You can eat one for lunch, dinner, and Late Night, and it won’t kill you—at least, not right away. A lifesaver for Boston College students slogging through all-nighters and a meal strictly meant to be enjoyed in moderation by older alumni, the Screaming Eagle has become an iconic BC meal that encompasses the live-fast, die-young glory days of college in a submarine sandwich.
The origin of the Screaming Eagle is almost mythical in nature. From its debut 12 years ago at the steak & cheese station, the sandwich has since become something of a rite of passage for all BC students, receiving the blessing of other icons such as BC’s own Doug Flutie and New York Times food critic Sam Sifton.
Almost 80,000 sandwiches are made to order each year, with 1000 pounds of steak and chicken cooked each week. Students debate what makes the Screaming Eagle—from the freshly baked bread to the melted American cheese to the onion, pepper, broccoli, and mushroom toppings—what it is. There is general consensus, however, that your choice of sauce is vital, with the most popular being a combination of chipotle mayonnaise and barbeque sauce.
With the Screaming Eagle’s popularity come those intent on improving the sandwich and the way it’s made.
Several BC Dining Test Kitchens have tried to introduce new sauces, turkey, and pastrami to liven up the sandwich, but none seem to have the same impact as the original recipe, according to Derrick Cripps, general manager of Corcoran Commons.
Several students in the Carroll School of Management have also proposed ways to produce the sandwich more efficiently to meet popular demand, but BC Dining prides itself on the homemade quality of the Screaming Eagle.
“We make it to order, so speeding up the process would require compromises in the quality of the sandwich,” Cripps said. “The way the process works now limits the throughput, but it’s still custom-made, which is very important to us.”
While many were first introduced to the Screaming Eagle the first time they set foot on campus as freshmen, I had somehow managed to evade it until my junior year. By that point, I had almost given up on getting a Screaming Eagle, figuring that it was too late in my BC career to get one and risk being that person who doesn’t know how to order.
Naturally, I brought my friends for the ride, all survivors of the notoriously long wait time on the steak & cheese line and with several Screaming Eagles under their belts, to watch me take my first bite.
With their recommendations, I decided to keep it simple: a regular steak sandwich topped with a pinch each of mushrooms, broccoli, and onions—and of course, the beloved chipotle-barbeque sauce combo.
After a half hour of being serenaded by ’80s love ballads by the speakers right above my head, I cradled my savory smelling, mightily overflowing, deli paper-wrapped prize in my slightly singed hands.
And with that first fiery bite, the steak & cheese line got one person longer.
I realized that once you start eating, you can’t stop. The sandwich only seemed to get better as I worked my way toward the middle, where the optimal ratio of bread, meat, topping, and sauce was attained. Before I knew it, I had eaten an entire Screaming Eagle in one sitting, an impressive feat for someone who stands at an impressive height of 5 feet.
After that first rendezvous, I made plans for the next time I could safely beat the Screaming Eagle without significantly increasing my risk of cardiac disease.
And as for the best way to eat the sandwich for the best culinary experience? Cripps suggests letting the sandwich sit in its wrapping for a few minutes to let the bread soak up the sauce. Thank me later.
Featured Image by Francisco Ruela/Heights Editor