A tangy taste on the tongue, fluorescent lights beaming down and a distinct smell of meat wafting through the air. While gross to some, this has always been my taste of home. I am, of course, talking about Jersey Mike’s.
When asked what my favorite restaurant was in fifth grade, I responded almost immediately with Jersey Mike’s. It had become a ritual for my dad and me to go to the sandwich joint after my late swim practices, a tradition frequent enough that the sandwich artists at our favorite location knew our orders when we walked in the door. I have essentially had the same order ever since: a regular number three on rosemary parmesan bread with tomatoes, pickles, olive oil, vinegar and oregano.
In fifth grade, I switched schools and stopped swimming with my old team, so Jersey Mike’s nights became fewer and further between. However, every once in a while, we would make the less-than-5-minute pilgrimage to my favorite location, and I was immediately transported back to a different time—a time with different friends, different activities and more regularity in my life.
As I got older, school got more difficult, swimming got more tiring and friendships got more complicated, but I could always rely on a cold sub after a long week to pick me up. Following a tough swim meet, there was a cold-cut sammy with my name on it. Post finals week, I would sink my teeth into the cheesy-herby goodness, forgetting every mistake I may have made. When I got into a fight with one of my best friends, we talked it out over fresh hoagies and refillable sodas.
As I prepared to leave Nashville, Tenn., and move into Moore Hall, my mom asked me a question that hadn’t even crossed my mind: “Is there a Jersey Mike’s in Brunswick?” My heart sank. I had completely overlooked the proximity of Jersey Mike’s in my college decision process, and after a quick map search, I realized that I had made a grave error. There was not a Jersey Mike’s anywhere in the area.
Despite the fact that I was leaving behind my friends, family and everything I associated with my hometown, the change that hit me the hardest at that moment was that I was not going to have easy access to my favorite ham and cheese on delectable bread—the comfort food that got me through my childhood.
The thought haunted me through the entire 20-hour drive until I caught a glimpse of red, white and blue as we pulled onto Bath Road in Brunswick. I did a double-take and a quick Google search and let out a shrill scream—much to my parents’ horror. As we drove by the building I spotted, my hopes were confirmed with a sign that read “Jersey Mike’s Coming Soon.”
All of a sudden, I felt more comfortable. I could make this new place into a new home as long as I had my old, reliable sandwich in my back pocket. Since the opening of Jersey Mike’s on Bath Road and the subsequent location on Topsham Mall Road, it has become a talking point for me.
Every time someone tells me that they have never had Jersey Mike’s before, I express that all-too-familiar shock that people have when others do not understand the joy of their favorite things. I will gladly defend my go-to sub shop to anyone who claims a different chain sandwich spot is better (don’t even try to bring up Subway).
On my birthday last year, the only thing I wanted was to introduce my friends who had never had Jersey Mike’s to my favorite place. So we crammed into my car, and I watched eagerly as they took their first bites in the Burnett House common room. Last summer, I even made a pilgrimage to the original Jersey Mike’s location in Point Pleasant, N.J., with a friend from Bowdoin.
While much of my obsession with the store has become a joke among friends—especially after I won a Jersey Mike’s branded longboard from an Instagram contest, despite not knowing how to ride a longboard—the store has been a consistent reminder of crucial points in my life.
The taste of that sandwich brings me back to times when all I had to worry about was if I could complete my single-sided worksheet, times when I beat my personal records in the pool, times when I needed a break from school work, times when I had to say goodbye to my childhood friends and times when I got to say hello to new friends.
Jersey Mike’s has always been my taste of home, and now, as I prepare to embark on my next journey in Ireland, I fear the absence of Jersey Mike’s. I guess I will have to find another place to get a ham and cheese sandwich next semester. However, I know that my number three will be waiting for me when I get back, just like it always has been.
Janet Briggs is a member of the Class of 2025.