I’m not a big fan of “fast” food.
I’m a bit leery of any food item that is prepared and ready in the time I drive from the pay window to the pickup window.
My question is, if you’ve got a limited amount of time for your meal, why not spend it where the food gets there fast, but isn’t “fast” food?
Such a place is the Alley Kat Sandwich Shop. Situated on West Walnut Street, Alley Kat is a brisk walk from East Tennessee State University, and near enough to downtown Johnson City that their clientele is a friendly mix of students and young professionals stopping in for a bite six days a week.
What sets Alley Kat apart from most sandwich shops is that, while their chefs are quick, they take great care in the efficient preparation of your meal, and use only the freshest ingredients doing so.
Alley Kat’s menu has an agreeable variety for any appetite. My dining partner ordered a Mushroom Cheese Steak, ($6.45) and got a juicy stack of lean, sliced steak, cheese, sauteed mushrooms and grilled onions piled high on a 7-inch hoagie roll. The accompanying marinara sauce had some pleasing garlic and tomato flavor, though it could have used less oregano. My choice was the Chicken Souvlaki ($5.95), sliced grilled chicken breast, lettuce, tomato and onions, drizzled with an excellent tzatziki (cucumber and garlic blended with yogurt) and stuffed into a warm, fluffy pita. Adding a bag of chips each and two drinks brought the total to just over $19.00, tax included.
If you’re hankering for a traditional “burger,” I recommend Alley Kat’s excellent Cheeseburger Sub. A char-grilled hamburger with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and mayo, (all fresh) served up on a warm hoagie roll. While the small version ($6.15) is plenty for most, the larger size costs just $1.10 more, and requires the use of two hands and a big appetite.
Should you want something light, the Hummus Wrap ($5.95) takes the pita and stuffs it with lots of homemade hummus, feta cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and their house vinaigrette. Because the Wrap’s contents are a bit “loose” to handle, use a fork; you’ll want to get every bite.
The salad selection is worth a look. A basic Garden Salad ($5.45) is a fine add-on to any meal. As the meal itself, try the homemade Chicken Salad ($6.95), or the Greek Salad with Char-grilled Chicken for the same price.
Alley Kat has some excellent sides to match their sandwich and salad selection. Their fries have several pleasing variations, including Cheese Fries ($2.85), Buffalo Fries ($2.95 with hot sauce and blue cheese included) and my favorite, their Sweet Potato Fries ($2.95). Though presented with honey-pecan dipping sauce, these are excellent all by themselves, or with a touch of salt and pepper.
Their buffalo wings (10 for $6.99 and on up) are thick, meaty, and come with a variety of tasty sauces. My favorite is lemonpepper.
As if running a sandwich shop wasn’t busy enough, Alley Kat also does catering; something to think about when planning your next get-together with friends. With advance notice, their chefs can prepare sandwich trays featuring their cold subs, veggie trays with assorted dressings, and meat & cheese trays served with baguette slices and honey mustard. They also have a different special offer every day of the week, featuring sales on various food items or discounts to groups like ETSU students & faculty, and Johnson City employees.
Yes, if you are on a tight schedule, the folks at Alley Kat can prepare an excellent meal for you within a short amount of time. But I recommend taking the time to, 1) sit down, and 2) enjoy a well-prepared meal made from the freshest of ingredients and served in a friendly, comfortable setting. You just might change your mind about what “fast” food really is.
803 W. Walnut St., Johnson City
11 a.m.-9 p.m.