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Feb 3, 2013 03:56 PM

Jimmy John's

I thought that since I frequent this board, I should contribute a topic about a favorite chain. I grew up in Philadelphia, PA where good-to-magnificent hoagies abound. Back in 2005, I moved to Nashville, TN. I discovered that Southerners do not know how to make sandwiches, let alone hoagies (you can't make a sandwich worth eating without bread worth eating). Subway was not an acceptable substitute, and the places that tried to replicate a Yankee-style hoagie often had excellent quality ingredients, but something was often lost in translation. Usually the bread. Anyway, a few years after I moved down there, Jimmy John's opened near Vanderbilt University.

Now, I moved back to Philadelphia in 2012. Places where you can get good-to-magnificent hoagies abound here. However, in Nashville, they were a lifesaver. Their hoagies would have qualified in Philadelphia as pretty good, solid hoagies. You wouldn't go out of your way for them, but you wouldn't refuse to get a sandwich from them either. However, in Tennessee? In Tennessee, they officially qualified as stellar. The white bread was a touch crusty, soft enough inside to collapse around the meats, but a bit tough so it wouldn't turn to paste as it absorbed the oil and vinegar, the fat from the meats, and the juices from the veggies. Their deli meats were good, the veggies were fresh, and their tuna tasted fresh and good. I became a regular, and I always got the Italian or the tuna.

Any other Jimmy John's fans here?

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  1. I think Jimmy John's I'd extremely mediocre.

    Have you tried Mitchell Deli in Nashville? Good hoagies (like the roast beef) and a surprisingly good French dip. I just wish it was closer to VU.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Yeah, there aren't many places near me that serve anything other than barely acceptable subs, and I rate Jimmy John's on par with Subway if you do a calorie vs taste comparison, IMHO. Other than the two aforementioned shops there is a Quiznos, a local chain that serves hoagies, and a bunch of other independent joints that serve subs as a secondary menu item. They are all interchangeable and uninteresting to me, but that does not prohibit me from getting a sub from time to time. I usually go with subway just because it is a healthy option. Jimmy John's rarely makes it into my rotation; I can't imagine it would at all if I were in a good sandwich town like Philadelphia.

      1. re: MonMauler

        Oh, now that I'm back in Philly I won't be patronizing Jimmy John's, but in Nashville? They were a godsend!

      2. re: ipsedixit

        Mitchell Deli was great...unless you wanted a hoagie. Their bread was way too hard for a classic hoagie. I often got sandwiches at Mitchell, though I was fonder of their breakfasts than their sandwiches. I did like their curried chicken salad a lot, and I greatly appreciated that they carried the diet Milo's tea.

        But Mitchell Deli made the same mistake that a lot of foodie-centric places make when it comes to hoagies (including, sadly, here in Philadelphia recently). The bread was too hard. The true alchemy of a great Philadelphia hoagie roll is that it's a bit crusty on the very outside, but the inside is soft enough to smush, while also being tough enough to soak up oil, grease & veggie juices without turning into paste. The bread at Mitchell was more like cibatta. Good if that's what you wanted, but not good for hoagies.

      3. I've tried Subway, Jimmy Johns, Quiznos, Philadelphia Mike's, Panera, Firehouse Subs, and Potbelly. I've come to the conclusion that Potbelly is the least horrible chain sandwich option when it comes to quality of ingredients, service, selection, and price. Jimmy Johns and Philadelphia Mike's are simply adequate; nothing bad but nothing to really recommend or go out of the way for. Subway I find inedible and can't get past the "smell." Fortunately, at both work and home, I'm in relatively close proximity to FAR better mom & pop sandwich options. Hell, even the Chinese carryouts make a better cheesesteak than these guys.

        I have observed that each of these chains will have their own defenders, but I'm inclined to think that it's not a case of "x being better than y" so much as the nostalgia value. A lot of people under 40 grew up eating these sandwiches, so there's a lot of brand loyalty.

