A sandwich shop is the perfect fit for the friendly little retail area along Broadway Street – the closest thing New Haven has to a downtown – with its barber shop, post office, jewelry store, ceramic studio and taverns.
And although the neon lights aren’t bright along here, the Broadway Deli shined with its sandwiches, salads and addictive sweet treats.
The sandwiches were pretty straightforward in terms of makeup, and the highlight was the bread, which was baked fresh in-house. But since I visited, the baker responsible for those breads has left.
Owner Renee Moore now offers French white, a nine-grain cracked wheat and marble rye breads in addition to wraps, croissants, ciabatta rolls and garlic-parmesan buns. She also said she keeps trying different varieties from suppliers, so more options could be available soon.
The sandwiches are named to go with the Broadway theme of the restaurant, which is decorated with playbills and a variety of for-sale, pop-culture paintings including Elvis and The Dude.
The Wicked was my favorite sandwich with roast beef, baby Swiss, fresh greens, red onions and a horseradish-infused bistro sauce. The beef – medium-rare top bottom round sliced in-house – was just about as good as roast beef gets, and the sauce added just the right kick along with the jalapeno bread, which, of course, is no longer available.
The turkey-based Funny Girl got most of its flavor from its condiments, cream cheese and a sweet-tart cranberry spread. It also had baby Swiss cheese and crunchy fresh baby spinach.
Cream cheese also helped the grape salad, which was the best deli salad Broadway Deli offered. The sweet cream cheese dressing lightly coated the plump red grapes and crunchy walnuts to create a fruity treat that could double as dessert.
I would not advise ignoring the dessert case, however. Chewy cookies, coffee cakes, cinnamon rolls and brownies are always available with other goodies changing depending on Moore’s mood. The cookies were chewy and delicious and the muffin-style cinnamon rolls were gooey and great with a perfect creamy butter cream frosting. The pizza-thin apple coffee cake also drew praise with its thinly sliced, slightly tart apples. The tartness was needed to cut the sweetness of the cinnamon-sugar crumble on top.
I also loved the lemon crunch Bundt cake, which had a similar crumble and a sugary icing on top of a dense but surprisingly moist cake with just the right hint of lemon. The Texas sheet cake was fine, but I am not a huge fan of Texas sheet cake and would probably never choose it over the coffee or Bundt cakes.
As good as the grape salad was, the pasta salads at Broadway Deli fell flat. The bowtie pasta, which had a ranch-based dressing, included tomato chunks and feta cheese, but the dressing was bland and there wasn’t much flavor overall. The cucumber-ranch salad must have had the same dressing, along with red onion, because it, too, was bland.
The last two sandwiches I tried were OK, but not as good as the Wicked or Funny Girl. The Little Mermaid, as you might guess, had tuna salad, along with greens, red onions, tomatoes and olives. I enjoyed the sweet tuna salad with its chunks of crunchy celery and dots of zesty red pepper, and really liked it on the marble rye. I went back to the roast beef for my build-your-own sub and added salty pastrami and provolone, and was quite happy with it given the generous portion of both meats.
Service was great at Broadway Deli and everyone seemed genuinely interested in how my party was enjoying all of the food. And even though the breads I loved are now gone, a trip back to Broadway Deli is likely.
There are plenty of titles on the menu still left for me to try, and I know most of the encores from the dessert case are Oscar-worthy.
Restaurant: Broadway Deli
Address: 504 Broadway St., New Haven
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Wicked ($6.95), Funny Girl ($6.50), Little Mermaid ($5.95), build your own sandwich ($6.95 whole; $4.25 half), coffee cake ($2), cookies ($1), brownies ($1.50), cinnamon rolls ($2)
Rating breakdown: Food: * (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: ¦ (1 maximum)
Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).