Columbia is one of those places where something “new” happens only once in a blue moon. For that reason, and probably that reason alone, Jason’s Deli has been the talk of the town since it opened only a few months ago. That’s probably also the reason why if you plan on eating at Jason’s Deli anywhere around lunchtime, I would highly suggest arriving at least thirty minutes before you plan to eat. Not only is parking in the middle of the Vista during the weekday lunch hour hectic and impossible, but what starts off as what I can only imagine to be a handful of people around 11:00am turns into a feeding frenzy and a line all the way out the door somewhere around 11:45. Nevertheless, despite the recent opening of this restaurant, I would say that Jason’s Deli has the goods to back up all the talk.
The menu is probably incredibly diverse and likely offers a nice assortment of options, but to be honest with you, I had no choice but to order the first thing I noticed on the menu. I have to admit that when I see the word “club” on a restaurant’s menu, I am almost paralyzed. Once I see the club sandwich, nothing else sounds good anymore. I’m sure you’ve all had delicious club sandwiches. Who couldn’t love a club sandwich? Three slices of toasted bread stacked between layers of ham, turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato, all held together by that perfect toothpick with the colored plastic on the top.
But this wasn’t just any club sandwich that Jason’s Deli was offering, no this was a Club Royale. The word just rolls of the tongue… Royyyallleee. When I first saw the it listed on the menu, Club Royale, I immediately thought to myself, if I order this sandwich, a Club Royale, are Bond girls going to serve it to me? As my mind raced through all the possibilities of what scenario I might find myself in: spying on the international enemy and drinking an extra dry martini on the shores of the Italian coast, it was time to order. I had no choice: the Club Royale.
The restaurant is somewhat confusing. You order your sandwich, and then you walk along what appears to be one of those make-the-sandwich-in-front-of-your-very-eyes kind of lines… except that no one is actually making sandwiches in front of your eyes. Rather, the design of the production line tricks you into believing that your sandwich will be made in a mere matter of seconds, but no. In fact, it took a rather long time for our sandwiches to reach the table. Enough of a period of time had passed that the Lunchmen who were dining with us on this particular occasion had already had time to make it all the way up and down the salad bar with a bowl overflowing with fresh produce.
Let me add in a little tidbit of information here. I probably rank the restaurants I’ve eaten at based solely on one factor: the quality of the sweet tea. If the tea is bad, I probably won’t come back to the restaurant. I know that seems silly, but it’s just the way it is. For those of you who are more curious about the tea than the food, Jason’s Deli had an assortment of sweet teas, flavored and unflavored. Obviously I went for the regular sweet tea, no fruit flavorings for me please. I will just give you a head’s up on the tea, it’s great. I would highly recommend trying their sweet tea, and if you really feel daring, go for the flavored stuff. Don’t let me stop you.
Now, back to what you’re probably more interested in, the food. When the sandwich did in fact come out to the table I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I know I shouldn’t have been disappointed because I knew what I had ordered: a club on a croissant. But at the time I had placed my order I hadn’t really thought about the result. Where was the toasted slices of bread? Where was the double-decker stack that I have come to love? Sad. Nevertheless, if you are anywhere near as big of a fan of the croissant as I am, your disappointment will quickly subside when you pick up that buttery, flakey, bread and it soaks up all that delicious honey mustard. Let’s just say this sandwich isn’t for those dieting type.
The Club Royale was delectable. Not only was the sandwich wider than my mouth, but the portions were perfectly divided. I mean, it’s a club sandwich for goodness sake, it better not have more ham than turkey or vice versa. I would say the sandwich was equal parts turkey and ham with enough bacon to have that crispy crunch in each bite. (I know I can’t be the only one who hates those restaurants that claim to put bacon on a sandwich, but only actually put one measley piece or a couple of crumbles. Somebody should do something about that.) The lettuce and tomato were perfectly fresh. The honey mustard was smathered on there so that when you put the sandwich back down or got to your last bite there was some of that mustard still left on your fingers. Yum.
Needless to say, the eating experience, as far as this food critic is concerned, won’t let you down. If you’re looking for good service, that’s another story altogether though. I would suggest that if you like to talk a lot, this is the perfect place for you because I will personally guarantee you that you will have someone stop and check on your meal just about every 8 and a half minutes. In fact, our table was checked by one busboy twice, a second busboy once, and what I assume to be the manager twice all in a matter of 30 to 35 minutes of actual sitting time. Not to mention about every employee in the entire restaurant purposely caught our eyes each time they passed our table, so as to say “if you need me to stop and ask you how your meal is going, just blink once”. This is all to say that if you are the kind of person who prefers to be left alone during your meal, I would suggest trying a different restaurant. All-in-all however, I would recommend Jason’s Deli if you are looking for a good club sandwich and an abundance of service.
I guess I shouldn’t end my critique without also mentioning the free ice cream. Who doesn’t love something free? Especially soft serve. ESPECIALLY in the summertime. It’s not like I actually think a stand-alone soft-serve store would necessarily be profitable, but I do believe that softserve has a way to bring back childhood memories. Plus, Jason’s Deli has those little Styrofoam cones that seem like a good idea until you start crunching into them and realize they have no flavor whatsoever. If those cones don’t bring back childhood memories then I don’t know what will! Despite the fact that I’ve just given away the mystery of the ice cream cones—that no one remembers that they taste like pure sawdust until they bite into them—I would nevertheless suggest that if you want something free, and refreshing, go to Jason’s Deli, order just about whatever you want, and partake in the free, all-you-can-eat ice cream.