Saturday, November 15, 2008

Schlotzsky’s Deli

Schlotzsky’s Deli
210 W. Ironwood Dr.,
Coeur d’Alene,
765-4121.

Hipper Than Hip and Trippin' on Rye

The classic rock radio being piped in overhead clashed not unpleasantly with the modern rock radio emanating from the kitchen. From where I sat, both were approximately equal in volume. The Cars’ “Let's Go” cruised in the backseat with Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” which marched shoulder-to-shoulder with the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” which surfed nicely in top of Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and so on.

Normally, hearing different two songs at the same time makes me as cranky and irritable as a McCain voter, but on this occasion the musical mish-mash seemed to work. That dark, rainy eve Schlotzsky’s was remarkably comfortable, peaceful and still, and as I sat nursing a cold with steamy cups of Cheesy Broccoli soup and mentally combining the two music sources into one new fascinatingly chaotic tune, I began to wonder if I’d accidentally doubled my last dose of Dristan.

It’s the same dreamy feeling I get every time I visit Schlotzsky’s. Regular readers know I don’t like to spend a lot of ink on chain-style eateries, but I’ve yet to find any delis in town that keep me coming back the way Schlotzsky’s does, and the owners of the local franchise of the Texas-based deli are North Idahoan all the way. I’ve been frequenting the place since it was christened in 1997, and even through the fog of cold medication, I can’t recall having had anything but fine food and outstanding customer service. The smiling, hospitable crew that runs the show here are younger, hipper, and way better looking than you and I. Cool, modish fashion trends hide underneath work aprons and edgy haircuts are tucked into black Schlotzsky’s visors.

The hipness factor is so thick they’ve even named their current “limited engagement” promotion after the phenomenon. “Hip Chick” describes a trio of chicken sandwiches, and is also the phrase worn quite descriptively on the t-shirt of the counter girl, the perfect choice to go with her tan corduroy hip-huggers. I’m not sure how au courant my decision to go for a medium sized pastrami and Swiss was, but it was something I hadn’t tried and it sounded like a nice way to accompany my usual cup of soup.

I was lucky that night because the pot of Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese soup was hot, fresh and full. Schlotzsky’s always has terrific soup, and they’re kind enough to allow all-you-can-eat action (just get a fresh cup each time, as I was once sternly reminded by a germ-conscious employee). It’s obvious which variety is my fave, but they also make an awesome Chicken Tortilla Soup, a soul-warming Navy Bean Soup, and an awesome spicy Chili, among dozens of others. Typically, they have 3-4 soup choices on offer at a time, all in a well-stocked serve-yourself area.

Schlotzsky’s sandwiches themselves are unlike those served anywhere else primarily due to the use of a unique form of bread which could accurately be described as a giant, ultra-soft English muffin. The bun is piled high with meats, cheeses and other hip ingredients, then the whole affair is oven toasted to melded perfection, halved and served. “The Original” is the one that started it all at the first Schlotzsky’s back in Austin in 1971. It’s ham, Genoa and Cotto salamis with melted cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses on Sourdough with black olives, red onion, tomato, lettuce, and the ubiquitous “special sauce” that adorns nearly every “fresh-from-scratch” sandwich on the menu. “The Texas Schlotzsky’s” scorches taste buds with ham, cheddar and jalapenos on a jalapeno cheese bread, and the Turkey Guacamole on wheat is like summer in Puerto Vallarta. The Asian Chicken wrap is another frequent favorite of mine with its killer combo of Japanese tonkatsu and sweet chili sauce.

Also worth consideration is the quad of Angus beef sandwiches, the albacore tuna or the Fresh Veggie with spicy ranch dressing. Bagged chips are available as a side or as part of a “meal deal” and the fresh-baked cookies are a delicious deal at 45 cents each. Schlotzsky’s also serves a selection of first-rate individual pizzas, including the much-loved Thai Chicken Pizza. Consisting of grilled chicken breast, mozzarella, basil pesto and Thai peanut sauce and sprinkled with julienne carrots, cilantro, and green onions, I find myself inclined to order it every time I visit, but resist for fear of burnout.

“Angus” is a manly man’s word, bringing to mind images of thick, glowering cattle or maybe AC/DC guitarist Angus Young in his schoolboy uniform. I felt a slight rush of machismo (although it could have been the cold meds) as I ordered the Angus Pastrami and Swiss but it was quickly deflated when I arrived at the pick-up window only to come to the horrific revelation that my sandwich was served on dark rye bread. Ugh! I’m not known for being tremendously picky, but the flavor of rye is one thing I hadn’t been able to stand since I was a kid. I’d rather be a trouper than a complainer so I decided to give it a taste anyway. It had been many moons since I’d decided rye was the enemy and after a few bites I realized it was actually pretty okay.

