I’d never been in the Big Top Deli in Brunswick before this week, and I felt it was high time – many people I know are very attached to it. By definition, or by my definition, anyway, the deli is the catch-all, the smorgasbord, the meet-your-mood kind of restaurant. It should cover all bases or, at least, all bases that belong between slices of bread.
I stood there with my book in hand, reading the neatly printed wooden boards (categorized by Big Top Burgers, Build Your Own, Vegetarian Sandwiches and so on), and tried to decide whether I was in the mood for a chef salad, a Reuben (I have a Reuben fixation, thanks to a childhood of stopping at Howard Johnson’s during road trips) or a breakfast sandwich. Maybe lox on a bagel? I decided what I really wanted was sushi and miso soup and ducked out of Big Top and into Little Tokyo. It turns out that deli is its own mood.
A couple of days later I was back, the new Curtis Sittenfeld novel in my hand (“Eligible,” an updating of “Pride and Prejudice. So fun.) and firm on what it was I wanted. The lox bagel sandwich, made with dill cream cheese, capers and red onion ($6.75). I had my choice of bagels and picked an everything. Then I grabbed an iced tea and somehow drove the price up to $9.54 and scolded myself for not getting free, far healthier water instead.
It was after the lunch rush and the place was almost empty. Some of the tables looked like they could use a wipe down – if you are looking for cute or cozy or precious in anyway, the Big Top is not it. It could have been dropped from 1979 straight into this block.
But the sandwich, which came in under five minutes, was good. A nicely toasted bagel with several layers of lox. Was it the high quality of Ducktrap River of Maine’s all-natural seafood smokehouse (Big Top prides itself on serving Boar’s Head meats and cheeses)? Maybe not, but it was fine. I found myself wishing I’d sprung for a pickle ($2) or onion rings ($3.25), although what I really wanted was a scoop of potato salad. I scanned the menu board under the category Sideshow and was disappointed: no potato salad. Still, there were options there that meant I could bring my non-sandwich-eating son here sometime, like breakfast bagels and hamburgers (mysteriously he doesn’t consider these sandwiches).
And to sit with my book for a few quiet moments eating pure comfort food while people and cars flashed by outside? I could almost imagine I was in New York for those 15 minutes.
WHERE: 70 Maine St., Brunswick. 721-8900, bigtopdeli.com
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
WAIT: About 5 minutes
PARKING: I circled the block once and found a spot. Such luck is not unusual for Brunswick, but there is also side street parking if you don’t get lucky.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes