There are sandwich shops that stick to the basics – think turkey and Swiss on whole wheat with a little mayo – and those that go over-the-top with breads, spreads and combinations of ingredients that make you go hmmm. They mean well, but they try too hard, and in doing so lose sight of what makes a good sandwich.
Disappointment, and an empty wallet, inevitably follows.
At first I thought Sisters Gourmet Deli might be one of these “we try harder,” Avis Rent-a-Car delis. But I was wrong. It’s more like a Goldilocks deli that gets it just right.
Sisters, located in the former Wannawaf waffle restaurant in Portland’s Monument Square, offers a straightforward array of sandwiches (any of which can be turned into a salad at no extra charge) that walk the line between something recognizable and something that tastes different and delicious. They all range from $8 to $10. Sisters makes their own bread, a thick flatbread covered in herbs, that they use for all their sandwiches. Gluten-free bread is available for an extra $2.
We tried two sandwiches, the Ambrosia and the Two Little Pigs, both heated up in a panini press. The Ambrosia was filled with chicken, cucumber, roasted red peppers, feta, sun-dried tomato, hummus and spinach. I thought this one could probably lose the sun-dried tomato, which felt like it was one ingredient too far, but otherwise the flavors were good. The chicken was tender, and I especially liked the hummus, which lent some creaminess to what was otherwise a sandwich with a lot of crunch.
My favorite, though, was the Two Little Pigs, so named because it contains both bacon and “Dr. Pepper pork tenderloin” – pork that had been marinated in one of my favorite sodas. The pork was coupled with red onion, a smear of honey mustard, and pepper jack cheese that gave the sandwich a little bite. My only complaint is that the Dr. Pepper Pork should have been tender and moist, and it was disappointingly dry. I ordered in late afternoon, so perhaps the meat had been sitting in the heat a bit too long. Don’t let this keep you from trying the sandwich, since my coworker had the same one at lunchtime another day and said it melted in her mouth.
Some people might think the generous sprinkling of herbs on the bread is too much, but I enjoyed the added flavor. I like it when bread actually contributes something to the overall product instead of being just an afterthought.
Next time I’d like to try the Chicken Salad Wrap (grapes, almond, tomato, bacon, mayo, spinach) or the Shore Wrap – fresh salmon, avocado, carrots, cucumber, secret sauce, mixed greens – but maybe hold the carrots.
Sisters has a large cooler stocked with a variety of drinks, including beverages from Maine Root and Green Bee.
Not much has changed since the space was home to Wannawaf. Customers order and pick up at the counter, and there are about 20-25 seats, much of it counter-height seating. The sea green walls are highlighted with yellow accents, and the tips of all the chair legs are dipped in pink. I noticed some of the counter seats had hooks screwed into the counter by them, so that women have a place to hang their purses, or men their jackets – a nice little touch.
Bottom line – this place is definitely worth a try.
WHERE: 15 Monument Square; (207) 536-4932; sistersgourmetdeli.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
WAIT: About five minutes
PARKING: On street; city garage a couple doors down
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes