First Impressions visits dining spots in the region that are new or have undergone recent transitions. Have a candidate for First Impressions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 2004, some of the best made-to-order sandwiches in Northern California have been assembled at Roxie Deli & Barbecue in East Sacramento, a much-beloved neighborhood delicatessen-grocery on C Street, housed in a former market that was somebody’s home once upon a time. It’s the kind of place where the cold case shows house-made deviled eggs and tuna salad from family recipes, and where the guys behind the counter crack wise to customers in the style of San Francisco and New York City countermen.
A leap of faith came for Roxie co-owners Chris and Amy Tannous when they opened their second restaurant May 1, smack-dab in the R Street Corridor. That’s the former warehouse district undergoing a renaissance into a restaurant, entertainment and arts destination. Fox & Goose, Shady Lady, Magpie Cafe and Cafe Bernardo have been there for years, joined recently by Shoki Ramen and the gorgeous Iron Horse Tavern. Coming soon are Fish Face and Amaro, among others.
The Tannouses’ venture came about when the big-time Cordano development company approached them earlier this year about becoming tenants in a building it had recently purchased.
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“(Cordano) gave us the opportunity to look at this spot, and it was time for us to expand,” Chris Tannous said by phone from the new Roxie. (Note: The original Roxie continues in business.) “People came to us with several offers, but we liked this place the best. There’s a lot of competition here, but this area is going to blow up, and there will be plenty of (customers) for everybody.”
Menu: The menus are nearly identical at both locations. “The only things I’ve added are french fries, house-made potato chips, falafel and gyro sandwiches,” Tannous said. “I’m Greek and Arabic, so the gyro and falafel are my Mediterranean side.”
Sandwiches are served on four-star ciabatta rolls from Grateful Bread bakery and arrive in three sizes – junior, regular and supreme, hot or cold, with standard condiments of mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, jalapeño peppers or pepperoncini, olive oil and vinegar. They’re all huge, it’s just a matter of relativity.
A massive oak-burning Ole Hickory smoker turns out tri-tip (Mondays), pulled pork (Tuesdays), pork ribs (Wednesdays) and brisket (Thursdays and Fridays), with chicken and outrageously good smoked meatloaf daily.
Price point: Fair for what you get, which is more than enough. Breakfast sandwiches range from $7 to $8.25; lunch sandwiches are $7.35 to $14.70; and barbecue plates go for $12, with two sides.
Ambiance: At 1,984 square feet (twice the size of the original), there’s plenty of room to play. Outside is a 26-seat umbrella-shaded patio. The inside is airy and roomy, with a lot of wood and stainless steel, cement floors and wall-mounted family photographs (why the huge black-and-white shot of San Francisco?). Inevitably, though regrettably, it’s a modern, efficient space on a different planet than the intimate, homey original store.
As for clientele, Tannous said, “We’re getting state employees (from neighboring buildings), and a young hipster crowd at night.”
Drinks: The beer taps are getting a workout, and a cooler is stocked with a solid selection of New Helvetia brews. The bad boy among the choices is the Pabst Blue Ribbon 24-ouncer, an old-school go-to that has crossed over to a new generation. The fancy Coca-Cola machine dispenses multiple choices.
Service: Fast, efficient and friendly, and hipper than the hipster clientele.
First impressions: We started with the Roxie House sandwich, a stack of turkey, pastrami and cheddar with fixin’s. Each bite was better than the one before.
The brisket plate came with fragrant garlic toast and two sides; we chose house-made chips (great bite, but too lightly seasoned for our tastes) and potato salad. “It’s not too mayonnaise-y, I’d get this again,” said a lunch pal.
As smoky and flavorful as the brisket was, it had become somewhat dry by 2:30 on the afternoon we visited. “It must have (warmed) too long, it was like butter earlier,” Tannous said later. House-made BBQ sauce helped. I went back early Tuesday to find the texture-perfect pulled pork moist and satisfying.
Try it if: You have an appetite for Big Food made from quality ingredients, and/or you feel compelled to be seen on the R Street Corridor scene.
Forget it if: You’ve forgotten that your hands are still the best utensils at the table.
Roxie Deli & Barbecue
- ▪ Where: Two locations: 1800 15th St. and 3340 C St., Sacramento
- ▪ Hours: 15th Street store: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays. Happy-hour specials 3-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Sunday brunch is 9 a..m.-3 p.m. C Street store: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays
- ▪ Information: 15th Street store: (916) 447-6943; C Street store, (916) 443-5402; www.roxiedeli.com