I’ll begin with a quote from one of my favorite movies, “The Wizard of Oz,” because it certainly applies to this Eat & Run. “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.”
Dorothy uttered these words after returning home from her whirlwind adventure, where the only decent thing to eat were apples of questionable origin. I say this because although I’ve strayed many times into the depths of the Old Port and the far corners of Congress Street in the five years that I’ve worked in downtown Portland. But I always come back to my favorite spot and I don’t even have to leave my building to get there.
City Deli has never let me down. The first thing I ever ordered there was a grilled cheese ($4.95) and a cup of chicken rice soup ($3.50) my first week on the job. I immediately named it “The New Girl” special and still refer to it as that.
You can get pretty much every sandwich you can think of at City Deli, but I’ve only had a few of them because I am all about the daily specials. That’s what kept me a loyal customer.
I’ll begin with the soups. They’re all made on the premises, and there are six or so offered every day ($3.50 cup, $4.50 bowl). The ones I’ve had – and loved – through the years include chicken rice, turkey tortellini, beef stew, chicken stew, turkey stew and cheeseburger. In fact, I had a bowl of the chicken stew just a couple of days ago. It comes with a roll, but I opted for crackers. The stew was hearty, flavorful and chock full of chicken. I didn’t need anything else for lunch. I could say the same thing for the beef stew. Other soup offerings include haddock, clam, corn and seafood chowders, gumbo and lentil soup.
Then there are the daily specials that I’ve chomped my way through with gusto. They range in price from $6.50 to $7.50. The ones I’ll personally vouch for are the hot turkey with gravy and stuffing, American chop suey, lasagna, meatloaf, pot roast, shepherd’s pie, chicken pot pie, pulled pork and baked chicken dinner.
Servings are consistently generous, and many of these come with your choice of two sides (which include mashed potatoes, assorted vegetables and mac and cheese, among others). Other specials you’ll find at City Deli, depending on the day, are the Thai peanut chicken wrap, eggplant parm, jambalaya, haddock wrap and a rotating array of paninis.
The line is sometimes long at City Deli, but it always goes quickly as it’s a well-staffed and well-oiled team. The food court at One City Center isn’t particularly hip or “of the moment,” but it’s comfortable and the food at City Deli makes it a destination for not only those of us who work in the building but a whole mess of Portland High School students and local workers of all kinds.
I’ve been watching my waistline these past few months and have curbed my City Deli habit so much that I had to tell them that I didn’t break up with them. “It’s not you, it’s me” was completely understood. But I still visit every couple of weeks for my beloved soup.
One final note: City Deli actually opens at 7 a.m. and serves breakfast. Two eggs, toast and home fries will set you back $3.75 and tide you over until it’s time to hit City Deli again for lunch. They also have omelets, egg sandwiches and a few other standard breakfast offerings. File this under “good to know.”
WHERE: One City Center, 1st floor, Portland. 772-9620. citydelime.com
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
WAIT: Less than 5 minutes
PARKING: On street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes