Another downtown lunch option
I had pretty much forgotten about Cousins in the palette of local sub shops. It's the long arm of Milio's, frankly. Even though Milio's doesn't have a branch close to either where I live or where I work, it's my mind's first choice when my stomach says "sub."
But, as they teach you in social psych, proximity is the first cause of friendship, and there's a brand-new Cousins outlet just around the corner from the Isthmus office -- at 103 S. Webster Street. Oh, and they've been handing out two-for-one coupons -- surely the second cause of friendship.
The new outlet on Webster is also directly across the street from the hulking GEF buildings, and it doesn't seem to have been designed with the lunch press in mind -- there's not much space to stand to wait for your order. Did no one from Cousins corporate check out the hordes that descend upon the nearby Subway (just around the corner on Main Street)? However, even with the lunch crowd, the new staff did a fair job at keeping up with the onslaught of orders.
Cousins sandwiches as conceived have various veggies that come on them (normally onion, lettuce and tomato) from which you can subtract (for instance the onions) and add to from a list of other toppings like jalapenos, hot pepper relish, cucumbers and so forth. The breads -- billed as "better" as part of the company slogan -- come in Italian, Parmesan/Asiago, Garlic/Herb, Wheat, or Low-Carb Tortilla Wrap. The breads are fine and seemed fresh on two recent visits, although they lack any particular bread distinctiveness -- Milio's and Potbelly's loaves both beat Cousins, though Cousins has the edge over Subway. And the standard 7-1/2 inch sandwich versus Subway's 6-inch gives a more substantial lunch.
The ham and provolone, ordered without onions but with pickles and black olives, came without onions but also sadly without its tomato. However, the quality of the pickles -- a nice dill sliced lengthwise -- almost made up for the missing vegetable (I know, it's really a fruit). And Cousins knows just as well as Milio's that what really makes a good sub is a generous slathering of mayo.
A few words about the Garden Veggie Sub on Low Carb Tortilla Wrap. The tortilla itself was fresh and pliable, not always the case with wraps, but if you're going to offer the wrap, someone needs to learn how to roll the thing up. This was basically a heap of lettuce and huge hunks of cucumber and tomato plopped atop a tortilla, with a plastic packet of ranch dressing on the side (idea: applied dressing could be used to hold the wrap together).
Cousins also offers hot subs including a gyros version, a Philly cheese steak, and a chicken cheddar deluxe. Prices are competitive with other sub chains.
Back when the Milwaukee-based Cousins first moved into the Madison market, its major competition was Suburpia, another Milwaukee-based shop. Suburpia is long gone, having been replaced with a half-dozen other names. Chances are, though, proximity to the diner is still going to be the deciding factor unless distances are roughly equal. Here, Cousins should fare well among downtown workers eager for a change from Subway and not inclined to the ample oven-baked offerings of Quizno's.
There are ten more Cousins Subs in the greater Madison area.