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Be’wiched Deli

By Lavender November 20, 2008

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It is perfectly accurate to call Be’wiched Deli a sandwich shop, yet this conjures up an image that is an injustice. Unfortunately, I have found that many deli sandwiches adhere to one of two camps. The first places excessive importance on a hard, cumbersome section of bread, with thin meat shoved inside—the customer is expected to labor through it, paying close attention to the delicate insides of his or her cheeks. The other views its bread much as they did in the Dark Ages—a vehicle for the transportation of soggy meat to one’s mouth.

Housemade Pastrami with Pickled Cabbage and Dutch Mustard; Pear and Almond Tart with Bavarian Cream; Middle Eastern Couscous with Moroccan Spices and Roasted Vegetables; Be’witched Deli. Photos by Hubert Bonnet

After tasting several selections from Be’wiched’s regular menu, I must say that for me, the word “sandwich” has been redefined. Chefs and co-owners Matthew Bickford and Michael Ryan have brought fine dining techniques to the quintessential convenience food, and the result is nothing short of spectacular.

Bickford says, “We look at a sandwich much like we’d look at an entrée on a full-service menu, paying attention to the protein and the fat, and putting together a well-composed plate that happens to be between two slices of bread.”

Be’wiched’s menu is made up of 11 sandwiches, along with a healthy selection of soups and salads. As chefs, both Bickford (Zander Café, La Belle Vie) and Ryan (Alma, D’Amico Cucina) were accustomed to seasonal menus, but for their deli, they wanted a menu that would be applicable year-round, and feature quality ingredients.

“We use all-natural meats, locally sourced when we can. We try to get local produce from a lot of farmers, and be mindful of our role in this planet,” Bickford explains.

Customers tend to become regulars quickly, often developing a dependence on their favorite sandwiches.

With a smile, Ryan remarks, “People will say, ‘I would love to try something else, but I can’t get away from the pastrami.’”

Ryan tells me this as I am shoving it into my own mouth, and I nod in absolute understanding. Ever since I learned Be’wiched makes its own pastrami using an Old World technique that takes seven days, my mouth has been watering to try it. The meat does not disappoint. The pastrami sandwich ($9.50) is a meat fantasy—flavorful and moist, piled spectacularly thick on two slices of soft rye bread, with pickled cabbage and coarse grain mustard.

I can see how one would get hooked on it to the point of forsaking all others, but as my dining partner is moaning over the smoked turkey ($8.50), I selfishly make a grab for the other half, much like Chaucer’s nun. I take a bite, and feel something I haven’t in a long time: I am suddenly an 8-year-old child who just received two wonderful Christmas toys, and doesn’t know which to play with first. Be’wiched brines and smokes its own turkeys, and thus, this sandwich is another masterpiece of bacon, dates, goat cheese, and roasted garlic, topped with sherry bacon vinaigrette.

“Surely those two shall be my favorites,” I say to myself, as I reach for the tuna confit ($9). “After all, I have had a tuna sandwich before.” I take a bite, and my inner monologue abruptly ends. I had not had a tuna sandwich before. Not really. Not tuna confit, done up with black olives, cucumber slices, and preserved lemon on focaccia. The taste is fresh and light, but it has a depth that surprises me.

Next, I move on to the roast beef ($9), which I had been saving for the end. It is tender and moist, spread with horseradish and onion jam, topped with havarti cheese, on ciabatta. I would recommend that horseradish fiends ask for a side of the stuff, but for true roast beef groupies, Be’wiched is your new hangout.

The deli also offers beer and wine, as its sandwiches pair up wonderfully with both. The list is brief, but well-rounded. I particularly enjoyed the La Playa merlot and a husky Hungarian Szeremley Kéfrankos. During happy hour, Monday through Friday, 3:30-6:30 PM, a glass of wine is only $4, and tap beers are $2.

Be’wiched is open for dinner until 8 PM Monday through Friday, featuring daily specials like slow-roasted pork shoulder or braised lamb shanks, in addition to the regular sandwich menu. These complete meals can be made to-go, and enjoyed at home.

One day, I definitely will have to come in for breakfast, as Be’wiched offers a pastrami and egg sandwich that Ryan whispers is the ultimate hangover cure for the busy professional. As he tells me this, I wonder briefly if he is referring to me and my empty glass of tempranillo. Then, I finish the rest of the merlot.

Be’wiched Deli
800 Washington Ave. N., Mpls.
(612) 767-4330
www.bewicheddeli.com

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