Lunch review: Fresh, fast subs at Jimmy John's

The humor, noise and prices at this Inner Harbor chain seem right out of college

  • The Italian Night Club sandwich ($5.95)with salami, capicola, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo and Italian vinaigrette is served at Jimmy John's, a gourmet sandwich franchise restaurant in the Inner Harbor.
The Italian Night Club sandwich ($5.95)with salami, capicola,… (Algerina Perna, Baltimore…)
March 13, 2011|By John Lindner, Special To The Baltimore Sun

I didn't know it was still possible to order a sandwich from one of the big chain sub shops without walking the thing through the assembly process.

First you pick from a variety of breads. After that, it's one option after another. Which sauce? How much lettuce? Olives? Hot, cold … and on it goes. Me, personally? I always overdo the pickles.

Now we have Jimmy John's, the big chain sub shop that's new to Baltimore, with three other Maryland locations in Columbia, College Park and Frederick. There's at least a suggestion that they've drawn a line in the sand when it comes to consumer participation. Like a traditional deli, you order at the counter — instead of shepherding your sub from start to finish.

1:18 We enter to a cacophony. "Beat It" is throbbing off the glass and tile surfaces. Someone behind the counter shouts, "Welcome to Jimmy John's." Someone behind the counter does this every time the door opens to admit customers. There's no quiet corner here, and most of the seating is communal, but we manage to find a small table between the door and soda dispenser.

One of the Jimmy John's slogans is, "Your mom wants you to eat at Jimmy John's." It's a play on the chain's claim that it uses "real" meat that's sliced on premises rather than by their supplier. Real Hellman's mayo, and real etc., etc. The JJ website offers nutritional information for all its sandwiches. So maybe your mom does want you to eat here. But she might pass on coming along. The frat house decibel level from the sound system and the employees will make it impossible for her to hear you thank her for picking up the tab.

Along with real meat, JJ's also advertises poor college kid prices. Standard subs climb from $4.15 to $5.15 to $6.15. At the lowest end, the "slims" are any sub without the veggies and sauces. At the high end, you get a bit more of everything. Then there's the Gargantuan for $8.15 — five meats.

12:23 We order. Nobody asked me how much lettuce I wanted. I was not offered eight choices of special sauce. You can add extra meat and cheese. They also offer one other bread option. And I suppose I could have requested they hold the mayo, but no way did I want a gram less of it. Good stuff.

I paid $5.95 for my 948-calorie Italian Night sub. My dining companion picked the 515-calorie Turkey Tom for $4.95, and added 75 cents for provolone (suggested by the helpful counter person). The bag of kettle chips came in at 99 cents apiece. Our large soft drinks each cost $1.89.

1:27 Jimmy John's was doing a brisk business and still our sandwiches were ready almost immediately. At first, I didn't think it was possible they had called our order.

The meats in the Italian seemed real enough. They tasted great — deli quality. The Turkey Tom's turkey wasn't bad either. Again, probably what you would expect to find sliced from a roll in a grocery deli, as opposed to something you pulled out of your oven. The provolone on both sandwiches was fresh, which is nice because provolone's the only cheese JJ's serves. That's daring.

I especially liked the sprouts on the turkey sub; they fit in well with the sandwich. As for the bread: Jimmy John's gets the foundation right. The sub roll is soft and chewy, but not doughy or overly moist, able to stand up to the mayo, vinaigrette and lettuces. The sub roll is simply good. The other option is a multigrain bread. The inch-thick slices taste nutty and wholesome but a bit doughy and in this rare case, I preferred the white bread sub roll.

The sandwiches we tried tasted good: I'll be back for the Italian cold cut, maybe try a few others; and the price is right. JJ's strikes a nice balance of ingredient proportions. They didn't leave me feeling like they needed my help to build or customize our choices.

1:53 Done. I'd have to say that right now, Jimmy John's would be hands down my choice — especially for carryout — among the big sub chains. I get the kegger "culture" shtick. JJ's targets the college market, which I left eons ago. So I'm not going to hang out here. On the other hand, I don't care how many calories their subs pack. I like 'em and I want more.

Jimmy John's

Where: 401 W. Pratt St.

Contact: 410-685-3377

Lunch hours (same menu): 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

Lunch entrées: $4.15-$8.15

Food: ✭✭✭

Service: ✭✭✭

Atmosphere: ✭✭1/2

[Key: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭ Good: ✭✭✭ Fair or Uneven: ✭✭ Poor: ✭]

Dining time: 35 minutes

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