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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: December 30, 2014

At West End Deli in Portland: ‘Gustatorily satisfying’ sandwiches and precision timing

Written by: Ray Routhier
The delectable turkey Reuben at West End Deli in Portland. Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

The delectable turkey Reuben at West End Deli in Portland. Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Ordering a sandwich at the West End Deli means knowing exactly when it will be ready and exactly how gustatorily satisfying it will be.

Precision is not a characteristic I expect from a take-out sandwich place.

So I was sort of surprised when I ordered a turkey Reuben from West End Deli in Portland during a recent lunch hour and was told it would be ready in “seven minutes.” Exactly seven minutes? Not “about 10” or “five to 10?”


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Intrigued, I got up from my desk and got ready to walk the three blocks or so from my office to the West End Deli, near Congress Square, to make sure I was there in exactly seven minutes. I was, and so was my sandwich, freshly wrapped and ready to go.

To me, getting an order fast is half the battle when searching for a good place to lunch. So West End Deli won that half.

But the place, which used to be located on Spring Street west of High Street, also got a winning score for the sandwich. It cost $9.95, a little more than I’d like to spend for a sandwich, but was worth it and could probably have made for two lunches if I hadn’t been starving – and if it hadn’t been so good. I just couldn’t stop myself.

It was about four layers of sliced turkey on grilled pumpernickel bread with melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.

The turkey had a smoky flavor that I could taste through the dressing and cheese. The sauerkraut, to me, was more like a crunchy slaw, very fresh. The bread was toasty on the outside, chewy on the inside. And the whole sandwich was warm when I got it, since I got there at exactly the seven-minute mark.

West End Deli at 545 Congress st. in Portland. Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

West End Deli at 545 Congress St. in Portland.

The sandwich menu is extensive, and it’s online, so you can order ahead of time as I did. Some of the other sandwiches I considered and I will consider in the future are: Patsy Cline, with turkey, bacon, cheddar aioli, spinach and tomato on choice of bread; prosciutto with mozzarella and tomato; or smoked salmon with cucumber and dill. The first two are $9.55 for a large, a dollar less for a small, while the salmon is 10 cents more for each size.

There are also many vegetarian sandwich options, including: The Cat on baguette, colby cheese with cranberry raisins, apple slices, sprouts, baby spinach, carrots and cranberry vinaigrette; and The Shelbyville on baguette, roasted red pepper, basil, garlic aioli, fresh mozzarella cheese, tomato and romaine lettuce. Both are $7.50 for a small and $8.50 for large.

The West End Deli is in a good spot for people who work downtown, or people strolling downtown shops or the Arts District. There are a few tables, including some in the window with nice people-watching views of Congress Street.

But if you do get takeout, make sure to get there exactly when they tell you.

WEST END DELI

WHERE: 545 Congress St., Portland. 207-874-6426; thewestenddeli.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
WAIT: Seven minutes (for a phone order)
PARKING: On street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

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