Sometimes a series of events predisposes you to dislike something. We’ve all been there, whether it’s long lines, noisy crowds, or sold out menu items. In this case, it was cold, windy, and our orders took a little longer than they should. But the food –oh the food– once it arrived erased all that. This is the paradox of Melvin’s Deli Comfort.
My friend Derrick joined Ev and me for a weekday lunch on a chilly February day. We approached the trailer and fell in line behind one other guy who was placing his order. There were three other people sitting at the picnic tables waiting for their sandwiches. When it was our turn to order we stepped up and got a rather abrupt “hang on. gimme a second.” before she disappeared back into the trailer to talk about something–probably the other customers’ orders.
It didn’t set a great tone at making us feel welcomed. The blustery conditions didn’t help. Eventually I ordered the Hot Italian Beef (roast beef warmed in jus, green peppers, provolone, spicy pepper giardiniera, on sub roll, jus on side), Ev got the Hot Pastrami (Pastrami, house mustard, Swiss cheese, on rye), and Derrick got the Croque Monsieur (Ham and gruyere w/ house mustard on grilled white bread, covered w/ melted gruyere & béchamel sauce). We paid and moved back to the car to wait (and wait) for our names to be called.
After a curiously long time, our names were indeed called for pick-up. I handed Ev her
sandwich through the window and took a second to snap a picture of mine. So with everything seemingly negative to this point, I was caught off guard. Blindsided is the best way to describe it. The bread was soft, the meat tender, the peppers spicy. The cheese barely held things together as I maneuvered the entire thing into my mouth. All of the earlier missteps were immediately forgotten in that first bite.
Ev’s Hot Pastrami, while also tasty, didn’t blow us away in quite the same way. Actually, the mustard overpowered the entire sandwich and the only thing blown away were our taste buds. The meat was so tender and flavorful… when you could taste it through the mustard. Perhaps next time it would be worth getting the mustard on the side, or at the very least order it on only one side of the bread.
But that Italian Beef was enough to leave a positive impression and bring me back. Jeff met me for round two, and I have to say it even better. With a similar crowd and similar wait time, I knew what to expect. Even still, the prep time for two sandwiches was simply too long. Nonetheless, finally my Turkey Reuben was ready along with Jeff’s Croque Monsieur. And again it erased my misgivings about revisiting Melvin’s.
This sandwich is on par with some of the best in the city. The turkey is house-cured and topped with sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and melted Swiss. The perfectly toasted bread held up to the weight of all the meat. And unlike the sandwiches from our last visit, this one didn’t mess around with any vegetables (sauerkraut doesn’t count). I inhaled this sandwich, and as I looked at the last bite, I considered ordering another. The trailer-fried chips were a nice (included) accompaniment to wean me off the sandwich trance I was in.
All things considered, Melvin’s is definitely worth a lunchtime stop. Get there early though; they’ve been known to sell out of some fan favorites pretty early. If you can’t make it during the week (Tuesday-Friday), they’re serving up their full menu on Saturday’s too. Trust me, despite some of the non-food related hiccups, they’ll be long forgotten with the first bite.