Thursday, March 12, 2009

21st Street Deli…they make a mean sandwich!

21st Street Deli, Norfolk Restaurant
If you want an authentic, delicious, high quality deli sandwich that isn’t “nouveau’d” or “metro’d” or reduced calorie or in any way, shape or form sissy-fied, grab your hearty appetite and go to 21st Street Deli. This was Alex’s suggestion for the week, and I have to say it is a bright spot in an otherwise lack luster week for me. The restaurant is bright and inviting, decorated in a cheery yellow with lots of old Norfolk B&W photos on the wall. Everything is very clean and organized. You grab your chips from the rack, your drink from the cooler and step up to the counter to place your order.

Of course, you’d expect noon to be a busy time at a sandwich joint, and the deli staff was jumping. We were greeted by the owner (my guess) and politely told he would be right with us. ***Note***This guy looks like an ex-marine. Big, muscular, shaved head, serious (no-joking ) attitude. Popeye on steroids, minus the pipe, plus a goatee. In-between greeting us and taking an order over the phone, he is yelling at the employees. I can’t remember the specific reasons why, but it was really intimidating. Next he put the phone customer on hold because “they don’t know what they want” and came to take our order. For a moment, I was speechless. Luckily my buddy *Brianna, who is a take no prisoners Philly gal, wasn’t phased a bit. She ordered the Sloppy on rye (pastrami, Swiss, cole slaw) and I recovered enough to ordered my all time favorite deli sandwich, the Sailor (pastrami, knockwurst, Swiss). When Alex came in, a little late due to an encounter with a moronic driver on Princess Anne, I warned her about Mr. Friendly. Alex loves to special order. She lives to reinvent the recipe and I just knew this was not a guy who was going to follow that flow one bit. He was a little curt with her one simple question, so she opted for the safe Turkey sandwich and returned to the safety of our table.

The sandwiches really were outstanding. The deli uses Dietz & Watson meats and cheese, and they slice it when you order it. I don’t know what kind of bread they use, but it was some of the best rye I have had in a long time. Very fresh, very flavorful, no hint of dryness that some rye’s get. The portions were big too, but not crazy, insane large. Some places are all about quantity and the sandwich gets so big that you can’t fit the darn thing in your mouth. These were reasonably stacked full of meat. I noted some of the other orders around us too. The subs looked to die for. My only disappointment was that the sandwich was not heated. In all the times I have ordered a sailor, it was always grilled. I didn’t even think to make the request.

For future reference, you can view the menu online and call in your order to have it waiting for you when you arrive. The tables filled up while we were there, but no one lingers and no one had to wait for a seat. The customer demographic was a mixed bag of a folks, a typical Norfolk group.


No sandwich for you!

A new old place. The 21st Street Deli has been a fixture in Ghent for some years now and I had never been prior to today! Unbelievable. Laine and I wanted a new spot and we were rewarded this week. It is exactly what it says, a deli. No frills, but good, solid food at reasonable prices. Be prepared when you go in or take a few minutes to peruse the menu. I thought asking the man at the counter for a suggestion for a newcomer...he was not too interested in offering advice. He simply told me 'its personal preference'. So, of course I jumped to the first item that I knew I would like and did not take enough time to look at all of the interesting sandwiches. As assertive as I am, I shied away from this guy's gruffness. My choice, the honey turkey and cheese was still a good selection though. I went with Muenster cheese, as it is my favorite and wheat bread.

After you place your order, you sit down...without paying, that's the kicker. For this type of restaurant, they usually ask you to pay when you order. Trusting, these people are in this era. Laine and our friend, *Brianna, had already ordered, so I joined them at the table to wait. Very shortly thereafter, our sandwiches arrived. My two wishes were that I had asked them to toast the bread or heat the whole sandwich and that they did not use shredded lettuce (honestly, I hate that). There was a lot of meat, no scrimping on the ingredients here, but I think it would have been better hot. You also get a snack-sized bag of chips with your sandwich. I was very satisfied with the quality of the food as well. Apparently, they cut your meat when you order your selection, not hours or days beforehand. The menu has many, many kinds of sandwiches and as many kinds of cheese and meat you can imagine. They offer various breads, white, wheat, sourdough, rye and pumpernickel and also have canned sodas and bottled water. They sell Dr. Brown's soda which is one of my favorite lines. Canned sodas are $1.25 and bottled water is $1.75. The sandwiches range slightly in price and are all reasonable. For under $7, my meal hit all of the marks. As I mentioned before, take a little time with their large menu before you order and remember to ASK if you want your sandwich heated. I do not get the impression they will offer a 'would you like your sandwich heated'. The demeanor reminds me a little of the soup Nazi from Seinfeld, except 21st Street would say 'no sandwich for you!' Even I was going to ask a lot of questions, which is a once in a lifetime experience for me.

This is a back to the basics kind of place, but the food is good, the portions are generous and service is fast.


21st Street Deli
222 21st Street
VA 23517
Deli Hours are:
Monday - Friday 11:00am - 7:00pm
Saturday 11:00am - 6:00pm
Sunday Closed
or as their website says 'Open when we get here, Closed when we leave ...'

21st Street Deli on Urbanspoon


kelly mcmahon willette said...

awesome review..i LOVE their sandwiches!

Anonymous said...

The best sandwich in Tidewater. They handle the lunch rush well knowing people have to get back to work and have no problem answering questions, giving samples and being social when not in the lunch rush.
5 year patron.

Anonymous said...

Although he has an 'all business' demeanor when its busy, the owner is a great guy. If you happen to be there on a more quiet day, I bet you'll have a great conversation. He knows no strangers!

Laine and Alex said...

Great to know! Thanks for the comment. _Laine

Jon said...

Hey great write up on my absolutely favorite deli in Norfolk. The Owner during the lunch rush is a little gruff but i think its the rush. If you come in after 1pm he is the nicest person you could meet, will talk make suggestions and do a custom sandwich for you. I no longer attend ODU (graduated in 08) but when I make it back in town I swing in and he still recognizes me and chit chats like I never left.