Jason’s Deli – Oak Lawn, IL
I always think it’s funny when friends rave about chain restaurants. Especially when they’re not one of the big national chains. Still, even though I may laugh, it always peaks my interest. A friend of mine on Facebook is constantly talking about a deli that only has one location in the whole state of Iowa, but it happens to be near her house. There’s also one near J’s parents in Oak Lawn, IL, so when J and I needed a quick-lunch, but didn’t want burgers, she called in an order to Jason’s Deli.
The Oak Lawn location of Jason’s Deli is on 95th Street and Mobile Avenue in a new, small strip mall. It sits quite a ways off the road on the other side or a large surface parking lot which is a newer thing in downtown Oak Lawn. A lot of the old buildings are more traditional store fronts that butt up to the road and having parking in back, but this center, as well as a few other new ones, break that tradition.
The chain, which got its start in Beaumont, TX in the late 70′s, prides itself on the fact that none of their food (other than soft drinks) contain High Fructose Corn Syrup or trans fat. Their signature sandwiches include Po’boys and muffalettas and every restaurant has a salad bar and daily soup selection. There are approximately 200 stores in 25 states.
I really don’t know how the deli works. They call it a deli restaurant and when you walk in, the order area says “To-Go Ordering,” so I guess that means you would sit down and a waitress would take care of you if you were dining in? Not sure. Didn’t have to worry about it because J had already called in an order. The space reminds me of Panera Bread. There’s an order counter that is stacked with impulse buys and the kitchen is open so you can watch your sandwich being made. When I got there, my order was already done. I gave them my name and they handed me a bag with our lunches. I was also handed a cup for J’s sweet tea. I paid the $16 for a sandwich, a salad, and a drink. It was then up to me to get J’s tea. Since I don’t drink tea, I’m a little ignorant. I guess you’re supposed to put ice in sweet tea? I just filled the glass and headed home. When J picked it up, she remarked about it being hot and complained they forgot to put ice in it. I could have just played along, but I fessed up and said I did it and didn’t know any better. She laughed at me.
For lunch, I ordered the Bird to the Wise sandwich. I was just expecting a flat sandwich with a few slices of meat, but this was done in a style more reminiscent of a New York style deli. The sandwich was loaded up with turkey, pastrami and swiss cheese. It was served on an onion roll with choice of mustard or mayo. I, of course, chose mustard. It was one of those sandwiches that I didn’t really know how to eat. It didnt’ all fit in my mouth, so I did my best to nibble away until I got something more manageable. The onion roll, which is usually a turn off, didn’t affect the taste of the sandwich too much, so I can’t complain. I didn’t really pay attention to bread when I ordered, so it was my bad. The sandwich was served with chips and a pickle. I finished off both and it did a pretty good job of holding me over until dinner.
J ordered the Nutty Mixed Up salad. Organic field greens come topped with grapes, feta cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, raisin’s and organic apples. The dressing is Leo’s balsamic vinaigrette. She loved the salad except for the apples. They were too big to really eat as part of the salad and had to be picked up and eaten separately by hand. Other than that, she was really impressed with the combination of toppings and is a little remorseful that we had never eaten at Jason’s in the past.
Overall, much better than I would have expected. I was thinking it was going to be something like Panera, but it was more Panera crossed with a New York Deli. The sandwich was delicious and there’s about a dozen more on the menu that I’d like to get my hands on. There are no Jason’s Deli locations in Michigan. This store in Oak Lawn is probably the closest to Kalamazoo