Old School to Inventive

Jitters Lunchbox satisfies with wholesome meals

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, May 2018

Written by Gail Collins

Life can feel too busy to stop and eat a wholesome lunch. That’s bologna! In fact, stopping to eat a bologna sandwich can improve the rest of the day. A midday meal creates better mental and physical health. Pushing back from tasks with a change of venue is a necessary, nourishing break—the chance both to de-stress and raise blood sugar.

Stress steps up the flow of cortisol, which can lead to fat accumulation if elevated for long periods. This same function occurs from the physical stress of going long periods without eating. So, don’t even think about skipping lunch on a daily basis for weight control. Consistent fuel keeps the metabolism active.

Lunch re-energizes us and is especially important for children, who need calories to power through until dinner. Nutritionists recommend combining complex carbohydrates with lean protein for a concentrated, long-lasting burn. Lean turkey on wholegrain bread, cottage cheese with fruit or beef and vegetable soup with wild rice are great choices.

Jitters Lunchbox has been satisfying Flagstaff’s needs for flavor and fuel for decades.

Owners Sharlene and Reggie Fouser first opened Jitters Gourmet Coffee and Café on the east side in 1995 serving, healthy food, retail teas, beans and coffees. In 2000, they also launched Confetti’s Gifts and Party next door, but later, decided to operate only the party store.

“We missed feeding folks though; our customers were our friends,” Sharlene said.

The Fousers reopened Jitters in the 4th Street Redevelopment Project area, and in 2014, the original Jitters location became available.

“Reggie had built the patio, so we renewed the place, but kept the same idea.”

Themed for its Route 66 address, mingled with classic and antique lunchboxes, they kept the Jitters name for recognition and added Lunchbox.

The couple is involved in every aspect of operations and concentrates on the three C’s:  customer service, cleanliness and consistency. With handcrafted sandwiches, homemade soups, fresh salads and scratch-made cookies, Sharlene said, “We keep it fresh daily.” Sources—the Farmers Market, Tortilla Lady and Arizona Coffee—keep it local.

Lunchbox listens to customers. Sometimes their ideas become menu standards, such as the Eggcellent Egg Salad served on a telera roll. Softer and larger than a ciabatta, it perfectly handles the tender egg mixture with pickle ribbons, tomato and romaine with a scrape of jalapeño mayo.

All items have whimsical names, like the Porky Pine Salad. Romaine lettuce is topped with rosemary and apple-marinated pork loin, chunky blue cheese, dried cranberries, red onion, apple chips and toasted pine nuts with honeyed blue cheese vinaigrette. The vibrant, complex salad is also satiating.

For a hot sammie, the Santa Fe carnitas showcases slow-roasted pork shoulder, caramelized onions, Hatch green chilies, cheddar and house spicy aioli on griddled parmesan-crusted bread. The hearty hunks and heat make a proper plateful. Besides the standards, weekly sandwich specials offer 20 extra chances to change it up.

Two made-from-scratch soups feature daily.  Lemon chicken with cabbage and rice is a Jitters original—bright with fresh citrus. Cream of broccoli is another early winner, full of garden goodness. Lunchbox uses no preservatives and provides gluten-free and other dietary accommodations.

Sometimes, the shop goes old school, like their lunchboxes—Partridge Family, John Wayne, Kung Fu and more—and borrows a flash-from-the-past sandwich, like bologna.

“It was a lark, but it’s been a hit,” Sharlene said with a laugh, but you can also create a custom build; just ask.

What’s good gets better. Lunchbox expanded its menu to include breakfast last year. Catering for large or small lunch groups is available and popular. Also, don’t forget First Fryday Navajo tacos.

For something sweet, the VCP, or vanilla creamed Pepsi, is the shop’s signature sipper. The velvety cola fountain drink continues to wow with a legacy following.

“Jitters babies return with their own children,” said Sharlene. “A father, who had his first VCP at 9 years old, brought his son in for the same treat.”

The goods are inventive, yet comfortably familiar. The Cuban sandwich adds spicy carrots; the Blue Moo slathers on blue cheese sauce.

“It’s not a fad, it’s just fabulous,” said Sharlene with the confidence that serving customers as friends brings. NAMLM

Jitters Lunchbox, 3504 E. Route 66, Flagstaff, is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Call (928) 526-3277 for pickup and find the menu online at www.jitterslunchbox.com.