We really like Joe’s Deli on Hertel Avenue, which replaced the late, great Mastman’s. So when Joe’s Deli opened an outpost on Elmwood, in the old Off the Wall property, we were wondering if it would be different.
It is, a bit, and all the changes are for the better. Don’t worry – the old favorites from the original spot are still on the menu, including the famous specialty sandwiches piled with deli meats and cheese. And the soups also have translated well, remaining superb. But there’s now a full bar, table service and a much more comfortable dining area.
Best of all, we had a knowledgeable, helpful server who clearly loves her job and does it well, along with a kitchen cooperative enough to segregate the pickled jalapenos from the pickled carrots and serve just the carrots, on the side please.
There’s an outdoor patio that looks like a great place for summer, but it was closed on the cool weekend afternoon when Ruth, Dan, John and I stopped by. Inside, two sets of a few steps each led to a long entryway where two-person tables are set up along the wall. To the left is a doorway into the bar, which has seating, and two steps down is the place’s distinctive semicircular room. Changed little from its Off the Wall days, the room has smooth tile floors and large windows on all sides, a few of which are on tracks and can be raised in fine weather. It’s filled with regular tables along the walls and high tables in the middle, all with metal chairs.
A tempting brunch menu had eight offerings, most at or slightly above our cheap eats limits, including almond-crusted French toast and a prosciutto and egg sandwich with sundried tomato pesto and provolone on grilled multigrain bread (each $9.99). Yum.
The main menu offers a wide variety of sandwiches, most for either $7.35 or $6.99. In the former category are the Hangover, made with a fried egg and fried capicola, provolone, sauteed onions, cherry peppers, lettuce and tomato, and the 1322 Original, a simple corned beef or pastrami with mustard on seedless rye. The $6.99 sandwiches include a tuna melt, grilled chicken breast topped with sauteed spinach and pepperjack, and the chicken Caesar. The Frank Stallone, a chopped steak hoagie with peppers, onions and mozzarella, is $7.99, and the renowned Lunchbox, made with sliced bologna, American cheese and crushed Fritos with ketchup and mustard, is just $5.95. Every sandwich is served with rippled chips (add fries for $1 more).
We started with two of the four homemade soups offered, a spicy lentil and a turkey minestrone. Each was fabulous, served piping hot, nicely spiced and utterly delicious. The turkey minestrone was packed full of shredded, tender turkey and vegetables, and the lentil had a Southwestern flavor and a bit of heat. Each was served with bread bits on the side, a nice touch.
One of the sandwiches, called the Hertel/Colvin ($7.35), caused a bit of discussion before it was ordered. It contains pastrami, roast beef and turkey breast with Russian dressing and coleslaw, but our concern was whether the pastrami was warmed. The server replied that it could be made any way, warmed or cold, or how about cold meats served on toasted bread? So it was ordered, and so it was delivered, perfect. The meats were a delicious combination, with the slaw adding some crunch. The dressing, served on the side, hit the spot.
The muffaletta ($7.35), made with Sahlen’s ham, salami, provolone, sliced tomato and fresh basil, topped with mayo and mustard, was another great combination, the flavors playing perfectly off each other. It was served on a fresh, toasted roll, as was “The Body” ($7.35), made with spiced pork loin, Sahlen’s ham, fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and spicy mayo. The pickled carrots were separated from the jalapeno slices and served on the side, and just a few provided a nice crunch and a fiery kick.
Finally, the Reuben ($7.35) was made on marble rye with sliced corned beef, Lorraine Swiss, Russian dressing and offered with a choice of coleslaw or sauerkraut. We chose the classic kraut and found this, too, to be exceptional, with tender corned beef, free of fatty or gristly bits.
Each serving was a perfect size, just beyond satisfying, so a few bites got left behind.
Between the price, the quality, the ambiance, the service and the unusual concoctions created in the kitchen, this is a four-penny spot.
Joe’s Deli Elmwood
Where: 534 Elmwood Ave., 875-5637
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday. from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Wheelchair-accessible: Yes, with a mechanical lift from outside.