Deli in the ‘burbs

Jason's Deli
Jason’s Deli, a relatively new arrival, is attracting big crowds to the East End suburbs.

LEO’s Eats with

If Stevens & Stevens is the ultimate Louisville urban deli, a relatively new arrival, Jason’s Deli, is attracting big crowds to the East End suburbs. This 20-year-old national chain originated in Tucson, Ariz., a mighty long way from the Big Apple, but they’re obviously doing something right: There’s almost always a crowd, but the lines move fast, and I’ve never had a problem finding a table.

Its sizable Hurstbourne venue boasts lots of room and an open, airy look with high ceilings and walls of windows on two sides. It’s a colorful place with walls the colors of mustard, ketchup and iceberg lettuce. Pictures of food adorn the walls behind the serving counter. In the dining area, it’s old-time photos of random places. A shakoed guard at Buckingham Palace caught my eye … the Palace is a long way from Gotham, too.

Walk in and you’re shunted down a chute to the processing station, where you present your order at the counter, take a number on a stick, pay your tab, grab your drink, choose a table and wait. Someone will bring out your lunch, usually with admirable efficiency.

The salad bar is described as “famous,” and at $6.99 for all you can eat, it’s quite a deal. (Add a side of tuna salad, turkey, smoked turkey, ham or chicken breast for $1.49; a side of soup is 99 cents for a cup, $1.99 for a bowl.)

Jason's Deli
The New York Yankee Sandwich at Jason’s Deli.

The New York Yankee sandwich ($7.29) is a mix of corned beef and pastrami. It was billed as “hot corned beef” but came out at cool room temperature. An impressive pile of thin-sliced deli meat was joined by two puny slices of “swiss” cheese and a dab of spicy mustard on light, seeded rye. It was good enough but seemed somehow “industrial,” cold cuts stacked high on grocery bread, the deli equivalent of mass-market beer: made to standard specifications but without much evidence of soul. It was joined on its white oval plate by a small ration of crisp ripple chips and a very good, oversize dill pickle spear.

The “Manager’s half-sandwich deal” ($6.99) offers your choice of half of any sandwich on the menu with a cup of soup.

The French onion soup ($2.59 for a cup, $3.59 for a bowl a la carte) was a dark brown broth with a humongous piece of bread floating on top, with mild white cheese on top of that. The soup wasn’t bad, although it tastes a bit like it was made with a bouillon cube. The cheese was melted, but a little browning time under the broiler would have been welcome.

The “Roast Slimwich” sandwich ($5.79 if you order it whole) achieves its low-cal status mostly on the basis of its small size. It was a decent sandwich, though: grocery rye and deli roast beef topped with shredded lettuce and a passable tomato slice.

A slice of “classic” cheesecake ($2.99) was rich, creamy and not too sweet, in the traditional New York style.

With self-serve diet cola and good, fruity and unsweet iced blackcurrant tea, a hearty lunch for two came to $25.28, and we left a couple of bucks for the friendly folks who bussed the table.

Jason’s Deli
410 N. Hurstbourne Pkwy Ste. 100
Robin Garr’s rating: 78 points