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Wednesday, June 27,2012

Get a belly full of deli

Stateside Deli satisfies a sandwich lover's cravings

by Joe Torok

Delis shouldn’t be that complicated. Good bread and good meat — quality ingredients, really — are the foundations, and if a deli does any more than that, it’s onto something.

Stateside Deli is on to something.

The sandwich shop that stacks the meat high, with locations in East Lansing and Okemos, has a menu you’d expect from a deli: a few dozen sandwiches and burgers, sides that mostly take a trip through the deep fryer, some slaw, salads, soda and a few desserts. 

What was surprising about my trip to the East Lansing location was the attention to quality beyond the sandwiches. 

When I arrived with my two young companions, we had no trouble settling on what to eat. The man at the counter greeted us with a combination of genuine friendliness and carnival worker’s bravado: Step right up, step right up and see the monstrous size of the Rare Ron, the Steven Style or the tuna melt.

We went with the Famous ($7.49), which combined a standard triple-serving of corned beef, Russian dressing, coleslaw and Swiss cheese on rye.  Overall, the sandwich was a touch sweet, with the coleslaw and dressing mellowing the corned beef. The best part of the dish was the bread, a mild, tan rye that was spongy in the middle (without turning into sponge cake) and rustic and chewy on the crust.

Sandwiches at Stateside come with a large half-pickle, too, and if you’re puckering up just thinking about it, take note: Stateside’s new pickles (a.k.a. half-sour pickles) aren’t nearly as sour as other varieties, and the little bright green boats carry a fresh cucumber crunch, too.

Since the sandwich menu carries 20 options and we didn’t want to decide on a second deli-style sandwich, we went with the cheeseburger ($5.99), which was on special and delivered to our table with a side of french fries.

Like their sandwich cousins, burgers shouldn’t be too difficult or overly complicated. While some prefer the sloppy mess, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink variety, I enjoy actually tasting beef in a burger. That’s what you get at Stateside.

The burger wisely came with just red onion, tomato, mayo and romaine — the ketchup and mustard, or, what I like to call beef flavor vampire condiments, are left to the diner’s request. I declined. 

Like the deli sandwich, what was perhaps most impressive about the burger was the bread. The bun, with a buttery sheen on top of a dome speckled with sesame seeds, was sturdy, compressing when gripped, but not deflating into a sad imitation of white bread. 

Along with the burger came rather pedestrian fries, but the onion rings we also ordered made up for it. The rings were crunchy, with a smooth, golden brown shell holding a slightly sweet cut of onion.

Perhaps the happiest find for us, though, was the cherry chicken salad ($5.99 small). Whereas other delis might be content to toss some dried cherries in a recently debagged iceberg mix, at Stateside you’ll get broad leafed romaine and chunks of walnuts along with red onion, dried cherries and grilled chicken breast. The Greek dressing is proudly homemade — we asked and they boasted with good reason: it’s a tart, creamy dressing brought down to earth with bits of oregano. While one of my companions delighted in bathing the salad in the dressing, for me, a little went a long way, and it made the french fries much better, too.

Stateside has homemade desserts like slices of dark-as-night chocolate cake and irresistible baklava ($2). The baklava struck a fine balance between sweet, crunchy and flaky. The phyllo dough flaked off the top in contrast to the dense, nutty bottom crust, and the confection was brought together with judicious dose of honey.

Stateside Deli is in the heart of a college town, so it can be a bit unruly. We must have arrived after a lunch rush, but the tables were being bussed, so it was hard to complain too much. But whoever was responsible for deciding to use easily stainable, black cloth-covered chairs for a place whose typical customer might be a slightly tipsy fraternity pledge should have reconsidered seating options. While the atmosphere was pleasant on our trip, if you’re looking to avoid any kind of raucousness, head to Okemos instead.

It’s nice to know that if you want a good sandwich, Stateside has me covered. Plus, Stateside is now on my shortlist for places that do burgers well enough to leave my own kitchen for. By the time we got to the salad, it seemed like the little-deli-that-does was just showing off.

Be as brash as you please, Stateside Deli. You’ve earned some bragging rights in my book.

Stateside Deli

313 E. Grand River,

East Lansing

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday

Noon-8 p.m. Sunday

(517) 853-3303

Second location at 

3552 Meridian Crossings, Okemos

8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday

8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday

8 a.m.=4 p.m. Sunday

(517) 853-1100

www.statesidedeli.com 

TO, OM, $$

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