A Simple Quality and Charm That’s Hard To Beat
Roma Bakery and Deli will become your local go-to
There’s something to be said when you can walk in to a place after months and the staff still know your name. It’s a kind of local spot charm that, in this era of franchise-lined interstate eateries, seems to belong to another time entirely. And so it is with Oscar Galdámez and Bruce Albertine after just a couple trips to Roma Bakery and Deli. With a location and schedule that caters mainly to the Downtown law and order set, it’ll be breakfast or lunch with a warm handshake and hello, and maybe even asking after some friend you dined with there last time. But the charm doesn’t end there, as a tour of the menu is sure to delight.
The breakfast on offer is basically the protein of your choice (bacon, ham, sausage, carne adovada or a vegetarian option) on either a croissant or wrapped up as a burrito, and either the hand-held option, or with coffee as the meal. The burritos are terrific, but I wouldn’t miss the chance at one of the flakiest croissants this side of Normandy. I started with a carne adovada croissant with red chile ($7.40). It’s a smoky, subtle heat in the chile, all on creamy scrambled eggs with a quick melt of Swiss—plenty to satisfy, and like all great hand-held dishes, you’d better not put it down for fear of never being able to pick it back up. If you’d prefer green chile, try it with the ham (again, $7.40). The luscious folded eggs are held together by the melted Swiss, and, as with the red chile, the green has big chile flavor but a very approachable level of heat, making it a real crowd-pleaser.
For lunch, the Florentine ($10.95) sandwich is a hearty stack of sliced roasted turkey, triangles of Swiss, fresh spinach and Roma tomatoes on a hard-crusted baguette. The flavors are tremendous, but the bread might take some chewing. The “bistro sauce” is something between peppered mayo and a creamy ranch. … It’s tasty, and it soaks and softens the bread. I'd probably take an extra side to dip my sandwich in next time, and you could easily add green chile and bacon to this one to really jazz it up. If that doesn't sell you, the warm chocolate chip cookie might. I can’t put my finger on the slightly aromatic spice in either the dough or the chips themselves, but it definitely works.
If you're tempted by either croissant sandwich, I’d suggest the three salad plate ($12.50), then just add a croissant on the side. That’ll let you sample both the tuna and the chicken, so you’ll know for next time. Plus, you have another side salad and a free cookie! Truth be told, it’s probably big enough to split with a friend, or make a couple meals out of. Your choice of three made-fresh-every-day salads are served atop a bed of greens, with a few crusty “baguette tostinis” that are slathered with a garlicky Italian red pepper pesto. I took the almond chicken salad—chunks of chicken creamed together with celery, dill, sliced almonds and the terrific little surprise of capers. Second was the tuna salad: Its vibrant punch of jalapeños, red onion and cubes of Roma tomatoes dress the flaky tuna fish perfectly. For spice lovers, this is hard to top, but tamer palates might be put off. For my money, it’s among the best in the city. Last, I went with the dill potato salad. The fresh-chopped dill and parsley, soft baby red potatoes (with the skins left on—hooray!) in a light dressing—it’s a dish that reminds me of summer and picnics. I found some garlic too when I went looking, a subtle but wise addition. I don’t know if it would overwhelm the dish, but I wouldn’t mind experimenting with some onions or even some extra spice … maybe even a touch of sriracha in the dressing, though there’s truly nothing lacking as is.
Breakfast or lunch, you’ll be tempted (and rightly so) by the delightful daily array of baked treats. The chocolate croissant ($3.15) is a squarish pastry folded around a thin brick of semi-sweet dark chocolate just like you’d find in France, topped with slivered almonds and dusted with powdered sugar. The cheese danish ($2.65) was silky and sweet, folded up in a powdered-
To drink, I ordered a New Wave Soda ($2.75). Think La Croix plus caffeine, a great option on hot summer mornings. The sugars per can in some flavors are akin to a diet soda (as their packaging brags) “w/o all the other stuff.” The mango flavor wasn't especially strong, and there wasn’t much sweet to be had, but as an easy drinking source of some get-up-and-go, it’s hard to find fault with it. The cucumber version was lighter on the sugar, and bigger on flavor, so if you’re in the market for a cucumber drink with a caffeine kick—search no more!
So next time you find yourself Downtown around breakfast or lunch, pop into Roma a stranger and leave as a soon-to-be-familiar face. To boot, you’ll also get full and content on quality fare that offers the very same attention to detail you’ll come to expect from the friendly faces behind the counter. Tell ’em Hosho sent you!
501 Roma Ave. NW
Hours: Mon-Fri, 7am to 2pm
Alibi Recommends: Carne adovada breakfast croissant, three salad plate, just about any baked treat and cucumber New Wave Soda
Vibe: Other-era charm in a cozy, home-like breakfast and lunch spot.