Menu includes panini sandwiches, hot specialty sandwiches and pizza for now, but a restaurant and bar adjacent to the market is scheduled to open in the fall.
When I heard last year that Vespucci’s was closing, I was sad.
I am a big fan of neighborhood stores where you can get a good, quick sandwich or a slice of pizza. Vespucci’s, on the corner of Danforth and Clark streets in Portland’s West End, had been such a place for a long time.
But luckily the new incarnation of Vespucci’s, Clark Street Deli & Market, is also a place where you can get a good sandwich. A really good sandwich, actually.
The place opened this summer, and the sandwich menu is more creative and upscale than most little corner stores. But the prices are still right, $7 or $8 for very big sandwiches.
You can tell the people running it are interested in good food. In fact the market is only part of their plan for Vespucci’s total transformation. The Clark Street Deli & Market’s website says that sometime this fall a bar and restaurant will also open on the property.
But for now, the sandwiches are reason enough to try this new market.
When I perused the online menu on a recent Tuesday before lunch, my eyes and stomach were immediately drawn to two. One was “The Parkside,” which is a panini with thin roast beef, tomatoes, melted cheddar cheese and horseradish mayo on a pressed crispy roll ($8).
But I was just a little more drawn to, on this particular day, “The East Ender.” It consists of fried chicken cutlets, ham, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato on a large, toasted roll ($6 for a half, $8 for a whole).
The roll was more like a small loaf of bread in size, and also in its combination of chewy crust and a fluffy inside. The white meat chicken was very tender, in a batter that while not light, was not greasy either. The chicken was still hot from the fryer when I got my sandwich. The ham and Swiss cheese were of a better-than-average quality.
And I was happy that the mayonnaise was not slathered on in great quantity. This made for a fairly neat eating experience, as I ate sitting on a stone wall at Harbor View Memorial Park, overlooking the Casco Bay Bridge and just a short walk from the market.
Often, messy sandwiches have thwarted my efforts to have lunch away from a desk or table. But I’m happy to report that my “East Ender” stayed within its assigned roll.
The only slight drawback was that my order took 20 minutes. It actually wasn’t a drawback, since I ordered by phone, was told of the wait, and just did an extra errand on my way over. Since the market’s whole menu is online, it’s pretty easy to order ahead and get there when it’s ready.
I also bought a white chocolate and macadamia nut cookie for $1.25. They were made there, I was told, and I should have figured as much. Each one was as big as a small plate and most were not perfectly round. No two were exactly alike.
Because of the sandwich I had, I’d love to try others there and the menu certainly has enough items to tempt me back. There are nearly two dozen sandwiches listed, plus pizza, salads and breakfast items.
Some other sandwiches I’d like to try include: “The West Ender,” which is a roast beef sandwich with sliced onion, melted cheddar and barbecue sauce on a toasted roll; “The Stroudwater,” an open-face tuna melt with sliced red onions, pickles, tomatoes and melted Swiss cheese on toasted rye bread; and “The Peaks Island,” with shaved steak, melted cheese, peppers, onions and mushrooms on a toasted roll.
The sandwiches are generally $5 to $7 for a half and $6 to $9 for a whole. And the whole is big enough for two people. Or me.
I’d also like to go back to try the chicken Parmesan sandwich. I have an idea that it’s pretty good because the fried chicken cutlets in my “East Ender” were excellent, and chicken cutlets are essential to a good chicken Parmesan sandwich.
And in my mind, a good chicken Parm sandwich is a good measure of a corner store’s food philosophy.
A good chicken Parm sandwich says “We can take old-fashioned comfort/convenience food and do it really well.”
And none of us can ask any more than that of our corner store.
WHERE: 81 Clark St., Portland | 207-774-1996 | www.clarkstreetdeli.com
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
PARKING: On street
WAIT: Twenty minutes for a phone order, which included fried chicken cutlets.
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: One step up from the street.