        5 Replies
        1. re: monkeyrotica

          Monkey, in Tennessee I tried Jersey Mike's, Subway, Jimmy John's, Panera and Firehouse Subs. Subway was awful, but they were all over the place with several 24 hour locations. Since my work schedule was so erratic, I sometimes ended up there (tuna on flatbread, no cheese, extra veggies was the closest thing to okay I could come up with there). Jersey Mike's I tried once right after I moved to Nashville. I was too fresh from Philly. I bit into my sandwich, looked at my friend Maria (who was also from Philly) and said "They MUST be kidding!". We agreed that anyone trying to pass that slop off in NJ would be run out of the state. Panera sandwiches were..."Eh" at best. I don't care for most things from Panera, though a few of their soups are pretty alright. I tried Firehouse Subs once and found them to be both overpriced and inedible. I never went back. I've never tried Quizno's. I'll agree that Jimmy John's was simply adequate. In Tennesse, that qualified it as stellar. In Philly, those same sandwiches would be barely passable. Funny how that works...

          1. re: StrandedYankee

            So are you saying that Subway, et al are better in Philly than Nashville, or are you saying that Subway, et al in Nashville are not not as good as local, independent sub shops in Philly? If its the latter, then that's not a fair comparison at all.

            1. re: carolinadawg

              I've never eaten in a Subway in Philly. I imagine that they are as awful here as they are everywhere else I've had them.

              The exact same sandwich that I was thrilled to find in Nashville wouldn't have thrilled me in Philadelphia. But that's to be expected. I don't expect to find chess pie or bbq here in Philly that would make me happy after living for 6.5 years in Tennessee. If I find some eventually around here that will hit the spot when I am seriously jonesing for it, I will be very happy. And I won't hold these foods to the same standard up here that I held them to down there. As long as it's yummy and hits the flavor/texture marks correctly I will simply be grateful to have found it. Which is how I felt about Jimmy John's in Nashville.

            2. re: StrandedYankee

              Sorry to pile on, but you are comparing apples to oranges. Comparing National chains which happen to be in the South to regional Philly area places is just ridiculous.

              1. re: StrandedYankee

                We have all those chains in Florida, but none of the great local sandwich shops like you have in Philly. Of all of them, I think Jersey Mike's is far and away the best, with Wawa as a close second and Jimmy John's a distant third. I wouldn't even count Panera because they don't make make SUBS like all the others, and Firehouse is probably my least favorite, even below Subway.

            3. I'm living in Colorado after spending my first 34 years in Jersey. When I get a deli sandwich craving, I go to Jimmy John's. There are a few deli-type sandwich shops around here, but I'm skeptical of them.

              Oh god, I miss a sandwich on an Italian People's roll...

              2 Replies
              1. re: Heatherb

                Heather, I also left Philly at 34. As I said, I'd never go to a Jimmy John's in Philly or NJ, but if I ever get to Colarado and I want a hoagie, I will go to Jimmy John's without too much complaining.

                1. re: Heatherb

                  Italian Peoples!! TRENTON!! I was there last month and brought back ham bread, torpedo rolls, and bags full of other breads, cheeses, etc.

                  In Richmond, VA (where I have been for 30 years) we have all the chains: Jersey Mikes, Blimpie, Subway, Quizo's, and Jimmy Johns. My son worked a summer at JJ's and we got fresh baked bread brought home almost every night. It wasn't too bad. But the meats are, well, chain meats.

                  I hit Philly for cheese steaks and italian pork sandwiches and I get hoagies at the Trenton Farmer's Market or in Princeton at Hoagie Haven. You'll never eat a chain sandwich again...

                  BUT, if you have to, Jimmy John's makes decent (not great) bread.

                2. +1 to your comment about Southerners not knowing how to make deli sandwiches. You're so right about the bread.

                  However, I can partially agree with monkeyerotica (I feel weird just typing that screen name) about relative assessments of the sandwich chains. I've never lived near a Potbelly so I have no opinion there. The others are all just about the same and not worth much of anything unless there are just no other options.

