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Deli Down

Deli Down has new ownership and a new twist on its name. But the popular downtown Medford lunch spot so far holds true to what its founders did best.

After 25 years running the business and staying on for a few months to ease its transition, brothers Dan and Andy La Fond have left Deli Down in the hands of Bruce Brown, proprietor of the Shenanigan's empire, which abuts the basement-level restaurant. Since Brown purchased the deli in October, he tacked his primary business moniker onto the eatery — it's now officially Deli Down at Shenanigan's. However, Brown essentially upheld his promise to make only subtle changes to the beloved deli.

Freshly baked baguettes, the all-you-can-eat pasta bar, savory pastries, tomato soup, pasta salads and sandwich combinations all were prominently evident on a recent Monday afternoon. But so was a new specials board, outlining dishes planned all week for $7 apiece with a cup of soup or side salad.

My friend and I both were game for the gyro, an item we didn't recall from past visits to the deli. I also made a mental note to come back for the chicken cordon bleu sandwich. Listed for later in the week were chicken enchiladas, meatloaf and French-dip sandwiches.

The gyro sounded pretty standard with slices of a pressed lamb-and-beef product and garnishes of tomato, onion, cucumber, lettuce and tzatziki sauce. I ordered mine with the tomato soup. Other soup choices that day were split pea with ham and clam chowder, normally served on Friday.

My friend requested the green salad with a moment's hesitation over the dressing. I vouched for the berry vinaigrette only to hear I was mistaken. The deli had never had a berry vinaigrette, the man working the counter said. My friend was satisfied with the honey-mustard.

We both complimented the attractive carafe of water infused with lemon slices. Previously, water was dispensed from a large, plastic cooler, lemons procured next to the soda fountain.

The specials board also touted scrumptious-sounding hazelnut-cranberry sticky buns and chocolate croissants, also apparently new additions to Deli Down's cookies. I asked for a sticky bun ($1.50) to go, insurance against late-afternoon carb cravings. Perhaps the next installment of sweets will be from Dan La Fond's new venture, Silly Zak's, a gluten-free bakery.

I wondered if some of the La Fonds' fans had departed with them because we had our pick of about a dozen tables, previously unusual at the height of lunchtime. (Service did seem a bit less friendly.) Or maybe business typically is slower the day after a long holiday weekend.

Looking around, plates looked much the same as before: hearty sandwiches accompanied by vibrant salads and pasta concoctions, such as angel hair with feta and curried apple and raisin. And prices remain among the most reasonable around: $6.25 to $7.75 for build-your-own sandwiches; $6.50 for the pasta bar and garlic bread ($7.50 with a salad and beverage); $7 for the ham, turkey or beef hot pocket-style pastries; $3.25 for a cup of soup with bread, $4.25 for a bowl; $6.25 and $6.75 for soup-and-salad combinations; and $5 to $6.25 for pasta-salad combos.

When our orders arrived, we were pleased to see the gyro presented in a warm, pillowy flatbread. The meat was adequate, and the vegetables substantial while the tzatziki was nicely garlicky and didn't overwhelm the other ingredients or compromise the bread's integrity.

The creamy soup was actually better than I remembered it, and my friend had enough salad that she could have taken the rest to go with the sticky bun. I did feel vindicated upon confirmation from Dan La Fond's wife, Marcia, that Deli Down did, in fact, have a berry vinaigrette, but it had been some years ago.

Maybe that's worth adding to the weekly specials.

— Sarah Lemon