To anyone who keeps up, sorry for the hiatus.
Among all the notable sites, people, industry, and culture for which New York City is known, I only think of one thing when the subject comes up: huge deli sandwiches. Unfortunately, I cannot personally justify this correlation, for I have never been to The City. I know, it’s a shame. I feel like it’s somewhere every American should go at least once in their life, for one reason or another. For me, a trip to Gotham would be incomplete if I didn’t get one of the storied, super-stacked sandwiches that my yuppie friends tell me about. Deli creations piled so high with thinly sliced meat of your choice that an unhinged serpent jaw couldn’t get a top-to-bottom bite. Well, until that day comes, Chops Deli services Wilmington as a more than qualified substitute.
Conveniently positioned on Front Street among other downtown dives, Chops offers a casual atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating, funky artwork, and a fail-safe menu. The fare is printed on a large blackboard behind the glass-encased counter where all of the Boar’s Head meats and cheeses refrigerate. Upon ordering, the ticket is tagged with your name and whizzed down a zip-line where the order is handmade with swift, yet meticulous craftsmanship. Every sandwich comes with a pickle and your choice of Miss Vickie’s potato chips. From the time your ticket is received, you’ve about five minutes to prepare your taste buds for a sandwich that has been described by an anonymous epicurean as: “…as good a sandwich as you can get.” Others seem to think the same; if you Google Chops Deli and see various websites’ ratings (Yelp, Yahoo, etc.), it’s five stars across the board. I’ve never seen a lunch spot with a perfect overall rating, especially from multiple sources.
During my most recent visit, I ordered a sandwich dubbed the “Tripoli.” This has pastrami, rare roast beef, corned beef, provolone, muenster, baby Swiss, red onion, horseradish sauce, and deli mustard piled on rye. Then, it goes to a panini press where the bread (which is baked and delivered daily from Sweet n Savory) is coated lightly with butter and gets golden brown and crispy. The meat and cheese is thinly sliced, so the sandwich looks and is very dense but it is also extremely tender. There is no one flavor that outweighs another, rather you take a bite and each ingredient introduces itself with every chew. Some other notables I’ve had are the Monaco and the Hamburg. The Monaco comes with lemon pepper chicken breast, mozzarella, arugula, tomato, basil, and pesto sauce between three cheese semolina. The basil and and pesto really set this sandwich off, plus, the lemon pepper flavor on the chicken gives it a zesty kick. I think the Hamburg is so great because of its simplicity. Black forest ham combined with the mildness of muenster cheese and the crunch of lettuce, pickle and tomato on fresh sourdough makes this a touch choice to overlook.
If a meaty sandwich is too heavy for your stomach, there are plenty of other delicious options. Chops has daily homemade soups which vary from time to time but some of the mainstays include: creamy French onion with pot roast, New England clam chowder, loaded potato, tomato basil, broccoli and cheese, and beef stew. They also have chicken, tuna, and egg salad, as well as spring and garden salads. If you find that Chops can’t get creative enough for you, they do sell meat and cheese by the pound and bread by the loaf so you can go home and build a creation of your own.
Chops has certainly set the bar high for delis in Wilmington. After eating there for the first time, there really wasn’t any other place that my brain associated with getting a sandwich in Wilmington. I don’t mean to take away from other establishments, I’m just sayin’…you gotta go.