Now that the heat wave has passed and it’s cool enough to eat lunch again, we turn our attention this week to the Stratford sandwich scene. I set out on Thursday to highlight four key players in the local deli business -- the Pickle Barrel, Armon's, The Corner Deli and Gaetano's.
I started out with a hankering for tuna salad, my favorite. And I wanted it to be from the Pickle Barrel (1889 Main St.).
Loaded with shredded lettuce and sliced tomato, and two slices of American cheese, the emphasis of this sandwich was placed heavily on the tuna: there was a solid two inches of the fish -- easily enough for a grinder -- packed onto two slices of crisped whole wheat toast.
I liked how the tuna wasn’t drowned in mayo, and was not chunky. The Pickle Barrel is open seven days a week and offers a full selection of deli specials plus all of the potato chips you could ever ask for. The Pickle Barrel also offers free delivery and features a catering service.
When the tuna was finished, I took a right and traveled into the residential section of Main Street until I hit a small deli called Armon’s.
I knew going in that I would be eating chicken salad -- a natural progression from sea to land, I thought. What I was unprepared for was the advice that would be given to me by Armon's owner Ozzie Khorasani. And it was well-heeded advice -- Ozzie has been making sandwiches for 27 years (13 at 1055 Main St.). He has it down to method at this point.
Ozzie suggested I try the chicken Caesar salad I coveted with a few twists -- a sun-dried tomato wrap with pepper jack cheese, which would, he said, increase the spice factor. I heeded, and liked the results. The cheesy bite of the pepper jack contrasted nicely against the strong Caesar and fresh onion. Everything at Armon’s is homemade and cooked to order. It’s all fresh.
“In the long run,” said Ozzie, “Health and healthy eating will cost you less. That’s the most important concept.”
Armon’s offers Boar’s head meats and is open six days a week. If you go, make sure to ask for a homemade pickle -- they offer both spicy and regular. And be prepared to talk about football and baseball.
My next stop took me to the newest deli in town called The Corner Deli. Located appropriately on the corner of North and Nichols Avenue, The Corner Deli is in its first week of operation and ready to serve your sandwich -- and grocery -- needs.
These guys make a fine sandwich. I ordered an American combo. Best to come hungry to Rich’s because this sandwich felt like a lead pipe going down. The American combo offers a shredded, gutsy interior of roast beef wrapped in ham and turkey with American cheese, sweet peppers, lettuce and tomato on a grinder.
In addition to sandwiches, Rich’s sells sodas, freshly-brewed Green Mountain coffee and fresh bread from New York on Sundays.
My last stop of the day took me all the way to Italy without stepping foot outside of Stratford. Gaetano’s Arthur Avenue Style Deli and Catering offers authentic, homemade Italian food with “a touch of Little Italy’s Arthur Avenue.” Originally started in the market on Arthur Avenue, Gaetano’s has been in business in Stratford (1886 Main St.) 15 years now.
The bread comes straight from Addeo’s Bakery in the Bronx, and the mozzarella is made fresh in Stratford daily. Nothing is frozen. Everything on the menu -- which offers selections ranging from eggplant and meatball parmigiana to stuffed breads and quality meats -- is made on-site.
As for the sandwich: I ordered a medley of assorted Italian cold cuts topped with provolone, roasted red pepper, oil and vinegar. This megalithic hero was more like a Sunday meal than a sandwich.
Gaetano’s also offers the customers ample seating outside and caters for all events. “You call us, we show up," said its owner. "You’re not gonna go hungry."
There are plenty of delis in this town, and as always it comes down to your personal taste when lunchtime rolls around. The point is you do not have to travel far at all to find a sandwich that is right for you. But do explore -- there is a wide variety of taste and tradition, and new combos you do not want to miss out on.
What's your favorite deli or sandwich shop in town? Tell us in the comments section below.