Gerber, Not Just Baby Food Anymore

Posted on 16 May 2009


The name Gerber is almost synonymous with baby food, the brand with the chubby, happy baby on the label.  But it is another Gerber who has thrown his hat into the ring to challenge the food magnate with his own victuals: Manhattan Bagels.   Now, John Gerber’s is not your run-of-the-mill sandwich shop, because he makes the very best sandwich East of St. George, Utah: a heck of a large territory!


What makes John’s the most delicious sandwich?  Is it the filling, as you might think?  Or, is it what surrounds the filling?  Most people would opt for the filling, but I say it’s what surrounds the filling, whether it is a bagel, a roll, a wrap, or sliced bread. 


This brings us to the crux of this story.  In 1996, my wife and I took a bus tour across the Southwest.  Traversing Arizona, our itinerary included many landmarks and highlights, including the cities of Phoenix, Tuscan, Sedona nestled in “red rock” country, Flagstaff, and Jerome.  We also toured Montezuma’s Castle, Beaver Creek, the Sonoran Desert, the Saguaro Cactus Museum, Oak Creek Canyon, Lake Powell, and much more.  As we crossed the State line and entered Utah at lunchtime, our driver stopped at a shopping center so that we could stretch our legs and grab a bite to eat.  “If you want a good sandwich,” the driver invited, “Just follow me.  I’m getting ham and cheese on an Asiago bagel.”  Follow him we did, where we then took his advice concerning our choice of lunch.   That sandwich was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted!


After that introduction into the best bagel combo in the world, at every ensuing rest stop on our trip, my wife and I hunted bagel shops in hot pursuit of that same sandwich.  How disappointed we were to find that no one employed in all of those succeeding shops had ever heard of such a bagel.   We were just as disappointed, after we had returned home to New Jersey, to find that no one in our area seemed to make that magic Asiago bagel!


No matter where we turned, those great rings of cheese-flavored dough seemed as extinct as the dinosaurs.  One day, while in the Moorestown Mall, I popped into a Manhattan Bagel shop in my never-ending search for the mythic Asiago bagel.  In desperation, I contacted, through email, the company’s corporate customer service center, relaying my story and insisting that the little shop in St. George, Utah had the best-kept secret since the atomic bomb!  I received a reply informing me that even though the company does not make an Asiago Bagel, they would consider launching this tasty new menu item in the future.


Some time had passed after my direct attempt with Corporate when, one day, while driving through Moorestown, New Jersey, I noticed a new Manhattan Bagel shop at the intersection of New Albany Road and West Camden Avenue.  Undaunted in my quest, I stopped in and asked, “Do you make Asiago bagels?”  The girl behind the counter responded, “No, but we do make an Asiago roll.”   That’s as close to Nirvana as I was going to get, so I ordered that roll with gratitude.  Needless to say, I have been a steady customer of John Gerber’s shop ever since.


When I first met John, I asked him why he chose bagels as his business.  Interestingly, he confided that when he first started out in the business, helping a friend who had established a start-up bagel shop in Philadelphia, he had no knowledge of the bagel industry.   As the business became more successful, John became a partner.  Due, in part, to his diligence and commitment to quality, the business attracted the Manhattan Bagel Corporation, which made John and his partner an offer they could not refuse; corporate purchased the store.  Upon closure of the sale, John segued into corporate life.  However, he missed that personal touch: the interaction he so enjoyed with his customers.  Putting his money where his bagels go, John then purchased a franchise from Manhattan Bagel and began his solo adventure.


In addition to those heavenly Asiago rolls, John’s offers a wide variety of bagels and an expansive menu, all of which is exceptionally fresh.  The latter includes a boxed “Lunch for the Bunch” and various grilled sandwiches. For dessert, there are various sweets and cookies; the beverages include and are not limited to coffee and orange juice.   Guided and supervised by Maureen Teague (“Mo” to the employees), the staff is friendly and efficient.  The minute you walk through the door, you are greeted by the mouthwatering aroma of freshly brewed coffee and baked goods and the cheerful, extremely knowledgeable and helpful staff.  What a pleasant way to start the day!   For all you folks in the Moorestown/Cherry Hill area that love a fantastic sandwich as well as the feeling of being let in on a great little secret, stop in and tell “Mo” that Asiago Tom sent you.


John also has another store located at 190 Barclay Farms, Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  Just look for the friendly red Manhattan Bagel sign, pop in, and enjoy!

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One Response to “Gerber, Not Just Baby Food Anymore”

  1. Michelle says:

    Gotta love Manhattan Bagel! Great review! Because I have a location pretty close to me, I am a huge fan myself and frequent this popular chain often. If you like their lunch meat sandwiches, you should also give their breakfast wraps a try too! They are made with three eggs scrambled, melted American cheese and your choice of breakfast meat – bacon, sausage or ham/pork roll on a honey wheat tortilla. They are excellent! I just love them! And especially since you are such a big fan of the Asiago roll you HAVE TO TRY the “Chelsea Grilled Chicken.” This sandwich is made with grilled chicken breast, roasted red peppers, Monterey Jack cheese and tomato garlic sauce on an Asiago roll. It’s absolutely my first pick for lunch! 😉

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