This fall, Medford's beloved Deli Down came full circle when new owners reinstated the restaurant's original menu.
Tim Vincent, who worked at Deli Down in the late '80s, and his wife, Dawn Vincent, reopened the basement-level restaurant early in October, intending to bring back the ambiance, service and quality it enjoyed under founders Dan and Andy La Fond.
Dining out with the Mail Tribune
Deli Down Restaurant & Catering
406 E. Main St., Suite G, Medford
Open from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Also available for catering.
After 25 years of serving "fresh and good and local" food, the La Fond brothers sold the deli about two years ago to Bruce Brown of Shenanigan's, who later sold it to Shawn and Jo An Peters.
Now, the Vincents are at the helm of the downtown lunch spot and, hoping to instill some business ethics and entrepreneurial sensibilities in their children, have employed their 20- and 21-year-old sons and their sons' friends.
Over the past month, the La Fond brothers and many longtime customers have stood alongside the family to help them on their way and remind them of "how it was."
As a co-worker and I walked to Deli Down early this week, we recalled all the Mail Tribune employees who ate there regularly. There are several, although they had fallen off under the deli's most recent owners.
At 12:30 p.m. on a weekday, the deli's two dining rooms were surprisingly empty, but hopefully, that will change with time and publicity. The interior seemed to have been cleaned up and updated, with a coat of lighter paint putting a shine on the basement environment.
The familiar, build-your-own sandwich option, savory hot pocket-style pastries, freshly baked baguettes, soup specials, cold pasta salads and jar of large chocolate-chip cookies all were there.
My friend and I ordered at the counter and then took our seats.
Since first patronizing Deli Down more than a decade ago, I've been getting the same thing: a turkey-avocado sandwich on a French baguette with a side of cold rotelli pasta. (Note, avocado doesn't cost extra here as it does at so many eateries.)
My friend also ordered her usual: a hot turkey-broccoli-cheddar pastry with a cup of tomato bisque. The whole-sandwich-with-side and pastry-plus-side combinations are a very reasonable $7. Side dish choices are soup, green salad, pasta salad and chips.
We both missed the attractive water container and lemon wedges available in previous years and filled our cups with water at the soda machine.
Service was prompt, and our respective orders were brought in red baskets lined with paper.
The baguette was warm and soft, if not slightly underbaked. However, on a subsequent visit, the roll had all the right touches of gold. The sandwich was stacked high with traditional condiments, including cheddar cheese, lettuce, thin slices of tomato, avocado, Dijon mustard and mayo. A whole sandwich was too much, and I took half of it home.
My friend enjoyed her savory puff pastry. The thin crust was flaky and buttery, and the ingredients heated through.
She commented, however, that the broccoli always has been a tad crunchy for her tastes; maybe a quick blanching before folding it into the pastry is in order. A nice complement, the pink-hued soup was thick, creamy and smooth without too many incongruous chunks of tomato.
Although the "Hot Pasta Express" sign still hangs over the counter for old time's sake, the Vincents discovered that an all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar was wildly more popular than the hot pasta bar. Soup, salad, bread and a beverage are $7.75.
At least two soups will be offered daily, and one of those always will be the signature tomato bisque. On this particular day, there also was red bean with sausage and cream of mushroom. On its own, soup costs $3.25 for a cup and $4.25 for a bowl and comes with a sliced baguette. I'll be looking forward to that combination this winter.
Sandwich specials and other specials, including lasagna, Dawn's chicken and dumplings, meatloaf and macaroni and cheese, will change weekly as ingredients last. Hot pasta with clam sauce and bread will be served Fridays.
We'll be back. Why? Because it's close, it's consistent and it's familiar.
If you liked Deli Down before, you'll still like it. And if you don't like it now, voice your suggestions to the Vincents. The couple is more than eager to get it right.
— Teresa Thomas