretty subjective pick — if you are a non-meat eater, this sandwich would most likely be one of your top (and only) picks, while everything containing meat would be in a tie for last place. According to the Alliance for Science, about 10% of the population identifies as vegetarian, but those of us in the other 90% are probably not going to choose a fast food sandwich where vegetables are the star players rather than the supporting cast.

As vegetable subs go, this one is so-so. Mushrooms plus avocados make for a fairly bland pairing, and to make things even worse, the mushrooms are listed as "where available," so you may get a sub that's nothing but avocados and cheese, although at least you get three types of the latter: Swiss, cheddar, and provolone. Still, as one Yelper points out, with such a limited ingredient list, a single omission can make a big difference. They placed an online order for the Veggie Melt and said of the sandwich they received, "It is supposed to come with avocado slices and there were none." For their sake, we hope mushrooms were available at that location.

16. Tuna Salad

Not too long ago, Mashed conducted a survey of readers – more than 500 of them responded. The subject of our inquiry was to determine which sandwich on Potbelly's menu is the least popular. While the Veggie Melt came in a very close second (see, it's not just us!), the top spot on our survey of least favorite sandwiches went to the Tuna Salad. Unfair though it may be, we believe there's a possibility that all the Subway fake tuna drama may have spilled over to taint the reputation of other fast food tuna subs as well.

That being said, Potbelly's tuna sub is not terrible as chain tuna subs go, nor do we have any reason to disbelieve the menu's assertion that it's made from 100% albacore tuna. It's just that it's not particularly good, either. As one GrubHub user describes it, it has "no flavor [and is] very bland," while another says "the tuna was salty." A Yelper had somewhat higher praise, calling the sandwich "just ok," but still found it inferior to Jersey Mike's. As for us, we're not big fans of the Swiss cheese that comes as a standard topping. Cheddar, we've always felt, makes for a superior tuna melt.

15. Grilled Cheese

In order not to come across as too negative, let's start by doling out a dollop of praise regarding the Potbelly's Grilled Cheese sandwich: It's a major plus in our book that they use cheddar instead of American (or Swiss, for that matter). Unfortunately, the cheddar they do use is very mild, so it's not nearly as flavorful as a sharper version of this cheese would be.

Probably the biggest downfall of this sandwich, however, is the fact that a grilled cheese sandwich benefits from having more cheese than bread. Needless to say, that's not what you're going to get at a sub shop. Even from the glammed-up website menu shot, it's clear that what you're getting here is a big, thick bread roll with a thin filling of melted cheese. Perhaps a version made with flatbread would provide a somewhat improved bread-to-cheese ratio, but the standard version isn't too appealing as is. As one Tripadvisor review puts it, "do not get grilled cheese sandwich ... the grilled cheeses was just disgusting." Kind of harsh, true, but we'd rate this sandwich no higher than boring at best. It won't get too much better even if you do pile on each and every one of the free toppings, as there's little that lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, mustard, mayo, oil, Italian seasoning, or even hot peppers can do to rescue a bland, too-bready sandwich.

14. Turkey Breast

We're finally getting to a sub with some meat to it, but Potbelly's Turkey Breast sub is one of the plainer options. All you get, per the menu, is a sub roll with sliced turkey breast and Swiss cheese. As we may have already hinted a time or three, Swiss is not our favorite cheese, so that's a strike against it, even though Potbelly allows you to swap it out for cheddar, provolone, or even blue cheese or feta cheese. Or, if you're willing to sacrifice flavor for calorie saving, you could forego the cheese altogether.

That's pretty much how this sub presents itself: the dieter's choice. If you're eating at Potbelly because it's close to work, it's lunchtime, and you need something to fill your belly without putting too big a dent in your daily calorie budget, then this turkey sub is ... well, an okay pick. As per YouTube channel The Southern Snack, it's "better than your typical deli turkey," although the review does note that the sandwich itself is basically "a mound of bread ... as for the meat, I'm not getting a ton of it." We'd like to point out, however, that the channel was originally intending to review the Avo Turkey (see below), but the local Potbelly Sandwich Shop was out of avocado so what The Southern Snack got was plain old turkey. Disappointing? Perhaps, but then, the avocado-embellished sub really isn't all that much of an upgrade.

13. Avo Turkey

We'd rate this sub slightly above Potbelly's plain turkey, but not by a lot. The addition of avocado isn't all that much of an improvement over a standard turkey sub since the avocado itself is kind of bland, and the texture is a bit weird as well. This is supposed to be sliced avocado, but it's actually squishy like guacamole but without any of the additional seasonings that give this condiment its flavor. Squishy avocado, whether seasoned or otherwise, works best in conjunction with something that's got a bit of crunch to it. Something like bacon might help, but according to the Potbelly menu, that particular upgrade will run you a few bucks more. One other thing that comes standard with this sub that you don't get with plain turkey is sliced cucumbers, something that adds exactly nothing to this or any sandwich. Just as well, as cukes are, oddly enough, unavailable as an add-on to Potbelly subs that don't list them as a featured ingredient.

The Avo Turkey does have its fans, but it has its detractors as well (apart from us, that is). One GrubHub user thought that it "Could use a little more meat on the sandwich for the price," but added "otherwise ... tastes good." Another person who ordered this sandwich, however, concluded that "The food was bland ... no flavor."

12. Smoked Ham

Potbelly's Smoked Ham sub is another offering that's on the plain side, although this one does benefit from the fact that smoked ham is the best kind of ham; it's way better than honey-glazed. Ham also does pair pretty well with Swiss, to give that cheese its due. (See, we're capable of overcoming our anti-Swiss cheese bias upon occasion!) Also, unlike turkey, ham has sufficient flavor to stand up to all that bread.

The thing about the good old ham and Swiss sub, though, is that something about it just screams "workplace function with rock-bottom catering budget." It seems like something you'd be handed in a white paper bag to induce you to stay for the second half of an all-day workshop on best practices in widget marketing or whatever. Unless the sandwich comes with free chips, cookie, and bottled water, plus a few continued learning credits or brown-nose brownie points, it's just not the kind of thing we'd ever order for ourselves.

11. A Wreck

Potbelly's signature sandwich, which it has dubbed A Wreck, is annoying from the get-go  — what's up with the indefinite article? A Wreck has been described by food blog Restaurant Clicks as having a "cult-like following," but there's no need to call the de-programmers since that's one cult not everyone's going to join. As Potbelly's menu describes this sub, it's made with turkey, hickory smoked ham, Angus roast beef, and, oddly enough, salami (not a typical addition to the club sandwich this otherwise resembles), plus cheese — of course, it's the near-ubiquitous Swiss. (Do they buy the stuff at a deep discount?) Potbelly says the sandwich is a "fan favorite," but it's not for everyone.

YouTube channel theendorsement reviewed A Wreck and awarded it an 81 out of 100 points, so a solid B-minus effort if you're not grading on a curve. He did remark, however, "I was expecting a little more meat in this, especially for the size of the sub," and he also pointed out that the flavors blend into one big blur of mystery meat. As theendorsement put it, "Don't think you're going to get this and you're going to be able to taste, like, the individual turkey and the ham and everything because there's a lot going on in this." While A Wreck doesn't have the problem of the too-plain turkey and ham subs, there's a fine line between enough and too much, and this sandwich crosses over into the latter territory. 

10. Mediterranean

The Mediterranean, like A Wreck, is a pretty busy sandwich. It's made with grilled chicken, feta cheese, roasted red peppers, zesty hummus, cucumbers, and artichoke hearts, although you can only get this last-named ingredient "where available." Surprisingly, everything in this sandwich works quite well together ... well, maybe with one exception. While hummus is fine as a dip for baby carrots or pita chips, we're not entirely on board with using it as a sandwich spread. We're not hating it, just kind of on the fence, although it's not really what you'd call intrusive in this sandwich. Still, one of the great things about Potbelly's Mediterranean sub is if you leave out the chicken, it's by far the best vegetarian option offered, and in this case the hummus would provide some much-needed protein.

A YouTuber named Dave Hughes reviewed Potbelly's Mediterranean and found it "kind of gooey, gloppy, but I liked it." He did note, though, that it "could have been a little spicier." His main complaint was that he'd ordered the big size and said it "didn't seem all that big ... seemed like a regular size." The review concluded with a sideswipe at a Potbelly competitor, saying the Mediterranean was "definitely a step above Subway, but that's not saying much." 


The BLT is a superior sandwich, to be sure — in fact, it's safe to say that it's one of the all-time sandwich greats. A BLT with added avocado is also good, although we're still not sold on it being a major upgrade (see Avo Turkey above). We do, however, have a minor quibble with Potbelly choosing to call its avocado-enhanced BLT a BLTA rather than the far more memorable acronym BLAT. A BLAT would be fun to order, whereas BLTA sounds like a metropolitan transit system.

The thing about a BLT, with or without the A, is that it, like the grilled cheese, is a sandwich that benefits from a high filling-to-bread ratio, and it takes a whole lot of bacon (way more than you're going to get from any fast food chain) to stand up to a big fat sub roll. The Southern Snack, last seen reviewing an avocado-free Potbelly turkey sub, has also reviewed the BLTA, and did say it had a "decent amount of bacon," but the sub still seemed to have more lettuce (and a lot more bread) than that key ingredient. Having finally obtained some avocado, the reviewer wasn't too thrilled by it, saying it "does taste a little weird," while the tomato and lettuce were "not the freshest." Overall, the reviewer found the sub to be "not bad, nothing crazy," although he did say it's "a little bit pricey."

8. Chicken Salad

Chicken salad, while it's similar to tuna salad in many ways, doesn't suffer from the same poor reputation. It's generally a pretty solid, if not always exciting, pick as a sandwich filling, and we've yet to hear about any big restaurant scandals involving chicken that isn't really chicken. After all, most things said to "taste like chicken" (quail? rabbit? alligator?) tend to be quite a bit pricier than the original product. 

While chicken salad on its own can be a bit bland, Potbelly does two things that really level up its sandwich. For one thing, you can get it toasted (as is the case for all of its sandwiches). For another, though, you can get it toasted with cheese! Potbelly even pairs its Chicken Salad with provolone, which makes for a surprisingly good, if somewhat uncommon, combination. We can't say as we've ever had a provolone chicken salad melt before, but we'll definitely do so again, as we concur with the Tripadvisor users who had nothing but praise for Potbelly's Chicken Salad sandwiches. One describes it as "fantastic," while another opts for "delicious." We're a pretty tough sell and wouldn't get quite so gushy, but we would say the chicken salad is pretty darn good. This is definitely one of Potbelly's Top 10 sandwiches.

7. Roast Beef

Of all the standard thin-sliced deli-style sandwich meats, roast beef is the king, so a roast beef sandwich automatically ranks well above turkey or ham. Potbelly's Roast Beef sandwich is fairly typical, although we appreciate that the shop chose to partner it with provolone as the cheese. Its website shows the sub all dressed up with onions, lettuce, and tomatoes, but to experience this sub at its best, we'd recommend getting it toasted and then adding in the vegetables (or at least the latter two) after it's cooked since otherwise they'll get all wilty and gross. 

The real reason why Potbelly's Roast Beef sub is a cut above most chain fare is the meat itself, though. However the shop is cooking it, it has definitely nailed the technique. One Tripadvisor reviewer declares Potbelly's creation to be the "Best Roast Beef Sandwich EVER." While they spared a few kind words for the "fresh-baked, perfectly toasted" bread, the star attraction is "roast beef [that] melted in your mouth!"

6. Grilled Chicken

Potbelly has four subs that basically consist of a single meat plus a single cheese, but there are two reasons why the Grilled Chicken ranks above the rest. For one thing, rather than being thin-sliced deli meat, the chicken here presents itself in thick(ish) slabs. For another, it's been given the best cheese pairing of the four. While we've already mentioned that we find Potbelly's cheddar to be a bit too mild for our liking, it still provides a slight tang that complements the grilled chicken.

While chicken itself isn't the most flavorful of meats, Potbelly does use some seasonings during the cooking process. Exactly what, the shop does not disclose, as the nutrition calculator only tells us that the chicken itself contains no known allergens (unless you're allergic to chicken, of course). Still, whatever the seasonings are, they give the chicken quite a nice flavor of its own. As one Tripadvisor review puts it, "The chicken was very good. Perfect amount of seasonings." It's even better with melted cheddar, making for a sandwich that's simple but very enjoyable.

5. Italian

Italian subs are one of those things, like pizza, that even when they're bad, they're still pretty good, and Potbelly's Italian sandwich is far from being bad. As far as chain-restaurant Italian subs go, Potbelly's offering is definitely one of the better ones. It's a more upscale sub than many, using higher-end meats like capicola and mortadella in addition to the more typical pepperoni and salami. If you like a spicy sub, you should definitely ask for the hot pepper relish, as this is really Chicago-style giardiniera and is something that absolutely takes this sub over the top.

