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Good Food!

Great Italian, Great Cuban, in a Light, Fun Atmosphere

Restaurant: Little Dave's Deli
Cuisines: Sandwiches and Barbeque
Location: 41 W. 3300 S., Salt Lake City (Map)
Price Range: $2.49–$11.49
Grade: B+ — See Foodie Report

I had driven by Little Dave's Deli many times, and even stopped a couple times in the evening or on Sunday. In either case, the place was closed. But it is my mission in life to try every sandwich place I find, so perseverance won out. And I won out, too.

Being next to David's Kitchen (a Chinese restaurant) and having the similar name, I wondered if this was going to be a real sandwich place, or a mishmash of cuisines, including Chinese (could've been David's son, right?). However, I was very pleasantly surprised from the moment the door opened.

Little Dave's Deli is the real deal. They have good food and are looking to give the customer something more than just a meal. They're creating an experience, with Big Band Era music playing, an antique truck in the center of the dining area that looks like it's from the 1930s, nice wooden tables and chairs, and vintage bottles of soda in a ledge at the ceiling with lights shining behind them. Even the rest of the light fixtures maintain that look and feel with stained glass!

You order at the counter. I was a little disappointed to see that there was no pastrami sub (especially since their flagship sandwich is a Philly Cheese Steak), but decided to try their Italian. I got thick-cut fries with it and a fountain drink. Had I noticed that the same vintage sodas that are decorating the place are also for sale, I would have opted for that. I was also surprised that the other half of the menu is barbeque. (Note to self — second visit, BBQ night!) When I first walked up, a man greeted me, then stepped out when an older woman came out of the back. Wasn't a big deal, but it would've been nice to be told something like "So and so will take your order," rather than just walking away, smile vanishing from his face like it had never been.

After ordering, I chose a table, but had to go look at that flatbed truck. It was a Graham Brothers modified Model T. Very cool! In the cab, it had an old hand-crank record player with the megaphone and some other antique items.

Pretty quickly, the woman who took my order called out my number and I was pleasantly surprised that my sandwich had some weight to it as I carried my tray to my table. It was in paper printed with the Little Dave's Deli logo, and had lots of meat.

First words out of my mouth when I took the first bite: "That's a good sandwich."

It had ham, cappicola, pepperoni and provolone cheese. It was dressed with lettuce, tomato, mayo, diced cherry peppers and a red-wine vinaigrette. A nice thing about it was that there wasn't too much of the vinaigrette. (A common mistake in some delis.) It balanced very nicely with the mayo. I would've liked a little more peppers, but it was good overall. The fries were good and came with two sides of fry sauce.

The only thing that would have made the experience better would be a big-screen TV showing the old silent movies. That would really cap off the dining experience — and they could still leave the music playing!

Last words when finishing the meal: "I'm definitely coming back. Maybe I'll bring my folks, too! My dad would love this place."

On my second visit, I wasn't sure what I was going to try.  The Italian had been good, but I wanted something different.  Last time, I had decided to try their BBQ, but it was just too hot outside for that. I just wanted a sandwich.  When I was at the counter looking for something to order, I noticed that the daily special was called "The Cuban." In Miami, I had eaten a Cuban sandwich that was to die for. In that case, it had been a ham and pork-shoulder sandwich, where the pork shoulder was cooked in an garlic-onion citrus sauce. I had been skeptical at the time, but richly rewarded. I had seen them a time or two on menus in Salt Lake City since then, but had left terribly disappointed.

So I asked about it and was told that it was a hot sandwich, with pulled pork and ham, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato, pepperocinis, mayo and mustard and their house dressing.  Sounded good! I ordered it, and their great skin-on French fries. I was tempted to order one of their specialty bottled sodas, but wanted to make sure I could get a refill (or two, as the case may be) and decided to hit the soda fountain. I paid for my meal and was given a number.

When filling my drink cup, I saw that there was a bottle of Frank's cayenne pepper sauce sitting on the counter. Since I was going Cuban, I thought it wouldn't hurt to give it a dash of Cajun to boot, and took that back to my table with me, as well.

The place had four tables with customers, but the rest of it was impeccably clean. Big Band music was playing overhead, and I sat to watch the other customers while waiting for my food.

Many of the patrons were older, gray- or white-haired, and everyone who came in (there was a pretty steady flow), stopped at the door and smiled. It was nice to see. They looked at the truck, up at the bottles lining the ceiling, at the stained-glass light fixtures, and just smiled. I can't say enough about that. There were even a
couple guys who came in with long hair and an abundance of body art, who did the same exact thing. If anything, they spent longer at the truck than anyone.

Rather than calling my number, the guy who took my order brought it out to me. Even through the wax-paper wrapping, I could see that there was plenty of mayo, mustard and sauce, making a mess all over the wrapping and I knew that life was going to be good.

First words out of my mouth when I took the first bite: "Wow."

The pulled pork was very flavorful, the ham had been grilled, and the Swiss cheese didn't overpower anything. (One of my concerns when I ordered it.) The house dressing and the mustard didn't fight, and the pepperocinis gave it a little kick. It was an excellent sandwich. Easily the best Cuban I had had since visiting Miami all those years ago.  And there were occasional bites that made my eyes close and all I could do was groan, because it was one of those perfect bites. When that happens ... bliss.

I then checked it for a Cajun touch, making a little puddle of sauce to dip in, and that went very well, too!

Last words when finishing the meal: "What's a great deli supposed to be like? Little Dave's."

FoodUtah.com Foodie Report

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     food·ie (fd)
     noun. Slang.  A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet.