FOOD CZAR REVIEW #4
BAKER BROTHERS AMERICAN DELI
Just recently, I was leisurely viewing some postings on a restaurant opinion website, when lo and behold, one of the people posting volunteered an opinion which basically said thus: This deli (naming a national chain) does not stack up to the best New York has to offer. I did not respond to his ranting, but instead offer my opinion here: Well, duh! You see, New York deli cuisine is one of the sainted Holy Grails of fooddom; right up there on a par with Seattle seafood and genuine Central Texas (or Memphis) barbecue. In other words, it is the be-all and end-all of what deli dining should be. Nothing can compare.
Having said that, I still believe that you can have excellent deli food, maybe closer than NYC if you just look around. In that spirit, I would like to offer my humble opinion on one such place: Baker Brothers American Deli, now located in Texas, Arkansas, and Nevada, and coming soon to California, South Carolina, and (hopefully) other places. I have now had the luxury of trying their fine dishes on several occasions, and look forward to doing so again in the future.
Like McAlister's, Baker Bros has a warm, inviting ambiance. Jazz music is playing softly. Lots of dark wood with touches of polished metal. Go to the counter (please be sure and have looked over the menu first, at www.bakerbrosdeli.com, before you go, as a courtesy to your fellow diners), place your order, and take a seat. Luckily, there is a register near a side entrace, which means that to-go patrons don't have to stand in the regular line to pick up their order, which is certainly convienient at lunchtime when it's crowded.
I have now had the pleasure of dining at Baker Bros (or taking out) on several occasions, and can report with some confidence that the quality of their food is high. On one visit, I was in the company of my lovely wife the Rock Star, and she ordered on of their excellent wrap sandwiches. Alas, I wish I could give you details on the dish, (I think it was some sort of ham, turkey and cheese concoction. This type of wrap is a favorite of hers when dining out), but because, once again, senile old me forgot to take any notes, its name must remain lost to history. I tried pulling up their website menu, but to no avail, they weren't listed on this menu, either. This fact suggests that wraps may be a local option, one that you can clear up with a quick call to your local store. Whatever it was, I tried it too and it was excellent. I do remember my own sandwich: I love New Orleans muffalettas and this one was quite good. Layers of ham, salami, and melted provolone cheese, topped with a olive tapenade, lettuce, tomato, and red onion, all served on a thin, toasted farm bread roll. What I loved about this particular sandwich is that there is not too much bread: meat, cheese, toppings, and bread were all in perfect harmony. Marvelous!
At this point, may I make a suggestion: don't forget about the rest of Baker Bros fine menu. Any good shop can sell sandwiches, but to me, a deli is not a deli without great soup and salad possibilities. Rest assured, Baker Brothers quality shines through here as well. My wife already is a big fan of the Santa Fe Salad: Mixed greens served with roasted chicken, cheddar cheese, tomato (which she usually removes), red onion, green onion, black olive (which she has them hold; she only likes green olives), cilantro and spiced pecans. Deliclious, of course, and the serving is quite large. Just ask for a half portion, if that's what you want. Myself, I've lately become quite the soup fan, and I have tried two here and both are outstanding. The baked potato is thick, rich, and creamy, just loaded with flavor and a perfect companion on a cold, rainy day. Also, the Texas-style chili is absolutely, 100% genuine authentic (trust me on this), spiced perfectly and topped with a small amout of grated cheese and red onion. Again, balance is the key here: the chili is neither too thick and chunky, nor too thin and watery. Again, I say, marvelous! As for side dishes, I'm sure they are all good, but I must say its hard to pass up Baker Bros potato salad, which is first rate. Future visits will be needed if I want to check out any other dishes.
Have I mentioned quality too much already? Yes? Well, what other word is there? The employees are friendly, they get the orders right, and food is brought out promptly, considering of course, the crowds at lunch and the time needed to get the quality right. Again, if your ordering too close to noon, you might want to consider calling in advance, so you can stay one step ahead of the game.
Again, the website is quite useful (www.bakerbrosdeli.com) , except that it does not contain prices or some local dishes. Since this is a franchise chain, and individual locations often set their own prices in franchises, this should not come as a shock. Again, call or email the store directly or the corporate office with any concerns. If you are feeling truly entreprenurial, franchise info is available as well. Speaking of which, a local menu for takeout should be made available: the only menu I've seen to take home is their catering menu.
Safe to say, if the Rock Star and I have tried a restaurant on more than one or two occasions, you can rest assured that both quality of food and value are in place. Try Baker Brothers American deli soon, especially if you can't get to the Big Apple, and remember:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!