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Home / Articles / Food / Restaurant Reviews /  Jason's Deli, Jimmy John's & Joni's Deli & Grill
Restaurant Reviews

Jason's Deli, Jimmy John's & Joni's Deli & Grill

Jason, Jimmy & Joni: Looking for lunch in all the fast places.

By Ted Scheffler
Posted // May 20,2009 -

The search for a good sandwich is an unending one. Unfortunately, with the demise of more and more mom & pop cafes, the sandwich quest leads me these days, increasingly, to chain operations—never my first choice of where to spend my money. But hey, ya gotta give ’em a try, right? You just never know where the next great Reuben might come from: Jason’s Deli, for example.

With the exception of one mixed-up order from Jason’s Deli—which I didn’t discover until I’d gotten home with my goods—I’ve had better-than-expected experiences with the food and service at the Gateway and Layton locations. I can’t really comment on all the others and haven’t tried the Orem or Murray stores, but since Jason’s resides in Cookie Cutter County (it has some 200 delis in 25 states), I imagine the others are equally dependable. Don’t go looking for Jason, however—the chain was founded by Joe Tortorice Jr. in Beaumont, Texas. Maybe he just liked the sounds of “Jason’s” over “Joe’s.”

Jason’s Delis are large, spotless eateries with extensive menus. The setup is cafeteria style: get in line, place your order and pick it up when it’s ready, which is usually quickly. Jason’s also does catering, and supplying offices and corporate get-togethers is a big chunk of the company’s revenue.

What surprises me is that Jason’s can cover so many bases so well: There’s soup, salads, sandwiches, paninis, “wrapinis,” pasta, potatoes and desserts. The sandwich selection alone includes po’ boys, “slimwiches,” muffalettas, classic favorites and “build-your-owns.” Amazingly, I haven’t been disappointed in a single one of them that I’ve tried. Well, all right: You won’t mistake the 9-inch muffaletta with ham, salami, provolone and tapenade ($11.99) for one from the Central Grocery in New Orleans, but it really ain’t bad in a pinch.

Much better, however, is Jason’s Reuben ($7.99). Thinly shaved hot corned beef is piled high and topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on soft rye bread. A tasty variation on the Reuben is the New York Yankee ($7.99), which combines corned beef with pastrami and Swiss on rye and offers a choice of mustard or mayo. At Jason’s, the new pot-roast po’ boy ($6.99) with provolone and smoked red pepper-cilantro aioli has become one of my favorite go-to lunch options. And most surprising is how satisfying a bowl of Jason’s zippy sea food gumbo is. On the other hand, $6.99 for a baked spud with toppings seems a tad out of line when I can buy a 10-pound bag of Idaho russets at my local supermarket for $1.99.

Seemingly overnight, Jimmy John’s “World’s Greatest Gourmet Sandwiches” have sprung up in Salt Lake City, Bountiful, Midvale, Layton and American Fork. Many more, no doubt, are on the way. When I saw the sign at Jimmy John’s that read “Bread so French it must be liberated!” my interest was piqued.

Unfortunately, the bread at Jimmy John’s is about as French as I am. In fact, it couldn’t be more American. Sub sandwiches at Jimmy John’s come on a “French loaf” which is most reminiscent of a hot dog bun on steroids, slightly more crispy but just as flavorless. Order the Pepe ($4.75) sub sandwich and what you get is a few thin slices of smoked ham and provolone, crispy shredded lettuce, tomato and mayo. These are pretty much the opposite of Jason’s over-stuffed sandwiches; they’re thin and disappointing, from the tuna (adorned mysteriously with alfalfa sprouts and cucumber) to the blander-than-bland Turkey Tom sandwich ($4.75). True, Jimmy John’s sandwiches are cheaper than Jason’s. But sometimes you get exactly what you pay for. In this case, that’s pretty much a Subway sandwich, but without the bread choices Subway offers.

Joni’s Deli & Grill is the type of place I wish was a chain/franchise, since it would be nice to have easier access to the great food and service there. But Joni’s is a definite one-off, if only because there’s just one Joni Sorenson, the deli’s namesake. During my 15 years as a paid restaurant critic, I’ve learned a few clues about how to identify great eateries. I’ll share with you my most important discovery: I’ve never had a bad meal in a restaurant where someone called me “hon.”

Of course, Joni calls everybody “hon,” but that doesn’t make me feel any less special at Joni’s. Particularly when I get my lips around her scrumptious garlic burger ($4.25), cooked with love and just the right (restrained) amount of seasoning. City Weekly circulation manager Larry Carter, who’s never given me a bum tip yet, turned me on to Joni’s. He’s crazy about the chicken Philly sandwich ($5.89) there, and I can see why. The straight Philly cheesesteak ($5.89) is also wildly popular at Joni’s, although I can’t quite come to grips with the slathered-0n mayonnaise.

Here’s another reason to stop by Joni’s Deli for lunch (it’s only open 11 a.m.–3 p.m. on weekdays): sloppy Joes. When was the last time you saw a sloppy Joe on a restaurant menu? My memory doesn’t even go back that far. For this and many more reasons, Joni’s Deli & Grill makes me think of that favorite Emeril Lagasse phrase: “Happy, happy, happy!”

JASON'S DELI
Various Locations
JasonsDeli.com

JIMMY JOHN'S GOURMET SANDWICHES
Various Locations
JimmyJohns.com

JONI'S DELI & GRILL
52 E. 1700 South
801-466-6662

 
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // July 9,2009 at 13:15

Great synopsis of these three eateries (or two chains & eatery to be exact). I've had similar experiences at Jason's in several other cities. You are correct that they are very cookie-cutter, fortunately not in a bad way.

I had the same impression about JJ's. You get what you pay for. My big complaint is the use of the word "gourmet" as it sets up a greater expectation. It's a fast sandwich, and inexpensive. Those are more accurate selling points.

Joni's was incredible. Nice recap.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // July 8,2009 at 10:29

As a fan of Jimmy Johns I am wondering why you chose to only try their basic sandwiches and not their Giant Club Sandwiches which cost only $1 more and offer nearly twice as much toppings and the choice of the french bread or their very tasty wheat. Seems like a giant overlook on your part, as their Giant Club Sandwiches are their big sellers. You didn't even order a pickle!

As for the rush to order, I agree the stores here in Utah (I grew up in Michigan and have eaten my fair share of JJ) are a bit rushy rushy/eager, but maybe as they are around longer they will find their flow. Defintely a step up from Subway, my only complaint is that their hours as long as the ones in metro Detroit and Chicago.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 21,2009 at 11:09

Salty,

I had the same experience, although I didn't mention it in my column. At Jimmy John's I was the only customer in the joint and while ordering I felt like I was playing "beat the clock." What's the rush?

 

Posted // May 22,2009 at 07:38 - Jimmy John "Gourmet" Sandwiches, my ass. Nothing gourmet about the place, from the bread on up. Poor man's Subway. dont mean that to sound mean, just comparing.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 20,2009 at 21:52

I have had only one experience at Jimmy Jon's, and it was completely disappointing. The sandwich was just pathetic, and I felt totally bullied by the bossy counterperson who rushed me in ordering even though there was no one in line behind me. I would have thought that behaviour an anomoly, but the manager was standing right next to her. It was weird.

 

 
 
 
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