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Subs are the essence of Turtle's

November 28, 2004|by E.T. MOORE

It could be a catchy slogan: Turtle's, the subs you eat with a fork.

Expect peppers, onions, mushrooms and, especially, seasoned lettuce to tumble down - down your face or into your lap, but hopefully onto your tray - when you eat a cheese steak sub at Turtle's.

Turtle's Subs Etc., the lunch counter restaurant on North Burhans Boulevard in Hagerstown, recognizes this and includes a plastic fork in both its eat-in and takeout portions.

We'd like to see a sub-eating contest there, in which the winner spills nothing. Good luck.

The essence of Turtle's isn't its ambiance - a plain place with a few posters of Italy on the walls - but that doesn't matter. The food is why you're there.

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Having the best sub in a city is an unprovable honor, but in Hagerstown, Turtle's might be near the lead.

Fans of Freddie's on Dual Highway, for example, might have made an argument years ago, but even the cheese steak there lost some of its oomph before the branch closed.

Two of us ate in at Turtle's recently and brought food back to the office for other diners.

Turtle's has a bench for people waiting for their takeout orders. Someone will bring your meal to you if you eat in. The wait was brief. And the man behind the counter was pleasant and patient.

We had a cheese steak sub ($5.95) and a chicken cordon bleu sub ($6.15).

The chicken cordon bleu was warm and soft, with a moist, crispy chicken patty, ham, melted cheese - and, as expected, falling spiced lettuce strips.

The sub itself went quickly. Scooping up the residue - it's a stretch, but I think of it as a miniature side salad - rounded out the meal.

We read some constructive comments from our officemates after they ate the food we brought back.

Desk Diner 1 thought his Maryland crab cake hoagie ($6.95) was delicious but small.

"It was tasty for what it was, but any entree that can be consumed in three bites is too small," he jotted down. He admits he was hungry, so he ate quicker.

Desk Diner 2 said her Italian hoagie salad ($5.55) was loaded with seasoned lettuce, pickles, sweet peppers, tomato wedges and provolone cheese.

The dressing that lightly coated the romaine lettuce was "a bit salty for my taste, but not enough to keep me from enjoying my meal," she wrote. An ample helping of sweet peppers offset the saltiness just enough.

Desk Diner 3 thinks Turtle's could reach the lead pack of the local submakers, but it's not there yet.

He liked his turkey hoagie ($5.87) for its topping mix of Italian dressing, pickles, peppers and mayonnaise - "a tantalizing combination of flavors that almost render the deli turkey and cheese irrelevant," he wrote.

But he wanted a little more tenderness and flair with his bread - something interesting, maybe multigrain.

Another colleague, who wasn't part of our taste-test team, added this, unsolicited: "They're the only ones who make a veggie sub that make life worth living if you don't eat meat."

We didn't order the chicken wings this time, but we've had them several times before.

Here's a tip. If you've enjoyed true Buffalo wings - breaded chicken does NOT qualify - Turtle's offers the next best thing in Hagerstown.

Theirs is a low-sauce fried variety, automatically accompanied, as protocol requires, by plenty of celery and a nice thick blue cheese.

We so often see restaurants get at least one of these components wrong. We recall one meal at a so-called wing specialty restaurant where a full dish of wings came with a single half of a celery stalk. Ugh. No wonder it went out of business.

The wings at Turtle's are pricey ($6.30 for 10), but, relative to other Hagerstown wings, they're worth it.

When we visited the Web site (www.turtles.123ts.com) to check on hours, we were captivated by the green and white flashing bull's-eye and the funky music that played with it. We bopped.

The Web site says the family-owned business has been around for at least 15 years. The site also is outdated; most of the prices have gone up and a second branch on South Potomac Street, which has closed, still is listed.

Our bill for six meals and two drinks was $40.30.




Restaurant reviews are contributed biweekly by Herald-Mail staff writers and editors alternating under the pseudonym E.T. Moore.

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