How to Find the Best Deli

If you go to Schnucks or Whole Foods you’re going to find more than a few sandwich shops in the area, all claiming to be the best deli around, but when you try the service you realize they’re anything but. The truth is today, the word deli has come to mean different things to people, and some don’t even know where to start. Here are some tips to help you differentiate the great ones from the good and the mediocre.


One of the trademarks of a good deli is its uniqueness, and really there’s no point setting up shop if you’re going to sell the same stuff. This isn’t to say that Mediterranean dishes aren’t any good, because they are, but the good ones go beyond the usual Fish4Ever, Burt’s crisps, Seasoned Pioneers and so on and offer something different.

What separates an exceptional Deli owner from the rest is they go beyond the ordinary and go for something different, something local and/or regional so they stand head and shoulders above the rest. As aficionados will tell you, more emphasis should be placed on depth and quality of the ingredients and preparation.

Delis to Avoid

There are some delis you should always patronize and then there are those that are better left forgotten and ignored. To be specific, avoid the deli that makes you feel like your money could have been better spent elsewhere. So steer clear of that deli that insists on selling you more cheese or mustard than you need, and especially avoid those that will charge you for cleaning the vegetables that they sell.

And just like any other good shopper, don’t buy from a deli that sells the same stuff you see elsewhere but for a higher price. Don’t be fooled by the ads or the smooth talk as it’s just not worth your money.

Freshness is a Must

One of the things you’ll notice with a high quality deli is they use fresh ingredients for their dishes. Whether it’s cakes, quiches, salads, pesto or something else, freshness is considered a priority, and so should you. This might not seem like a big deal but once you’ve gotten a taste of a deli that uses fresh ingredients, you’ll never go back. Bottom line: if you want the best deli, then stick with the fresh stuff as it makes all the difference in the world.

Final Reminders

Avoid those that offer pre-cut cheese as that speaks of a lack of dedication, and contrary to what you may have been led to believe, there’s a difference between a deli and a sandwich stop, as the former serves more than just a tuna and mayonnaise on bread. Any deli that does only that is not a deli but just a sandwich stop.

However, a deli isn’t a gift shop either, and the emphasis should be on the pastrami and other treats instead of cookbooks, celebrity product endorsements, and other trivialities. And most important, a true deli explains what’s being offered so you know exactly what you’re getting.