Review: Jason’s Deli, Fort Collins

Back in March, one of the best blogs and Facebook pages I follow, Gluten Freeville posted a link to Jason’s Deli site which had a survey asking if people would like them to have Gluten-free sandwich options. The “yes” response was overwhelming, and in a followup post in June, Gluten Freeville wrote a followup article that Jason’s Deli planned to carry Gluten Free Bread starting in July.

Although thrilled, I don’t live close to Jason’s Deli and I haven’t had the chance to try their GF options. This past Tuesday, hubby and I were trying to figure out where to go for a gluten-free supper that wouldn’t break the bank. Sometimes I can’t remember my list of Gluten Free options. We were both wanting something light, but still filling, and just different. Suddenly, I remembered Jason’s Deli. Because of the lag time between their announcement and when we finally got to go (July 3 to Nov 2), I called to make sure they hadn’t ditched the effort. They responded, “yes, we do still carry the gluten-free bread!”

Ecstatic, we headed over to Jason’s. Upon getting in line, I grabbed a menu because it has been 2 years since I’ve had to opportunity to eat there. The menu was definitely unfamiliar, and when I opened it, there were no GF options. Instead, it stated, “ask for our gluten-free menu.” That was disappointment number one. No one was available until we got to our turn to order and upon asking for it, they had to go find a xerox copy which basically listed only the meats and cheeses for a build your own sandwich.

So, the first question I had to ask, “well can I get a sandwich from your regular menu?” The answer was basically “sort of.” They recommended against anything with the roast beef because they “didn’t know” if the au jus had gluten in it. They couldn’t make a Panini because they don’t have a dedicated Panini press for the gluten-free options, and they don’t carry any hoagies that are gluten-free for some of their really amazing sandwiches like “Sgt. Peppers.” Once they explained that, I then had to go back to their regular menu to find a sandwich that fit within those criteria.

The overall ordering experience seemed like I was more trouble and an irritation.

Once I got the sandwich, I was extremely disappointed that my sandwich plate had no marking assuring me it was gluten-free. Sometimes places stick some sort of flag in, gluten-free label, or a different wrapper. In fact, the bread looked like cracked wheat bread; I got very nervous and ended up double checking. I asked a very sweet guy who was cleaning the tables and he took me up to the front to help me. The guys who made the sandwich confirmed that it was Gluten Free. I do wish they would have shown me the bread bag or something. In fact, I asked what they use, and they said they didn’t know. What I wanted to do when I ordered was watch them make my sandwich. However, when I tried to do that, they seemed a bit agitated I wanted to wait. I should have spoken up, but was already uncomfortable regarding how it went at the register.

According to the original announcement, the bread is from Udi’s Gluten Free Foods and I’d just never seen that particular bread in the stores. (However, when I looked up the site to add to this blog, I did see that exact bread!) Still a bit leery, (I would have felt better if they would have offered to show me the package and where they keep it so I know it’s not sitting open with the other Gluten-full breads), I went ahead and ate.

Dinner was delicious! I had an Amy’s Turkey-O with the gluten-free bread and:
oven roasted turkey
breast, sliced avocado, jalapeño pepper jack,
purple onion rings, roma tomatoes, lettuce,
organic stone ground mustard.

After gobbling my sandwich, I inquired about the Ice Cream they offer free, and she told me as long as I don’t grab a cone (duh) it would be fine. I was.

Overall, the sandwich was delicious and I ended up with a product that was gluten-free. I probably would go back, especially if I was on that side of town. However, with the trouble of finding a menu, the lack of the actual menu of what people can and can’t have, and the concerns I had with my food that weren’t addressed as fully as I would have liked to feel confident I was getting a GF product, it would probably not be my first choice. For now, it’s on the bottom of my list of Gluten Free restaurant options because I’m only about 80% confident I can eat there without cross contamination.

The positives: food was good, it didn’t end up cross contaminated, no extra charge for the GF bread.
What they need to work on: communication about the GF options, clear distinction of GF foods, availability of menu, menu that denotes GF option, including whether the condiments are ok, better informing their own employees about GF products and which products must be avoided, encourage a more GF welcoming atmosphere.

Jason’s would do very well to provide literature on their Gluten Free options. Most of us are starved for sandwiches, especially fantastic sandwiches at a place like Jason’s Deli which has great recipes, healthier options, and quality ingredients. Jason’s Deli has already made huge efforts to inform their customers with their fliers and statements about their efforts to be green, serve healthy foods, keep away from HFCS, that simply printing information about their SOPs (standard operating procedures) for a gluten-free order to ensure food doesn’t get contaminated, mentioning the source of their gluten-free bread, adding the GF symbol to their normal menu on items that can be made gluten-free, and inviting the customer to watch them make the sandwich and so they are at ease and know immediately that it’s Gluten Free would create 100% confidence and they would open a whole new customer base of GF customers who miss sandwiches. Finally, adding a good gluten-free roll for the hoagie type sandwiches and a dedicated Panini Press so that customers can order Jason’s fantastic Panini’s would put them at the top of places to eat Gluten Free.

Hopefully I’ll get to do another review sometime soon that will put Jason’s Deli at the top of my Gluten Free list when I eat out. For now, they still have some work to do, but I think if you ask to watch make your sandwich, you’ll feel more confident and be able to enjoy a long-lost favorite.

Thank you for reading.

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