323 Seventh Avenue, Downtown San Diego
There are good places in San Diego for sandwiches — I’m a fan of Hillcrest Sandwich Shop — but it’s rare that I have a truly transcendent sandwich experience like I’ve had in New York. That said, I recently ate at Larry’s Deli, a new spot in the Gaslamp, and had the best sandwich I’ve eaten since I was last in New York about 18 months ago.
Larry’s Deli opened up a few weeks ago on Seventh Avenue. It’s small and still being decorated, but the sandwiches are on point. The ingredients are high quality. The bread comes from Bread & Cie and the meat is supplied by RC Provisions, a Burbank-based company highly respected for the quality of its pastrami. Plus there are lots of pickled items and that’s all done on-site, including the sauerkraut.
I had the Reuben sandwich ($10), which is corned beef, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and that house-made sauerkraut on rye bread. The portions were ample but not the jaw-dislocating size associated with New York delis. But those sandwiches cost $25, so I’m okay with not paying as much for the sandwich or the dental surgery.
It was sublime: The sweetness of the dressing, the saltiness of the corned beef, the tartness of the sauerkraut, and the creaminess of the cheese blending together on bread that was crisp yet giving. Easily the best sandwich I’ve had since New York.
Larry’s Deli had some growing pains in its early days because of a “no substitutions” rule. The sandwiches on the menu are constructed in a way where everything is supposed to complement each other. I respect that, though I did request some house-made cornichon mustard on the side, and it was great dipping the potato chips in that.
My son wanted a roast beef sandwich. The Larry’s Deli version is called the Ribeye ($11). Along with the thinly sliced steak there is Cheddar, arugula, pickled onion, and horseradish sauce on sourdough bread. When I explained that my son is not into spicy stuff, they did swap out the horseradish for yellow mustard.
I would have liked to try the version with the horseradish, but the flavors did blend well as it was. The pepperiness of the arugula and the tartness of the pickled onions blended so well that my son didn’t realize what they had added to the sandwich until I pointed it out. “Best sandwich ever!” was his assessment as well.
Larry’s Deli may not be the best place for vegans. The only vegetarian sandwich currently on the menu is a grilled cheese on tomato onion bread — which sounds delish! — for $9. There are some side salads ($3 for 6-ounce portions) that are vegetarian, including the coleslaw, potato salad, and macaroni salad. They are tasty, especially the macaroni, but I’d be more inclined to grab a $4 jar of housemade pickles. The pickle jar rotation changes frequently. Besides cucumbers you can get carrots, cauliflower, even avocado or watermelon rinds.
My son and I both loved the baked beans. They are topped with bacon and made in the traditional way with brown sugar but with the addition of mustard for extra tang. I would love to have that recipe if I were to make my own for Thanksgiving. The deviled eggs ($4) are a good nosh before the sandwiches. They are pickled in beet juice, which gives them a lovely purplish color.
Larry’s Deli is still a work in progress, but they have the sandwiches down if you’re willing to trust that they know how they taste best. I will be back.