Panera meets Subway at Quiznos, a new casual dining restaurant in the Princeton Shopping Center. Serving up made-to-order subs and salads in a narrow, sunny space, the newcomer appears to be a hit. On one of the few days this summer when it was just too hot to eat outside, Quiznos's sidewalk tables were empty, but nearly every seat was taken inside. For the most part, the crowd was all business.
"I don't have any idea why he needs another website," said one woman to her dining companion, "but if he wants it, I'll give it to him." On stools a few yards away, a trio of men were discussing details of a real estate deal. "There's a meeting of the minds about the price," said one before the conversation veered off to vacation plans. At a third table, this one with standard-size chairs, two young women complained about their jobs at great length, at one point describing their boss as "the anti-Christ."
Obviously, there isn't a lot of privacy at Quiznos. But it is a lunch spot that provides the option of a quick meal, or an all-afternoon chat-fest. The real estate guys were in and out in 12 minutes, while the web developers talked on for the better part of an hour. There is no pressure to vacate tables, and there are free drink refills to fuel conversation. Lunch is self-service, and the lines move quickly. There were 10 people in line at 12:52 p.m., and all were seated with their lunches before 1 p.m.
The dining area has a Panera-like feel: Blonde wood, cheerful corporate graphics, and walls done up in alternating sections of baby blue, bright yellow, and pale-pea green. Most tables seat either two or four, and there is a long banquette that could accomodate a group of 10 or 12.
Founded in Denver 22 years ago, Quiznos, like Panera, is growing fast as Americans show signs of burger fatigue and turn toward the sandwich-in-pleasant-surroundings alternative. There are just a handful of Quiznos in New Jersey, and the new Princeton Shopping Center restaurant is the only one in our area, but with a new location opening every 16 minutes, it is bound to have lots of company soon.
Quiznos's decor is a few steps up from Subway's spartan look, but falls a little short of Panera's padded booth and club chair look. Service, at least at this location, is better than at either Subway, which always seems to take forever, or at Panera, where a request for any customization -- say, tuna salad, no bread -- leads to confusion and, invariably, a mixed up order.
Little distinguishing touches at Quiznos include a pepper bar, offering a serve-yourself selection of peppers and several sauces, deep skillet-like black plastic plates in the shape of a "Q," toasted specialty breads, heated cookies, and take-out served box lunch style.
Sandwiches come in small, regular, and large, with the regular size selling for between $5.29 and just over $6. Latching onto a growing trend, Quiznos has several low-fat sandwich options, including a honey bourbon chicken that has won taste awards in the healthy eating category.
Quiznos , 301 North Harrison Street, Princeton. 609-279-9100, fax, 609-279-9600. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m daily except Sunday, when it is open from noon until 8 p.m. All credit cards accepted.