1827 Coventry Rd.
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
Bite: Alternative image, mainstream taste.
by Beau Cadiyo
What is a gourmet sandwich, or even just a really good one? Is it fresh meat and Italian provolone with vine-ripe tomatoes? Is it crusty bread, home-made, stone-ground bread and mustard made by virgins in France? Or is it simply bread and filler wrapped in wax paper? It’s something I’ve only just recently started to ask myself. I’ve had some great sandwiches and some amazingly shitty ones. But why do I feel like sandwiches can be judged? It’s a mystery to me.
I’d been intrigued by Jimmy John’s ever since it opened on Coventry. I’d heard of it before, and when we started this blog people kept telling me to go there. Then, Frank Elkins told me it was horrible, so I didn’t. There were the times I walked past it after a summer night at Panini’s, or thought about it when ordering food for events (they cater and have “crazy fast” service), but it somehow stayed in business without my patronage.
Until Tuesday. First, we were the only ones eating there around 6 p.m. It is Stepford in appearance; perfect, non-specific 1950s-styling, lots of red and white and darkened eating areas compared to the kitchen, and clean – uncomfortably, stiflingly clean. Carefully ordered mayonnaise jars were arranged in perfect rows, “Hellmans” facing cheerily forward. All this contrasted with the presentation of the menu and the image they seemed to be going for – a frat-boy style, a little edgy, a little wild.
I got #12, the Beach Club, with a soda and some jalapeno chips. The name “beach club” made it sound fun and vacation-like. There was no choice of bread, which I found odd; it turned out to be some sort of faux-baguette, crustless and chewy. There were a lot of sprouts, a lot of lettuce, a few tomatoes, and a layer of turkey and cheese folded together on the bottom. It tasted fresh, but lacked originality; the description was intriguing, but in the end it was just another standard sandwich. The chips were the same: ever so slightly spicy, but certainly nothing you couldn’t give your Scandinavian grandmother in Nebraska who has subsisted solely on butter and cabbage and sausage for the last 85 years. And who doesn’t have teeth.
In the end, Jimmy John’s took a lot of things that might have been interesting and sanitized them, took away that spice, that bite. Can they make a good sandwich? Sure – certainly better and fresher-tasting than Subway, for example. I’m not sure it’s gourmet, though. For a quick eat, Jimmy John’s will satisfy you. If you’re looking for something that is a bit more revolutionary in substance rather than in form, go elsewhere.