Last month Kimberly Bouldin announced that Jason’s Deli was going to introduce Udi’s gluten-free bread to their menus July 5th. This was huge news for the gluten-free community, finally a national deli chain where we could eat the same as everyone else. And for anyone who is familiar with gluten-free bread you know that Udi’s is one of the top breads out there. It is a bread that tastes great straight out of the package, no heating or toasting necessary. Once I discovered Udi’s it has been difficult to try other breads, because I love how I can just make a sandwich as easily as I did before being gluten-free with equally, if not better, amazing results.
On July 6th, I decided I would give Jason’s Deli a try. Before I headed out, I checked their allergen list online to prepare myself for what I could and could not eat. Unfortunately, I decided to go at lunch time so it was extremely busy. I have not been to a Jason’s Deli for years, so I looked at the menu, and could clearly see where items were listed with a ‘g’ for gluten-free, however on their regular menu it didn’t mention anything about sandwiches being safe, just salads and some of their potatoes. I know when I looked online it showed that their meats and cheeses were safe, but it was not reflected on the menu. I asked the server at the counter and he wasn’t sure either, and said if it is not listed with a ‘g’ it would not be safe. I was so confused. He said they had gluten-free bread, and I could see the Udi’s loaves behind the counter, but if it didn’t list which meats and cheeses were safe, what would I have on my sandwich bread?
I asked to talk to a manager, and he showed me a special gluten-free menu they had behind the counter. He explained how since they just started it the previous day they were still pretty new to it. I suggested that they keep the gluten-free menu in front so people could see it, and he replied that they only had 4 so they would wait until someone asked to look at them. I went ahead and ordered a roasted turkey and cheddar sandwich with a side of potato salad for myself and a tuna salad sandwich with hummus and chips for my husband, both on gluten-free bread.
As I waited and watched the sandwich makers make sandwiches I had a sudden panic about cross-contamination. I quickly went up and asked the manager if they use new gloves and a separate surface when making gluten-free sandwiches. He told me no, but they could. This worried me. I told him that yes absolutely, I would like them to use new gloves and a separate surface and when my sandwich was complete he assured me that he helped make them and made sure they used a clean area. Again, I can understand they are new to this, but I would have hopped the staff would have been well-trained before the introduction because cross-contamination would be extremely easy here.
I took the sandwiches and set off to enjoy my lunch poolside. The end result was fantastic. The turkey sandwich was just like the deli sandwiches I enjoyed when living in NYC..massive! The tuna salad was delicious too, and usually I am not a huge fan of potato salad, but this one has got to be my favorite, it was kind of like a mashed potato salad. It was so nice to be able to eat a sandwich from a chain like every other person.
In the end, I had a very good experience and will go back again. However, I can see how the opportunity for cross contamination would be great, and it is necessary to ask them to change gloves and use a separate, cleaned surface from the rest of their sandwiches. Hopefully once they have been doing this for a while, they will know to do this on their own. I would also suggest that they make the special gluten-free menu readily available and that they mark the finished sandwich on the outside of the wrapper as being gluten-free, perhaps with a sticker or even a big ‘G’ written on it. This would avoid any confusion when next to gluten sandwiches, and give some piece of mind to the customer.
A big thank you goes out to Jason’s Deli for providing to the growing gluten-free population!