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?”
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.
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.
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