Our loyal readers frequently are the source for discovering new neighborhood restaurants. They are also the creators of a culinary wish list: cuisines absent from our local dining scene or dining styles not yet in our market.
Charleston Bakery & Delicatessen
Cuisine: Regional DelicatessenCategory: Neighborhood FavoriteAddress: 10597 Dorchester Road, SummervillePhone: 875-0630Bar: NoHours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, until 3 p.m. Sunday; closed MondayFood: 1/2Service: Atmosphere: Price: $-$$Costs: Soups $4.25-$4.75; salads $7.50-$10.50; sandwiches $7.50-$18.50; hot dogs $3.25-$4.75; savory pies and quiches $8.95. Breakfast $3-$8.95; coffee bar $2.25; specialty drinks $4-$5.50; espressos $4.50-$5.50; frappes $5.50; bakery, desserts, ice cream desserts Vegetarian Options: YesWheelchair Accessible: YesParking: LotOther: In a strip mall with limited outdoor seating; carry-out, catering, specialty cakes, wedding cakes, new ice cream dessert program, house-smoked salmon, house-cured meats, daily specials, weekly soup specials, 24-hour notice for whole pies, quiches. Split plate charge $2; $2 charge for extra lean brisket or pastrami, 50-cent up-charge for take-out. Meats and salads sold by weight. Bakery and creamery.
On the list is an authentic delicatessen.
My search began for schmears, seltzer, schmaltz and steamed corned beef and smoked pastrami.
What I found, however, was that, not just in the Lowcountry but around the borscht belts of the United States, delis and good rye bread were becoming as scarce as the proverbial hen’s teeth.
Many are closing, unable to compete as deli departments flourish in supermarkets and the American appetite has been transformed by fast-food sandwich shops and processed meats.
Delis have come a long way from 19th-century pushcarts to temples of towering sandwiches and the collective taste memories of Eastern Europeans and the Jewish immigrants who brought their food roots for German frankfurters, Romanian pastrami and Russian blintzes to these shores.
So when the Charleston Bakery & Delicatessen in West Ashley announced it was moving to Summerville to expand its operations of challah bread, those braided loaves of “air, earth and water”; authentic rye bread; steamed corned beef made from brisket; house-cured and hand-cut lox; and matzo balls made with schmaltz (chicken fat) and two-cents plain (seltzer), I knew I needed to schlep to Summerville and do what any good fresser would do: Check them out.
The L-shaped dining room surrounds an open industrial kitchen and, in true deli fashion, display cases provide a window on the deli world as you look over salads of macaroni, coleslaw and cucumber.
Quiches ($8.95) and tomato pies ($8.95) are flush with ingredients and are served with a side of “wild salad” ($7.50). Freshly made salads of roasted chicken ($8.95) or shrimp ($9.95) bear witness to the homemade touch.
The bakery case tempts with individual Bundt-shaped cakes of rum and coconut rum; cheesecakes on steroids, Key lime meringue tarts, chocolate eclairs, cookies, chocolate-covered marshmallows, croissant, bagels and more.
Late this spring, a creamery was added. The deli is offering the “frrrozen hot chocolate” ($4-$5.50) along with the regular version ($4-$5.50) from Serendipity 3, a New York institution.
A menu of sundaes, banana splits, ice-cream cones and more will expand the sweet offerings in time for summer.
Old-timey sodas (Nehi, SunSpot, Cheerwine) are iced up on the side, and the quintessential deli favorite Dr. Brown’s product line is available as well.
Halvah is not mounded on the counter to be cut to order, but those who have a sweet spot for this sesame and simple syrup 13th-century confection can purchase it by the bar. It is made by the Joyva Corp.
Charleston Bakery & Delicatessen is a scratch-cooking kind of place. The matzo ball soup ($4.25; $4.75 if you want chicken noodle and matzo ball) is filled with hand-stripped pieces of chicken, onions, carrots and celery, and a golden orb of matzo meal lightened with pure chicken fat and the effervescence of seltzer water. It is brightened with fresh dill and parsley.
Salads are also marked by fresh ingredients. The macaroni salad uses a fusilli pasta in place of the elbow macaroni, but the red and green peppers, celery, red onion and carrot shreds carry the flavors of this classic.
The coleslaw is equally balanced with red and green cabbage and shreds of carrots lending sweetness to the mix.
The rye bread for the sandwiches is the best I have had in the Lowcountry. It has a crisp crust with the slightly sour flavor of rye with caraway. The sandwiches are stacked 3 inches tall and can be ordered “Carnegie” style for $18.50: Just think “super-size me.”
The corned beef brisket ($10.50-$18.50) and spice-rubbed and smoked pastrami $10.50-$18.50) earn high marks for their fat-to-lean ratio. They were out of beef brisket served with au jus and horseradish.
Sandwiches can be topped with coleslaw and Russian dressing and made into Reubens and Rachels ($10.95)
Not content with Hebrew National brand hot dogs, Charleston Bakery & Delicatessen “imports” Koegel hot dogs: all-beef, natural casing, no fillers, no preservatives. It is served on a split-top roll, and if “snap” defines your frankfurter experience, this pup will not disappoint. Have it through the garden: Chicago style ($4.75) or topped with the deli’s house-made black bean chili ($4).
They cover Israeli street foods with a gyro ($7.95), celebrate the Lowcountry with tomato pie ($8.95) and a McClellanville shrimp roll ($7.95), and roast both turkey breast and beef for other dining options.
On this trip, the culinary GPS rang true. If you have the need to nosh, if your bubbe’s tongue sandwich ($10.50) is speaking to you or you are craving the brisket cuts of deli classic meats, the Charleston Bakery & Delicatessen has your number.