Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Old Brick House Deli

Remember I was telling you about these Jefferson City lunch places, which I never got to visit until I quit working every day in Columbia? Well, here’s one of them! They’re only open on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., so you can see why I never got to eat there.

The Old Brick House Deli, which opened in 2000, is in a historic homestead and former doctor’s office (made of brick, duh). Billed as “Jefferson City’s only real deli,” it’s owned and operated by the Burkemper family. Since it’s local and unique, I’m predisposed to like it, compared to the ubiquitous chains.

Now . . . if you’re used to going to actual Jewish delis in major metropolitan areas, I’m afraid you’ll be somewhat disappointed, but if you stop to consider all that the Brick House offers—a nice variety of good meats and cheeses (Boar’s Head brand, which is pretty darn good), available on a variety of breads, with whatever toppings you want, plus their own chips (ruffle type, doctored with their own spice mix) and interesting salads, Vienna brand hot dogs, “wraps,” cookies, plus several “signature” sandwiches including corned beef reuben, New York pastrami, Philly beef, New Orleans muffuletta, po’boy, Italian hero, spiral ham, seafood croissant, French dip—you realize you have a restaurant that is willing to go the distance to make you happy.

They claim to have “the best salad in town,” though I’m not sure which of their several salads that is. I guess it’s their house salad, though they also serve Cobb, spinach, and a “deluxe” house salad. The house salad is made with iceberg lettuce, sliced red onion, sliced tomato, and grated provel and parmesan cheeses, tossed in their own fresh creamy Italian dressing. It is pretty darned rich for my tastes, and I don't like it much myself, but if it’s the people’s favorite, then I guess I can see why: Jefferson City is not exactly the health food capital of the U.S.A.

They have soups and chili, and you can get a deal if you have half salad and soup, or half salad and half sandwich.

The real fun, for me, is that you can construct your own sandwich from several kinds of meats, cheeses, and breads, with a choice of lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, or mustard. These deli sandwiches come with their chips, but (of course) you can substitute soup or salad and pay the difference. But more on this subject in my next post . . .

There are a few things I’m not crazy about at this restaurant. First, the “French baguette” bread they serve sandwiches on isn’t very crusty or French baguettey. It’s pretty soft and non-crusty. It works okay as a sandwich bread, but if you’re expecting something authentic, you’ll be let down.

A bigger issue, I think, is the C.F. at the pickup counter. (If you don’t know what a C.F. is, let’s just say it’s a “military term” that’s a synonym for brouhaha or mass confusion.)

They make the sandwiches to order (which is excellent), so naturally there’s a brief wait before your food (on a big red plastic platter) is ready. And right next to the pickup counter is the self-serve soda/beverage station, as well as the station where you get your plastic cutlery and napkins.

What happens is that when they’re busy (and they almost always are, during their limited lunchtime hours), people clog the cramped area, so no one can get beverages, napkins, cutlery, or food when it’s ready. It’s a complete traffic jam, total gridlock. Fortunately, people are polite and patiently wait to squeeze through for whatever they need. For example, you will have to wait for someone to finish refilling a soda or two while you wait to pick up your food that’s sitting there on the counter.

It’s just not a logical setup, considering the numbers of people who have to move through the tiny corner. So it’s annoying. (And one’s precious lunch hour should be relaxing, no?)

Also, the bowl-like red trays aren’t helpful for carrying the beverage or cutlery, so it’s a little hard to escape the crowded pickup area while juggling your stuff. (I bet they get a lot of spills.) Again, the overall politeness of everyone seems to make up for this drawback.

Indeed, everyone there is friendly and cheerful. Those are major plusses in my book, and they make up for a world of quibbles.

Another thing that makes up for any shortcomings of the Old Brick House Deli is the comfortable outdoor seating. This really is an old house. There’s a screened porch off the back with picnic tables, as well as a nice big outdoor patio, where you can enjoy the fresh air, the colorful plantings, and nice trees overhead. It’s a perfect antidote to your cubicle or whatever other lame office environment you have to endure the rest of the day.

They also offer breakfast (they open at 7:30 a.m.), but I can’t talk about that since I’ve never been there for it. They also do catering (the sandwiches, plus smoked brisket, rigatoni marinara, pasta con broccoli, and more)—but again, I can’t comment on any of that. They say they can serve groups of 10 to 500 “or more.”

To summarize, I recommend them. Their own promotional materials say that their vision is “providing our customers with great food and a pleasant atmosphere,” and it’s clear that the food quality is high and the atmosphere is cordial and (once you’ve escaped the food pickup area!) relaxing.

There are good reasons the place is so popular.

Old Brick House Deli on Urbanspoon

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