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The New York-style deli in downtown Roanoke offers a fresh, quick meal for a reasonable price.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
R.T. Smith’s Fine Delicatessen, a New York-style deli, is located on Campbell Avenue in downtown Roanoke.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
The Champ at R.T. Smith’s Fine Delicatessen is made with Genoa salami, pepperoni, Cappy ham, prosciutto, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and deli dressing. It is served on a 12-inch hero.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
R.T. Smith’s Fine Delicatessen has been serving downtown Roanoke since December 2011, when it opened in a former pawn shop on Campbell Avenue. The name is a mash-up of the names of the three owners — Rob and Tracey Horacek and Craig Smith, all of whom are former employees of Boar’s Head.
Smith said the trio wanted to provide downtown diners with a place to get fresh food with a grab-and-go, New York deli-style experience. The meats and cheeses are exclusively Boar’s Head brand, while the buns come from a bakery in New York. Other items are locally sourced, including Roanoke Bagel Company bagels, H&C Coffee and Homestead Creamery ice cream.
The sparsely decorated deli feels clean and spacious, with exposed brick walls decorated with chalkboard menus and Boar’s Head signage. From the Campbell Avenue entrance, diners walk in to see a display case that holds the day’s tempting baked goods. Refrigerated cases that run nearly the length of the store hold the meats and cheeses.
Beside the register, which is located in the back of the restaurant, is an old-style cooler with iced glass bottles of Coca-Cola . Chips and other packaged snacks are to the left of the register. Drinks are self-serve from a soda fountain, a reach-in refrigerated case and urns containing coffee and tea.
Dining space is limited. R.T. Smith’s has five tables that seat four each — one in the front of the restaurant and four in the back. The service is cheerful and efficient, even during a busy lunch rush.
Breakfast includes bagels and sandwiches ranging from $1.09 to $8. Lunch or dinner sandwiches are served from a hot and cold menu and range from $5.49 to $9; side dishes, including bagged chips and house-made slaw, potato and macaroni salads, are extra. A hot lunch special is offered daily.
On my first of three visits, I tried the Southwest ($6.74) from the hot sandwich menu. Wedged snugly inside a kaiser roll was a generous portion of smoked turkey, two slices of thick-cut bacon with mozzarella and a mildly sweet-smoky barbecue sauce. The meat was sliced fresh to order, the bacon was warm and the cheese was thoroughly melted. The edges of the bun were toasted crisp , but the inside remained pleasantly soft. I got an order of the day’s soup, chili ($2.99), to accompany the sandwich. The 8-ounce portion, served with two packets of Lance’s Captain’s Wafers, was rather bland, so the salt from the buttery crackers added needed seasoning.
I bought a 3 1⁄ 2-inch-square chocolate brownie ($1.49) to share with coworkers back at the office. The corner I kept for myself was rich and deliciously moist, with a nice top crust and a gooey center dotted with tiny chocolate chips that added great texture.
My husband and I stopped in on a quiet Saturday morning for breakfast. We each ordered an egg sandwich on a bagel ($1.99; 75 cents for each topping in addition to egg); he tried the everything bagel with sausage and American cheese while I had the sesame bagel with cheese and bacon. Each sandwich contained two fried eggs cooked over medium that were buttery but not greasy. His sausage was mild but flavorful, my bacon was crisp-tender. Both of us would have preferred the bagels toasted.
We sampled the house-made baked goods at breakfast with mixed results. The cranberry orange muffin ($1.49) had a burst of fresh citrus taste that balanced the tart cranberries. The muffin was moist, hearty and not overly sweet. The raspberry white chocolate scone ($1.69), however, was disappointing. While the scone contained an impressive amount of plump berries and chocolate, the shape and texture was more like a cookie and the dough was underbaked.
Accompanied by a colleague during a busy lunch hour, I was very pleased with the Griffin sandwich ($6.99) off the cold menu. A pile of rare roast beef was topped with horseradish cheddar, lettuce, tomato and a horseradish sauce. The combination of the mild cheese and the sauce was a perfect complement to the tender beef and added a subtle kick without being overpowering. The lettuce was crisp and the tomato had firm texture and fresh flavor — a pleasant surprise for this time of year. I added a side order of house-made macaroni salad, a dill pickle spear and a fountain soda for $2. The elbow noodles were lightly dressed and the salad had nice crunch from diced bell peppers and cucumber.
My companion tried the hot daily special ($7.27), which was meatloaf with mashed potatoes. The meatloaf, amply topped but not swimming in brown gravy, was tender and juicy, if not overly flavorful. The skin-on, creamy mashed potatoes with hints of garlic and green onion were a big hit, while the small side salad was fresh and crisp but could have used a little more substance (onion or cheese) and texture (croutons). The special was well-portioned and, overall, made for a satisfying lunch.
We split a slice of Oma’s crumb cake ($1.69), a house specialty that my lunch pal described as magical. The soft, buttery yellow cake was topped with a thick serving of brown sugar cinnamon icing, rich but not overly sweet — a nearly perfect dessert.
The bottom line
R.T. Smith’s Fine Delicatessen is a fine choice for a fresh, quick breakfast, lunch, or early dinner in the downtown area. Quality ingredients, reasonable prices, and fast and friendly service are a welcome addition to the downtown restaurant scene.
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