After a few more bites I completely forgot about why I ever avoided rye bread in the first place, my mind drifting off to a happy land of peppery pastrami, melted swiss and tangy mustard, a very hip land where two different radio songs combine magically together in discordant harmony. Let’s call it Dristanland.

5 comments:

Phil said...

Every time we go in, I hem and haw over the menu, acting like I'm going to try something new. But I always go back to the original. It's what my tastebuds crave at Schlotzsky's.

We ate there today for lunch, probably for the 100th time over the past two years. Reading your review at 2am got me drooling and thinking maybe we'll have lunch there again tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

There's not much they serve that I don't love, but the "original" and the veggie pizza are my favorites.

I sure wish they's adjust their lighting or else their smoky windows, thought. It's sometimes hard to see that they're open!

OrangeTV said...

From Huckleberries Online:

Question: Which restaurant makes your favorite deli sandwich?
Posted by DFO | 15 Nov 1:32 AM

There are 11 comments on this post. (XML Subscribe to comments on this post)

Chamille's Sidewalk Cafe in Sioux Falls.
Posted by nic | 15 Nov 2:06 AM

Patrick:

Teresa and I spent 4 days in NYC in September, so we're spoiled. Really spoiled.

Rupert Jee's Hello Deli (the one right next to the Ed Sullivan Theater, featured on the Dave Letterman show often) was too good to be true. Not only was the food a grand slam home run, but President Clinton walked by while we were ordering our sandwiches.
Posted by Howard | 15 Nov 7:50 AM

Locally? Caruso's. Not the one in Mongolian BBQ's old location (the only thing I like there is their broccoli cheese bread bowl, but rather the one more towards Hayden- it has both hot and cold sandwiches to die for. IMHO, and according to my humble tastes, of course. The prices, atmosphere and service aren't all that shabby either. Although I don't know about all the chintzy "inspirational" cliches posted all over the walls. Others seem to get a kick out of 'em though, so that's cool.
And my time on the East Coast, where of course world-renowned delis abound, was unfortunately 80% of the time spent in a blur of "yessir, nosir, right away sar'nt!", then once released after evening formation, frantically dashing off to the community college for cramming stuff in my brain (and, when necessary, a vending machine horror into my mouth to refill those energy stores). The smidgens of free time I had away from Ft. Detrick and Frederick Community I spent primarily carousing in NON-food establishments, getting as sloshed as possible in order to hold up my image as a true low-ranking, hard-partying barracks PFC.
In DC, where most of my leave (away from the prying eyes of my compatriots) was spent, I was on such a mission to explore every square mile of the Smithsonian buildings- no small undertaking- so I must confess that roadside vendors and overpriced tourist trap "cafes" were my primary source of nourishment. Again, somewhat of a blur... no stellar cuisine ever stuck in my mind as being remarkable. Maybe in my craw... but that's to be expected, right? Aw well... food for the mind I've always found to be ever so much more satisfying in the long run.
There was one wonderful exception- I drove up one weekend, noticing the Beltway was even more ridiculously gridlocked than usual, but upon arriving was rewarded with "A Slice of DC", a fantastic event with free outdoor concerts, a dozen or more blocks shut down, and every shop and restaurant worth a damn doling out free samples of their yummies. "Stomp" was there, drumming up a storm, political devotees passing out buttons, pens and petitions, Penn Ave was closed to traffic and filled with wall to wall enthusiasts... it was a blast. And ALL FREE! That was the big surprise- anyone who's been there knows our nation's capital rarely gives anything without a cost- hidden or outright.
So even my two trips to the Big rotten Apple were sadly lacking in true, authentic Jewish delis, "delish" to be sure; but I still had a helluva good time, belly empty of lox on bagel notwithstanding.
Posted by kendramama | 15 Nov 11:09 AM

