It’s What’s In-Between

Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich chain debuts in Pasadena

Monday, December 30, 2013 | 6:51 pm

Bread. Meat. Bread. A simple and elegant combination that has defined lunch since the 18th Century, when John Montagu, England’s 4th Earl of Sandwich, was supposedly playing cards with associates. Hungry, but wanting to continue playing while eating, he told one of the servants to fetch him some slices of roast beef and put them between two slices of bread. Thus, he could handle the cards while he ate.

The newest Jimmy John's opens on Lake Avenue.

A probably fictional account, say many, but the meal is since ascribed to his name evermore, and now there are hundreds of thousands of shops across America dedicated to the bread/meat/bread dynamic. And like the proverbial mousetrap, restaurateurs of every stripe have tried to build a better one.

Enter Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches on the already restaurant-intensive Lake Avenue. Founded by Jimmy John Liautaud in 1983 and headquartered in Champaign, Illinois, the sandwich chain has grown to more than 1,600 locations in 40 states in 30 years. The Lake Avenue location just opened on December 27.

This is a clean, modern-retro designed chain with lots of signage and homilies tacked to the walls. (“Don’t let your kids wear baggy pants,” among others) And as the over-the-menu counter claims, it is neither “gourmet” nor French (?) According to Liautaud family legend, his mother just thought “gourmet” in the name sounded better. Mom is always right.

The sandwiches themselves are fresh and served “freaky fast” on a choice of breads—Italian rolls or Seven-Grain. (They didn’t ask us our choice. Chalk it up to being new.) They’re right about the “freaky fast” thing, though. Before your can fill up your soda cup at the self-serve fountain, your sandwich is staring at you at the counter. Reason enough to visit.

We tried the Lulu Club Sandwich, and two JJ.BLTs, one of those with avocado. All were tasty and stuffed with fresh ingredients. It helped that we were famished at the time, but our consensus? We’ll be back.

Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches is at 165 South Lake Avenue, Pasadena. (626) 583-9092.

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