My lunch date and I watched a car back the wrong way down Kennebec Street, the narrow – and at that point, one-way – street in front of Leavitt & Sons Deli in Bayside. It was a jerk move, but I sympathized. As I told her, I’d almost done the same thing.
Navigating my way, or rather my car’s way, to the front of this tidy lunch spot was not easy. Siri suggested ways to circle Leavitt & Sons, tantalizingly close but not quite there. It didn’t help that I’d ignored her suggestion to drive up Forest Avenue after coming down High Street. (She’ll always get you, that know-it-all.) But eventually I’d landed in the crowded parking lot in front of Chipotle and found a spot.
Leavitt & Sons, a mini chain that started in Falmouth, moved into the long, narrow, almost triangular former Century Tire property earlier this year, and based on the number of people grouped around the counter, customers are finding it, complex traffic patterns be damned. I ordered my go-to deli food, a Reuben ($8.79). I also asked for a side of potato salad, on the grounds that all deli food should be consumed with potato salad. Made with red bliss potatoes, an 8-ounce container cost $3.91.
There are not a lot of seats inside Leavitt & Sons, and in that respect, it feels like a great place to pick up sandwiches or salads and soup to go (and owner Peter Leavitt had a pot of flu-warding-off chicken soup at the ready). But the counter at the window is pleasant, and that’s where my friend and I sat, discussing the writing life in Maine and all the projects we’d be working on if someone would just add a couple hours to every day for us.
I picked at the potato salad, which was more bland than bliss and more mayonnaise-centric than I’d like (classic deli though). I’d turned down Leavitt’s offer to upgrade to more meat for $2, on the grounds that I’d never met a Reuben that wasn’t plenty meaty enough, but as I chewed my way through mine, I almost had regrets. The meat in this sandwich is very good and sliced beautifully thin, but there wasn’t a lot of it, and I could have handled more. Lunch out though, it’s pricey enough, and my total bill was $13.72 even without a beverage.
Maybe I’m alone here in this, but I like my Reuben grilled or toasted or otherwise warm. Leavitt serves his on a soft marble rye that was so close to room temperature I assumed someone had forgotten to warm the sandwich. But the cheese and kraut were warm. Presumably the untoasted thing is just the Leavitt & Sons style. When I got back to the office and a co-worker asked if I’d ordered the Our Famous Chicken Salad sandwich (which incorporates bacon and ranch dressing, obviously for health reasons), I felt a twinge of regret. I’d been tempted by it, then backed away. This gives me another reason to go back, and now I know I can find my way there. If I lived anywhere near downtown though, I’d walk, to skip the parking hassle. In spring and summer, a sandwich or salad to go and a trip into Deering Oaks with Leavitt & Sons would be just the ticket.
WHERE: 200 Kennebec St., Portland, 781-3753; leavittandsons.com
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday
PARKING: Street, and an adjacent lot, which is busy at lunch time
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes