Get in the zone

Clay Fong | Boulder Weekly

When I was in high school, I participated in a summertime drama workshop that met in a studio above a San Francisco deli. We met in the afternoons, and one day I had gone to class without eating anything. Partway through the session, I became ravenously hungry while our teacher was peppering us with questions about staging our production.

Meanwhile, the pervasive aromas of hot pastrami and corned beef wafted into our space, imbuing me with the spirit of cured meats. Consequently, I tapped into a deep well of creativity. The teacher was impressed by my suggestions — little did she realize this was simply the promise of the sandwich talking. Eventually, I got my deli repast. At the time, it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, although I suspect if I ever went back, I’d be disappointed.

During a recent lunch visit to Deli Zone on Valmont with friend Denise, the aromas evoked that afternoon. Positioning itself as a Brooklyn-inspired sandwich shop, there is a definite East Coast ambience here. New York sports memorabilia, mural-sized images of Manhattan, and subway signage make it unambiguous that this is a Big Apple experience, despite this local chain’s Boulder origins.

There are dozens of menu options, including baseball-themed breakfast sandwiches served all day, classic hot deli selections such as Reubens, cold Italian heroes and veggie sandwiches. Most are available in three sizes, and we found the eight-inch mediums were more than adequate. There’s also Chef and Cobb salads, sides of potato salad and cole slaw, and black-and-white cookies for dessert.

Denise’s medium special of $7.49 Chicken Cutlet Parmesan included a fountain drink and chips. It was exactly what one would want this sandwich to be. The poultry consisted of moist and tender white meat chunks swimming in a textbook marinara sauce with bright tomato flavor and a smattering of fragrant oregano. The mozzarella was properly melted, enhancing the warm and comforting qualities of this sub.

My $6.99 medium New Yorker featured both pastrami and corned beef from New York’s Stage Deli. (As an aside, both the Stage Deli and longtime archrival Carnegie Deli are reaching well beyond their New York environs. For example, Carnegie Deli meat is now found at warehouse clubs.)

Back to the matter at hand, the default bread option for this sandwich was a simple but not at all troublesome roll.

However, from a flavor and authenticity perspective, I would have preferred the grilled marble rye that comes standard on some of the other sandwiches.

There was plenty of meat, although it didn’t reach the J.K. Rowling-novel thickness of my childhood ideal. But my youthful repast would currently cost two to three times as much as the Boulder version. The meat was perfectly seasoned, allowing the flavors of the underlying beef to shine through without being overwhelmed by the curing process. Cole slaw and Swiss cheese balanced out the meat.

Denise, keen observer that she is, noted that this unpretentious spot acquits itself well with the solo diner. A TV on the wall provides a diversion, as does the Empire State atmosphere. Other diners came in small groups, while obvious regulars picked up to-go orders, likely for themselves and co-workers.

For me, Deli Zone provided a value-priced sandwich that was enough to evoke a pleasing youthful memory.


[ Deli Zone 2900 Valmont Rd., #D1 Boulder 303-447-9349 ]