At Frussie's the legacy of late owner James Dicks, who closed the deli in 2009 and recently died of cancer, is abundantly evident: his menu, his recipes and secret techniques, his trademark printing and misspellings on the chalkboard menu, his favorite Sinatra songs. And that's what new owner Jay Brandon had in mind when he re-opened the deli in November 2011.
"I thought it was a shame that he had no kids, no family to keep it going. It's so unique, so good," says Brandon. "I visited James and asked him ‘If you feel like it, will you help me?' He came in and taught me everything he cooked here. When he had this project to do again, his wife said it probably prolonged his life. I've tried to keep this place the same. All I buy is cheese and hams. Everything else is made in-house."
Brandon bakes bread every day using the recipes Dicks perfected over 23 years. He also prepares the meats, including the corned beef and pastrami which take two weeks to make. According to Brandon, "Northern transplants are coming in and trying the pastrami. And they say it's the best they've ever had. It's like a sandwich speakeasy. You know it's here. It's a destination."
Every sandwich comes with a pickle spear and a slice of banana bread (or zucchini bread in season). A few side dishes are available: cole slaw, pasta salad, and potatoe [sic] salad. "He [Dicks] always spelled it that way," says Brandon. "He'd put misspellings on the board just to see if people are paying attention."
The restaurant is still cash and check only—no credit cards. It's also still essentially a one-man operation. "I do all the food myself," says Brandon. "I have a friend who comes in and takes orders and money. It gets pretty crazy when the clock says noon and a flock of people come through the door." And while Brandon is less of a "sandwich Nazi" than Dicks was, he still prefers not to tamper with the combinations. "I'll let you order the Italian sub without the lettuce and tomato, but I just can't make a Reuben on white bread. It has to be on rye or pumpernickel."
"I'm really thrilled to carry on his [Dicks'] legacy," says Brandon. "In his last days he was eating the food I was making. That was a real compliment."
Frussie's Deli and Sandwich Shoppe
133 Moody Ave., 577-2108
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Hot Italian Sub: This is the first sandwich new owner Jay Brandon ordered at Frussie's, and he says, "It's mainly the only thing I ever ordered." It's easy to see why. It's a winning combination of savory meat, melted cheese, lettuce, and tomato on griddle-crisped bread with a hint of Italian dressing soaking into the bread and flavoring every bite. Your taste buds will be screaming, "bravo!"
Turkey Club on Wheat Bread: Made with what Brandon refers to as "Thanksgiving turkey," lettuce, tomato, and mayo, the sandwich has a pleasing crunchiness that comes from the toasted bread and the bacon. Pepperjack cheese is a good addition to this simple, delicious sandwich.
Reuben: The corned beef—marinated for 14 days, roasted, chilled, and sliced—is the standout ingredient, but it's perfectly matched with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing on marble rye. You can request mustard instead of dressing, but why would you want to? It's perfect just as it is.