The Austin Chronicle

Sandwich Sans Peer

For Sandwiches, The Little Deli Is Still a Winner

By Virginia B. Wood, August 15, 1997, Food

The Little Deli

7101-A Woodrow, 467-7402
Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm

The Little Deli

photograph by Jana Birchum

Three times in as many recent weeks, friends and acquaintances encouraged me to try out The Little Deli. "Cute little neighborhood place, great roast beef sandwiches, friendly service," were some of the descriptions. I'm always game for an undiscovered neighborhood joint with great food, so I went looking. The Little Deli is nestled in one end of the Crestview Shopping Center, at the beating heart of a healthy north central neighborhood. Colorful window boxes and a couple of picnic tables near the entry are an inviting touch. Inside, there are a few tables in front of a full deli case and the small, functional kitchen is visible behind it. Orders are placed at the counter and the service is relaxed and friendly, making it an "everybody knows your name" sort of place.

On the wall to the right of the counter is a framed "Food-o-File" item by former Austin Chronicle food editor Robb Walsh encouraging readers to call him immediately if they ever found a roast beef sandwich as good as the one here. There were never any responses nor could there be; the roast beef sandwich here is peerless. A truly wonderful sandwich successfully combines many elements: good bread, plenty of well-prepared filling, the right condiments and garnishes. The roast beef and cheddar sandwich ($4.19) excels in every category. Fresh round poppyseed buns are slathered with zippy homemade horseradish sauce and filled with a fist-sized mound of flavorful shaved roast beef, a thick slice of cheddar cheese, thin slices of onion and tomato, and a ruffle of crisp leaf lettuce. Crunchy dill pickle spears are on the side. It's substantial, portable, and delicious, everything a sandwich should be. Based on my sampling of a few of the other sandwiches, it appears to be a first among equals.

Sandwich-hungry vegans should love the Vegetarian Sandwich ($4.39), where the hearty bun is brushed with the house olive vinaigrette and stuffed with eggplant, artichoke hearts, avocado slices, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce. In fact, there's something here for every sandwich appetite, from homey egg salad, cheeseburgers, and BLTs to bratwurst, a reuben and a meatball sub. You could have lunch here for three weeks without repeating a choice. To accompany or replace a sandwich, there are rotating blue plate specials, a daily soup, garden and deli salads, deviled eggs just like Mom's, and giant, chewy chocolate cookies.

The Chef Salad ($4.49) includes plenty of crisp lettuce, thinly sliced onions, tomatoes, cheese, and Boar's Head ham and turkey, making a very satisfying lunch. The simple Pasta Salad ($2.99 per pound) I sampled was al dente red and green spirals dressed in the tangy house olive vinaigrette topped with a grating of genuine, fresh Parmesan for texture and contrast. Each serving of the light, tasty Potato Salad ($2.99 per pound) receives a dusting of hand-grated black pepper before leaving the kitchen. The Little Deli's food is simple and unpretentious but the clean, fresh flavors of every dish are balanced and complete. Which goes to show that lovingly prepared food served in a pleasant setting is a winner every day.

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