                  My latest "meh" go-to option when I haven't brought lunch from home is to pick up a sandwich at the Harris Teeter, my local supermarket chain. The meat is Boar's Head and they have daily sandwich specials. The bread still stinks but the meat is good quality, the size is very reasonable, and the price beats the chains all to heck. Similar quality and taste, much better price. I'd kill for a decent Northeast-style hero.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: rockycat

                    There are a bunch of places here in Denver that "import" Amoroso's rolls from Philly, which cracks me up. I always envision a sort of cargo-culture-style "airdrop" taking place somewhere in the wasteland around DIA.

                    1. re: Heatherb

                      Lack of decent bread is a standard chain sandwich complaint. Even if they have decent quality deli meat, the bread is some factory produced thing that's either flavorless, has lousy texture, or is downright bad. This seems to be a big problem where there's no "bread culture" where fresh bread is valued as a commodity, like Paris or Philly or New Orleans. I discovered a Latino bakery near me that bakes bollilo rolls fresh every morning; it's all gone by dinner time. They resemble a squat little French sandwich loaf; crusty on the outside, but soft on the inside. Not as soft as Leidenheimer po boy rolls but not as firm as Amoroso sub rolls. It's somewhere in between, but it really makes the sandwich. A couple bucks more than the chain sandwich fare, but one bite and you know where that extra money went. If there's a Latino community in your neck of the woods, they'll probably have a bakery that's worth checking out.

                    2. re: rockycat

                      In Nashville, before Jimmy John's, I would get hoagies at times of hoagie desperation at Publix. Boars Head meats, decent veggies, decent bread...but somehow it was never quite right. Publix, for a supermarket, had stellar bread...but somehow it just wasn't a hoagie roll. No matter what they called it!

                      1. re: StrandedYankee

                        It's probably more like Cuban bread. They make awesome Cubans.

                    3. Since you are back in the Philly area, it's hard to beat Wawa's for value and convenience. I think they are better than Jimmy Johns (not to be confused with the Great Hot Dog place on 202). If you are in the city, there's all the good spots, but Wawas is everywhere. I like them better than the non original Capriottis

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                        Thanks for reminding me how much I miss Wawa! I'd forgotten :P

                        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                          I do love Wawa, but...I hate their hoagies. Especially the tuna...Wawa tuna is awful! Once I get back to Philly, I become a hoagie connoisseur, picky as heck and proudly hard to please. In truth, a Jimmy John's hoagie is about as good as a Wawa hoagie. There's much better to be had here in Philadelphia. Why if I feel that way did Jimmy John's make me so happy in Tennessee when Wawa displeases me so in Philly? mommy always said I was difficult!

                          1. re: StrandedYankee

                            Wawa tuna IS nasty, but here in Virginia the Wawa's are all full service convenience and gas marts. The old Wawa's in NJ were just little delis and the hoagies were great. There used to be one right next to the Dinky train station in Princeton and one off 33 in Hightstown...both had great hoagies.

                            Fact is, in Virginia, if you want a hoagie late at night, Wawa is as good as you'll get. Italians or "Premium" turkey is not bad.

                            Bread baked daily at regional bakery.

                            Again, nothing like home.

                            1. re: chefsalad

                              Honestly, I love me some Wawa, but the idea of getting tuna fish salad there... *Shudder*

                              1. re: Heatherb

                                I can't blame you a bit, Heather, but to be honest tuna hoagies were always tied for favorite with Italian with me. So I can't not consider the tuna when deciding if I like the hoagies somewhere. I never cared for turkey, or roast beef, or plain ham & cheese hoagies...I liked the Italian hoagies for the spicier, somehow drier deli meats. Most of the rest were too bland for me.

                                For me, all hoagies were always ordered with heavy tomato & heavy onion, no lettuce, oil, vinegar, and oregano.