Was the Publix chicken tender sub invented by three hungry Florida men?

Last week, a Florida man claimed to be the co-creator of Publix’s famous chicken tender sub. But what’s the truth?
Photo of Publix sub: [CHRIS URSO I Times]. Photo of Publix: Times (2010)
Photo of Publix sub: [CHRIS URSO I Times]. Photo of Publix: Times (2010)
Published June 11, 2019

A new origin story for Publix’s beloved chicken tender sub emerged last week on social media.

After amassing a thousand or so likes on Twitter, the story begged one question: Is it true?

The post first originated on the popular “Are Publix Chicken Tender Subs on Sale?” Facebook page.

In late May, a Facebook user named Dave Charls offered his story for the creation of the chicken tender Publix sub. Let us set the stage for you.

It’s the late ’90s and two young Florida men are at the deli counter of a Publix on Fleming Island. We’ll call them Kevin and Dave. (That’s what Dave calls them.)

Kevin and Dave are coworkers who want one simple thing: to combine Publix’s chicken tenders and their sub rolls into one cohesive sandwich. For months, they’ve walked into Publix and done just that, buying the chicken tenders and the roll separately because, in their words, “the people in the deli REFUSED to ring it up as a sub.”

Here's a little history of the publix chicken tender sub: Publix chicken tender subs were not on the menu and didn't...

Posted by Dave Charls on Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Then one day, everything changes. A Publix employee, presumably Dave’s friend, Philip, agrees to formally make this sub.

“I finally had a guy on the inside who would do it!” Dave says.

The sandwich took off, according to Dave’s story. The Fleming Island Publix advertised the sandwich the following day on a sign scrawled in chalk, Dave said.

Soon, it spread to other stores. “Thus, the chicken tender pub-sub was born,” Dave’s post reads. A request last week to the Facebook account associated with Dave Charls did not yield a response.

Only here’s the thing: Dave’s story doesn’t line up with dates provided by Publix. The grocery giant says the first corporate documentation for a chicken tender Pub Sub recipe and procedure was recorded in 1992 or 1993, at least four years before Dave and co. said they came up with it.

“We can on our end say no," said Brian West, Publix’s spokesman, noting the timeline discrepancy.

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Unfortunately, West says there is no definitive origin story for the iconic sandwich. The store does not have firm records, at least according to West, as to where the first chicken tender Pub Sub was made.

We’re left with this: Dave and Philip and Kevin were not the first to eat the chicken tender pub sub, according to Publix.

And they certainly won’t be the last.