Central Park Deli
There are sunnysides at the Silver Moon
The sandwich. It all began with a guy who was too lazy to drag his royal buttocks to the kitchen and have a meal. If 18th-century gossip is correct, then John Montague, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich (alive and kicking from 1718-1792), was the first person to popularize chowing down on two slices of bread with a filling in-between. Apparently, this compadre was a hardcore gambler, and spent a great deal of his time at a local tavern where he would get loaded on port and bet the farm until the wee hours. He would alleviate his munchies by commanding his valet to bring him salt beef between two pieces of toasted bread, and his buddies followed suit by then ordering “the same as Sandwich.”
The sandwich has evolved from its humble and sodium-laden beginnings, and now includes tasteables like ham, swiss, red onions and Dijon mustard. Maybe even a side of nice, salty potato chips. Evolution takes time, I guess.
The Silver Moon Lodge at Ninth Street and Central is now home to the Central Park Deli, a modest sandwich and salad shop with all-day breakfast and a semi-captive crowd of diners from the hotel. Although it’s probably great for the tourists to be able to sluff outta bed and catch a fast plate of huevos rancheros before the Segway tour of Old Town, the deli has no sign save the one linked with the lodge, so recognition from the locals is likely a bit slow in coming.
As sandwich shops go, the interior is nicer than most, with brushed metal and light wood. The artwork lining the walls is decidedly bistro, but the small gated patio is charming with plants and wrought-iron tables. The current view leaves much to be desired (the piles of dirt accompanying street construction at Tenth Street and Central), but as this is a temporary thing, you can’t hold it against them.
I was a little confused about the seating; it took me a full two minutes to realize I had to order at the counter and then seat myself. So I peered up at the lengthy menu chalkboard above the counter and squinted my way into a decision. The choices were breakfast, sandwiches, salads, a couple of gourmet burgers and a handful of different chicken sandwiches. The Danish bleu cheese and walnut salad with apples, red grapes and raspberry vinaigrette ($7.99) looked promising, as did the “Ultimate” grilled cheese ($5.49) with Romano-coated sourdough, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, green chile and tomato.
I went the traditional route with my order, and chose the “Sunnyside” club ($7.99) and the build-your-own sandwich ($7.49) with grilled ham and Muenster on rye. These both came with a choice of side, the options being potato or pasta salad, cole slaw, french fries or chips. I also ordered an appetizer plate of chile-cheese fries ($5.49) with half red, half green.
The sandwiches were delivered within 15 minutes, and made it to our table before the appetizer. The very sweet and apologetic server brought out the fries quickly, and they were perfectly hot and the cheese was in good proportion. The chiles were a bit cooler than natives are used to, but to be fair, sending visitors from other places screaming for the parking lot is not a good way to increase revenue. The green was warm and had that fruity, fresh-roasted pepper essence and consistency that’ll bring the newbies around. The red was dark, thick and flavorful.
The sandwiches were a disappointment in that they seemed small, but I think it was because they had no vegetable garnish. Don’t get me wrong, the meat and cheese are the cornerstone of any sub, hoagie or club creation. But I found that I definitely missed lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion when it wasn’t there. I was on the fence about the potato salad--which, to their credit--was homemade, but was also conspicuously heavy on the dressing to the point of being drippy, and the skin-on red potatoes were slightly undercooked.
I was curious about the breakfast items, so I asked for a sample of their signature “fire-roasted” potatoes. They turned out to be well-seasoned, beautifully grilled, and garnished with red and green bell peppers and onions. I made a note of the applewood smoked bacon, the made-to-order breakfast burritos and the “Pardon My French” toast for future mid-morning grub-diving.
To recap: good atmosphere, good service, food is so-so. I think they may want to step it up from average to fabulous if for no other reason than to attract customers to the somewhat obscure location. Sandwiches are pretty common fare these days (even Wendy’s is trying their hand), and it would take something above ordinary to set one deli apart from the others. Our patron saint of sandwiches, the Earl himself, is cocking his painted eyebrow in the great beyond.