It really sucks to have to scrimp and save. Let's face it -- the economy has made all of us cut back on our regular indulgences, and at least what I'm finding is that even when we don't aim to get less, we do anyhow. The same dishes I'm used to ordering now don't come with any sides, or the portions have shrunk, or perhaps the quality of components hasn't remained the same. (I'm not going to call out any of you restaurants, but you know who you are.)

There's No Cutting Back at Jason's Deli

The only good that can come out of this is that less eating out has generally meant more losing weight for me. Now I'm no heifer, but I do have a little more cushioning

than I'd like, so the thought of dropping a few pounds is welcome.

My boyfriend isn't a supporter of this line of thinking for two

reasons: (1) He likes me just the way I am (awww!), and (2) he knows that,

when Riki diets, Mr. Persnickety is forced to diet too. 

So it was with great irony that the time he and I decided to go to Jason's Deli

for a cheap, light lunch, we got more than we expected. Now, I had never

been to one of these spots, and honestly, I was hesitant. I'm not

usually a fan of eating at any restaurant that requires diners to hold

trays (though I'll make an exception for IKEA). But Mr. P. pointed out that Jason's has a "Love Bites"

section on its website, and I'm all about the imitation/flattery thing, plus

he sold me on the idea of partaking in Jason's huge salad

bar -- something I don't come across regularly -- and the deli's large selection

of wraps, sandwiches, and soups.

Jason's big, open feeding space reminded me of a German beer tent, minus the lederhosen. My man made a beeline for the salad bar with a solemn promise that he'd give me whatever I wanted off his plate, and thinking I wasn't really all that hungry anyhow, I ordered only a baked potato with cheese and broccoli. 

Mr. P. piled his plate high with seemingly everything but lettuce. I shot him a cold stare after noticing the mounds of shredded cheese, loads of pasta salad, and mini gingerbread muffins that had somehow replaced the celery and carrot sticks I envisioned appearing on his dish. My quick mental caloric calculator informed me the numbers would greatly surpass that of a greasy burger and fries. Yet, my enormous baked potato wasn't any more healthful since it was drowning in cheddar and bacon. I had to take a photo of this freak of nature before digging in. So much for my cheap-eats-equals-diet-opportunity theory. 

After 30 minutes of pacing ourselves like champs, Mr. P. announced that he didn't have the desire to go up for seconds, and I threw down my fork in surrender. 

The entire meal cost us only about $15. Just then, the busboy came over to our table and informed us that diners also get access to free soft-serve ice cream. Oh, for the love of Jenny Craig! Somehow, it was impossible for us to resist the call. We filled our cones with chocolate and vanilla frozen goodness and walked out with a treat that didn't cost us a penny more. Of course, we also left with pounds of extra fat. But hey -- one never knows -- if the economy keeps looking dim, we may be forced to live off our blubber.

Jason's Deli has locations in Boynton Beach, Wellington, and Pembroke Pines. Visit jasonsdeli.com

Freelance writer Riki Altman eats everything that won't try to eat her first (with exceptions, of course) and dates younger men, older men, and older men who act like young men, along with locals, tourists, illegal aliens, and just plain aliens. Love Bites is a compilation of what happens when her dining and dating ordeals collide. Sometimes, it just ain't pretty.

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