In June, brothers Kevin and JJ Richert of Torches Bar & Restaurant fame opened the Garage Deli, a sandwich joint next door, to show off their motorcycles and serve house-smoked meats.
Kevin’s chopper sits in the front window of the former hospital supply building.
Walls are adorned with murals of “Smokey & The Bandit” and “Easy Rider.” A gear clock keeps time. Look closely at the iconic “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper.” JJ and Kevin are surreptitiously seated on the beam with construction workers.
A giant shelving unit holds homemade canned goods (available for purchase) by a guy who uses their kitchen. Nearby a “mustard bar” offers a variety of selections for diners.
The menu is “simple”; ordering is not. Leave it to chefs to come up with seven sandwiches that cause “I want to try everything” syndrome.
All meats are cooked and sliced in-house, like the brined and boiled corned beef. The pit ham and turkey are smoked in a converted Chevy Corvair trailer. Duck legs are braised in their own fat (a riff on confit). Sandwich spreads (like pineapple preserves) also are house-made, making a decision difficult.
The Original Gangster ($9) is house-brined corned beef on rye. The Pineapple Pit Ham ($8) is smoked ham, dill havarti and bread and butter pickles (JJ’s recipe) with pineapple preserves. Pot Roast ($9) includes braised carrots and barbecue sauce. A Smoked Turkey BLT has smoked plum tomato, smoked bacon mayo and red onion jam. See?
Placing our order, we occupied ourselves with our vintage Pop Shoppe sodas ($2). Jeff was in heaven with his “Lime Ricky.”
Food arrived on plastic trays lined with black-and-white checkered paper. Very racelike!
Our sandwiches waited as we started on soups – Chicken in the Pot ($5/$7) and Vegetable Minestrone ($4/$7).
The chicken, made with “pulled stew hens,” was delicious. Shredded meat was indeed pulled off the bones, served in a lovely, fragrant homemade broth. Two light matzo balls were fantastic. Did the Richerts use chicken fat to make them, as is custom? I’d bet yes.
The stewlike minestrone was a rich, thick tomato broth filled with vegetables like beans and zucchini, topped with croutons and grated cheese.
We started on the huge sandwiches, knowing half would be going home.
Jeff’s Mediterranean Chicken Wrap ($8) was a grilled flatbread filled with rotisserie chicken, feta, olive and artichoke spread, hummus and lettuce. The nice salty taste from the olives and feta was smoothed by the light, yet garlicky hummus. “Juicy” is how Jeff described it.
Dad’s Waldorf ($8) flatbread enclosed rotisserie chicken, mayo, walnuts, grapes, Granny Smith apple and lettuce. Fresh, tart, sweet and crunchy, the classic combo provided a succulent lunch.
With the holidays nearing I couldn’t resist the Tur-Duc-Ken ($10). Three distinct meats – braised chicken, duck leg meat and sliced turkey – topped with homemade cornbread stuffing and a cranberry gastrique.
Oh, Thanksgiving on a hard roll; I didn’t want it to end! Meaty, savory smoky then the quick pop of the sweet/tart cranberry was delightful. Despite the expanding matzos in my stomach, I ate the whole thing.
Sandwiches are served with pretzel sticks and a dill pickle spear, but not an ordinary one. Dad noticed right away – it was a mellow version that was dilly and delicious. Apparently the canner-guy makes them for the restaurant.
Seasonal sides ($2/$4) included Cyndi’s (JJ’s wife) Pasta Salad, Classic Coleslaw, Truffle Potato Salad (truffle oil and sour cream), JJ’s Aunt Kathy’s German Potato salad (sweet and russet potatoes) and a Broccoli Salad (mayo, raisins, almonds and bacon).
We couldn’t leave without trying Cyndi’s famous Concord Grape Tart ($5). Sweet, tart and aromatic and topped with a mound of homemade whipped cream, it was a perfectly purple ending to an absolutely pleasurable lunch.
The Garage Deli
Where: 1139 Kenmore Ave., Kenmore (768-0780)
Three and a half pennies.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Extras: Wine and craft beer available. Take out/catering.