One reviewer paid Potbelly's Italian sub the highest compliment, comparing it to the "best Italian hoagies" found at mom and pop (or rather, mamma e papà) sandwich shops in western Pennsylvania. This Tripadvisor user, now relocated to Wisconsin, says "The Potbelly Italian is very close to it," adding "Always go there when I need my fix."

4. Mama's Meatball

Another sub that's rarely a bad choice no matter where you go is the meatball sub, as it's hard to go wrong with meat, marinara, and cheese. Potbelly, however, adds a little something that makes its Mama's Meatball sub even better — the meatballs themselves are extra-flavorful as they are made with both beef and pork, and instead of the standard mozzarella, the shop tops its sandwich with melted provolone. Mama must have taught them pretty well!

Potbelly's meatball sub, in fact, is so good that it's even won over a few converts such as the Tripadvisor user who admits "I'm not usually a fan of meatball subs (Subway, for example)," but says Potbelly's version was a pleasant surprise due to the "really good flavor" of the meatballs themselves. As they summed up their review, "I'm sure I've had another [Potbelly] sub or two that was probably good, but not memorable. The meatball sub is memorable!"

3. Pizza Melt

One dilemma we frequently face at sandwich shops is whether to have the Italian or the meatball, since we're equally fond of both, and in fact the previous two subs on this list are basically in a two-way tie. Potbelly, weirdly enough, seems to be able to read our minds — how else could it have come up with the Pizza Melt, a sub that seems to be a hybrid of the two? It's got the pepperoni and capicola from the Italian mixed with some meatballs (crumbled up so as to better integrate with the deli meats) and topped with marinara and melted provolone, plus some mushrooms (where available) as an added bonus. What's not to like here?

A number of Yelpers concur with our conclusion: Potbelly's Pizza Melt is a superior sub. One person, new to the concept, calls it "a very interesting sandwich that has all of the ingredients that I like," and goes on to say that when they tried it, "I wasn't disappointed it was good and filling." Another enthuses that it was "delicious. I got it extra toasty with extra cheese for extra yumminess." We'd say the only thing that could make this sub even better is something that Potbelly also supplies: the hot pepper relish that goes so well with both the Italian and meatball subs.

2. Chicken Club

While quoters of old proverbs are fond of telling us that we shouldn't gild lilies or over-egg puddings, there are times when simplicity isn't a virtue, or at least not the highest one. This is a roundabout way of saying that, while we are quite fond of Potbelly's simple chicken + cheddar sub, there is one thing that makes it so much better: bacon, of course. Bacon makes many things better: cookies, cupcakes, beer, perfume ... okay, we're still a bit dubious about this last one, but bacon on just about any kind of sandwich is kind of a no-brainer.

Hence the Potbelly Chicken Club, a sandwich that consists of its own holy trinity: chicken, cheddar, and bacon. A Tripadvisor review calls it "delicious," and says it compares favorably with Panera's similar sandwich but comes at a much lower price. They also remarked on how substantial it is, saying they could not finish the half sandwich they ordered, but they didn't get to save the rest for later as their spouse was unable to refrain from finishing it off right then and there. Who could blame them? In the case of such temptation, resistance is futile.

1. Steakhouse Beef

Our top pick for Potbelly's No. 1 sandwich may be a slightly controversial one as the Steakhouse Beef contains two strong flavors that aren't to everyone's taste: blue cheese and horseradish. We, however, are quite fond of both and think they are an excellent choice for topping off this over-the-top roast beef sub. Potbelly also adds in some provolone, too, so you get that nice blanket of melted cheese covering the meat in addition to the tangy blue cheese crumbles. The horseradish isn't too obtrusive here, as it's used to flavor a creamy aioli sauce that offers a hint of sharpness but does not overpower the rest of the ingredients.

The Stupid Food Review Show, With Jesus In A Tortilla (yep, that's the name of the YouTube channel) gave the Steakhouse Beef a 9 and was particularly impressed by the sauce: "That horseradish aioli! That's talking my language." Our old friend The Southern Snack, YouTube's premier Potbelly reviewer, also weighed in on the sandwich. While he only gave it an 8½, this was largely influenced by the fact that, as he admits, he's not a big fan of either roast beef or blue cheese. Even so, he put aside his prejudices and found this sandwich to be "very enjoyable" with its "unique flavor profiles" and all.