Jimmy John’s is pretty quiet about its limited-time-only specials, some of which have actually been pretty respectable in recent years. But the national sandwich specialist is clearly taking our notes, because it brought back last year’s favorite alongside a brand-new offering, one that seems to apply everything the chain has learned about its past successes.
Back again in 2022 is the Chicken Caesar Wrap, which debuted last year (we ended up liking it, much more than the Beefy Ranch wrap it was released in tandem with). New this year in the summer lineup is the Asian-inspired Thai Chicken Wrap, featuring chicken breast, cucumbers, “crispy carrot noodles,” mayo, and a Thai satay-style sauce, all in a regular flour tortilla. This is the first time I’ve ever seen an “Asian-inspired” anything on Jimmy John’s menu. Can anyone else think of one?
As an Asian-American, of course my first reaction was to be skeptical. I’m Korean, and wow, you should see the ways people love fucking around with Korean food. Slap gochujang (fermented red pepper paste) onto anything, and suddenly it’s novel, and for a marketing effect, you can call it “Korean.” (I’m not bitter at all. Okay, maybe a little.) What would make a “Thai-inspired” wrap any different?
When I ordered the Thai Chicken Wrap, the cashier’s face lit up into a smile, and he told me that he loved it, specifically for the satay sauce and the crunchy bits inside. He then remembered that he could have it on his lunch break as his shift meal, and got even more excited. Pretty good sign, if you ask me, since I find that the best gauge of a restaurant’s food is whether or not the employees are happy about it.
I am shocked that I must tell you the Thai Chicken Wrap is weirdly, surprisingly good. I wasn’t expecting much, but the chicken itself is a large piece of chicken breast, no folded-over deli meat or shredded mock rotisserie chicken here. The “carrot noodles” aren’t carrot sticks, but rather fried crispy carrot bits that don’t have a ton of flavor; still, you get some pretty satisfying crunch out of them, like matchstick potatoes. And the Jimmy John’s employee was right: The satay sauce is the highlight of this wrap.
It mainly tastes like sweet peanut butter with a bit of soy sauce in it, but honestly, it brings the whole wrap together. It all adds up to something savory, sweet, and nutty, with a good fresh veggie texture from the lettuce and fresh cucumber. It’s not complicated, but the Thai satay sauce is so far removed from Jimmy John’s other ingredients (typical deli stuff) that it’s strangely refreshing and fitting for a summertime menu.
One big knock against it, however, is that the wrap is frickin’ small. It’s just a touch bigger than a can of soda; in comparison to the regular JJ’s deli sandwiches, it has very little heft to it, and a lot less value. Considering mine cost nearly $10, it’s hard not to feel a little cheated.
Is authenticity important at Jimmy John’s? No, not really, and it never has been—which is why it can sort of get away with the “Thai” thing. I don’t expect that the company consulted with expert Thai chefs or anything. It just took tried and true flavors that Americans generally associate with Thai cuisine and wrapped them up with the fresh produce already present in the Jimmy John’s assembly line. Can’t blame JJ’s for knowing what works.
All I can say is that the wrap tastes pretty good, despite its small stature. And despite its broad application of “Thai.” And despite its slightly annoying price. It’s well worth a try if you’re bored with your usual turkey and provolone sandwich. Just don’t think too hard about it, okay?