Sharp Delicatessen and Marketplace is eclectic with some great meal deals
If picking up a take-and-bake meal, freshly prepared deli salad and bottle of the wine is the goal, several local establishments can fill the bill.
But if you want to add some black truffle “pearls,” cooked and peeled chestnuts, maybe a tin of octopus in Spanish olive oil — then play some video poker on your way out — I’m aware of only one business filling that niche.
Sharp Delicatessen and Marketplace indeed is more than its subtitles indicate. This eclectic emporium on Medford’s South Riverside Avenue is a surprising storehouse of imported gourmet foods and purveyor of freshly prepared meals that are some of the best values I’ve seen locally, particularly for breakfast.
Blame Sharp’s location off my usual routes through Medford for ignorance of its existence until a few months ago. Mentioning the eatery to some friends who like to meet for breakfast, I verified their approval — and was slightly taken aback they were in the know but had kept Sharp to themselves!
The restaurant’s Sept. 8 opening, the day of the Almeda fire, likely escaped some other locals’ notice, too. But anyone can admire Sharp’s debut during a pandemic and survival of the ensuing restaurant roller coaster ride.
To be fair, owners Corey Insogna and Brigitte Stine are no newbies. Building on 25 years of food service experience, they designed Sharp to supply busy customers with high-quality, fully prepared meals.
Turkey shepherd’s pie, pork Marsala, Hawaiian chicken and Thai coconut curry beef stew numbered among the heat-and-eat specialties, priced from $9 to $12, the day I dropped in. The meals shared space in cold display cases with crab pasta salad, quinoa salad, oil-marinated olives and mozzarella balls, as well as deli meats and cheeses for sale by the pound. A Sharp staple is its chicken salad, which my friend, Maria, lauds as her all-time favorite.
She skipped the chicken salad sandwich, however, in favor of the day’s quiche ($6) for our breakfast date. I selected the bagel with lox ($9) and, when I heard the day’s soup was ready upon our 9:45 a.m. arrival, couldn’t resist a cup ($5). Of the rotating soups on Sharp’s menu — tomato-red pepper, chicken tortilla, vegetable beef and loaded baked potato — the day’s Thai hot and sour soup with bay shrimp easily is the most intriguing.
The menu lists cold and hot classic sandwiches, such as egg salad and Italian beef, from $5 for a half to $12 for a whole. Sharp “signature” sandwiches include a tuna melt, Reuben and “Italian stallion” from $8 to $13. Of the six salads, house, Caesar and Italian have less common counterparts in “Buffalo chicken,” Caprese and berry-spinach. For sides, diners can choose from macaroni and potato salads, coleslaw, fries and onion rings.
The section of breakfast items is concise but diverse. Treading the middle ground between Sharp’s yogurt and granola parfait and its kielbasa home-fry skillet are French toast and biscuits and gravy. Deeming the former too pedestrian, the latter too heavy, I tried Sharp’s breakfast sandwich ($6) with ham on a croissant during a previous foray.
The croissant wasn’t a traditional representation, and the eggs seemed folded — omelet-style — rather than scrambled. But the sandwich was hot, fresh and nicely proportioned. It paired well with a glass of V-8 juice from Sharp’s beverage cooler. Although coffee is brewed from Griffin Creek Coffee Roasters’ beans, I already had consumed my day’s quota.
Eclipsing the sandwich, though, were the accompanying fresh blueberries, blackberries and a deftly sliced strawberry, fanned out from its stem. So rare are restaurant fruit cups I actually want to eat that this meal hardly could have pleased me more, given such a reasonable price.
More top-quality fruit was in store for me and Maria. Her deep-dish quiche stuffed with sliced deli chicken, bell peppers and onions towered over the plate. Its crust was flaky and exterior nicely browned, although not served piping hot.
Had it been a few degrees hotter, the soup would have knocked my socks off. Strands of lemongrass and slivers of garlic studded the aromatic brew, teeming with Pacific pink shrimp against a backdrop of jasmine rice.
My bagel, like the quiche, was piled high. A thick bed of cream cheese pillowed the solidly layered salmon and sliced tomatoes. Capers generously pebbled the surface, omitting the traditional red onion slices per my request. This deli classic was one of the most conscientiously composed, with the freshest tasting lox I can recall tasting in a number of years.
The lox — like many other items Sharp uses in house — can be purchased from its retail cases for home consumption. I noted lump crab meat of the sort Sharp incorporates in pasta salad, as well as burrata cheese and charcuterie from Portland’s Olympia Provisions. To go with it are bottles of Kenny & Zuke’s deli mustard and condiments from Portland Ketchup Company.
Sharp’s array of fine balsamic vinegars, olive and nut oils augment imported Italian pastas, polenta and sauces. As with items on Sharp’s menu, prices don’t seem like such a splurge. Maybe Insogna and Stine are trying to preserve some of customers’ pocket money for playing the lottery.
Located at 1211 S. Riverside Ave., Sharp is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Place an order at sharpdeli.com or call 458-226-2555.