After my husband just came in and listened to me read over my last comment, I was inflicted an offended and shocked expression... hurt, even. He not-so-gently reminded me that we've been avid customers of the Staggering Ox in the Spokane Valley for a couple months now. I have no idea how I could've spaced this! DUH!
Every time he goes to pick up his check, or stop by the office, he makes a point of going in the Ox's new location- conveniently, right in the same strip mall as his employer's office and bay, on E. Sprague, west of the Evergreen exit if you're coming from Idaho. Sometimes Tony even manufactures excuses to head over there, flimsy reasons that could obviously wait, just to order one or more of their many fantastic Clubfoot sandwiches.
Aptly named, because the Ox is unique in that they serve a sandwich in a tubular hollowed-out loaf of bread... it almost looks like it's been baked in some sort of large can- you can see the ridges and the seam along the base and everything.
Once they hollow out the loaf, they stuff the tube with whatever fixin's you desire, then serve it with a small tub of sauce/dressing on the side, to trickle on bite by bite. They will, upon request, prepare it with condiments inside with the meat and veggies, but they recommend putting it on yourself, as the loaf may get soggy otherwise. And part of the greatness of their idea is how well-contained the sandwich stays while eating it- no drips, no junk oozing out the side, just a handy cylinder of bread, meat, cheese and veggies that, together, give one's mouth an experience bordering on carnal. And I've watched the other customer's faces on the few occasions we've dined in rather than getting it to go- and from the "oohs" "aahhs" and rapturous half-lidded expressions of ecstasy, I think we're not the only one being transported to oral heaven.
A few of their selections: "The Clubhouse" (my fave), "The Beastie", "Mt. St. Helen's", "Three Mile Island", and one of their top sellers, "Slam the Damn Taliban"- a sammy featuring Gyro meat, Feta and Monterey Jack cheeses, lots of assorted veggies, and a sauce they call "Camel Spit". Believe it or not, it's superb.
Another cool thing (and no, I don't work for these guys, nor do I have any hidden agenda in this rave of all rave reviews other than feeling guilty for not mentioning them to begin with, since, after all, they do put Caruso's to shame), is their unique little kid's meal- Ox Fingers. They used the bread that they scoop out from their Clubfoots, and slather them with PB & J, or toss some shredded ham & cheese on there, perfect for picky little sticky buddies like my own. He loves 'em.
So, now that I blogopotomoused my way through two posts of reviews, I'm gonna sign of and leave the real work to OTV, who actually knows what he's doing. But Orange, if you haven't had the pleasure, PLEASE stop over to the Valley location of the Staggering Ox (c'mon, even the name is cool!) and wow your taste buds- you won't be disappointed!

Posted by kendramama | 15 Nov 11:51 AM

Oh dear God, Kendra, not the "Staggering Ox"

You know, when they first built that place in the valley all I could think of was:

Bovine spongiform disorder (Mad Cow Disease)

You see, when a cow has Mad Cow disease right before it dies it sorts of staggers around a lot and falls down. Slaughterhouses call these "downers" and frankly, I want my steak from a joint called

The Running and Leaping and Very Healthy Ox

I've never been in the "Staggering Ox" and I don't think I ever will.
Posted by Bob | 15 Nov 6:10 PM

Big Bear Deli in Post Falls a block off of Seltice on Lincoln. I recommend the Black Forest and save room for to-die-for homemade cupcakes!
Posted by Smokey | 15 Nov 6:47 PM

NYC's Stage Deli has to take the cake but locally the award has to go to "DOMINI's" [downtown Spokane].

Around our work place their sandwiches are affectionately referred to as "the plug".

Please give them a try but only the heartiest of eaters dare attempt a large.


Posted by Keef | 15 Nov 8:16 PM

I think Domini's in Spokane is by far the best that I have had. Limited menu but fantastic!
Posted by ljh | 16 Nov 12:13 AM

Dominis for sure. I like Daanens too especially for tap Stella with my sammy.
Posted by JIMMYMAC | 16 Nov 12:48 AM

That was good Bob, I enjoyed your review. But, I have been there many times and know the owner personally, it's a place to try and you will enjoy it. I venture there everytime I go to Spokane, what a delight. Thanks Kendra.
Posted by the Stickman | 16 Nov 6:00 PM

As for Mr. orange, very good review. When I'm in town, it's my favorite place for a simple meal. Vegetarian of course. The bean and rice soup is excellent.
Posted by the Stickman | 16 Nov 6:02 PM

bn196 said...

This place is horrible. Tastes like the food was created in a petrochemical laboratory. Par for the course though. American plastic chain restaurants are a disgrace.
H L Menken said:
"No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."

Anonymous said...

@bn196:

Based on how you trash every single restaurant in this general area on this blog (and I suspect under the name "Ben" on a couple other sites) I do wonder...do you actually enjoy eating?