Review: Trenchers Deli 

Glory Be to Don

I’ve been trying to figure out how to not be hyperbolic.  

Trenchers, a deli at 2602 S. Harvard Ave., opened almost a decade ago by chef/owner Zack Curren, and his wife Melinda (from Shades of Brown fame), is something that flew under my radar forever because I barely leave downtown, or wake up before noon.  

Despite having heard its praises repeatedly sung like a culinary Christmas carol, I never got around to it—like when friends tell me I really need to see “Succession.” Yeah, probably, but it’s not on the front burner. 

Trenchers started as a lunch place, though now they’ve expanded into late-night eats with full bar service and a delivery option through that questionable miracle known as DoorDash—which is how smarter people than I introduced me to Trenchers’ Garden of Earthly Delights. 

I’m not much of a sandwich guy, and that’s no one’s fault but my own. Yet, this is how I met Stram Don. That’s His name. He’s the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. See what I meant about hyperbole? I’m personifying a sandwich. 

Trenchers Delicatessen, 2602 S. Harvard Ave., offers a wide range of sandwiches for everyone, anywhere, all at once. photo by Joe O’Shansky

Obviously, Trenchers has a slew of other amazing things for your face, from hot to cold, to breakfast, vegetarian, and vegan offerings for people who don’t understand why murder tastes so good. Among them (or, at least, the ones I’ve tried) are their take on the Italian sub, the Coolio, a cold concoction which is loaded with house cured meats (salami, mortadella, and ham) topped with the traditional provolone, vinaigrette, sliced peppers, fresh-cut tomatoes, lettuce, and mustard. It’s great. Their Reuben, with corned beef on sliced rye bread, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing, speaks to every Jewish gene in my body and makes me wish I had visited Katz’s deli in Manhattan at least once in my life—which left me with the realization that this is probably as close as I’m going to get. You can get that hot, or not. There’s no bad choice.  

Trenchers even, somehow, made me enjoy turkey a little bit, with their fan-favorite, the Dutch Crunch—comprised of roasted turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, tomato, arugula, and avocado mayo on the deli’s signature, and seemingly not of this world, crunch bread. The house-made chips which accompany all of this gloriousness are a deep-fried, eclectic amalgam of Russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets. I munch on them for three days sometimes. 

Curren seems to have a sense of humor (as well as being a bit of a movie fan) with offerings like Dalton’s Double Deuce—a ham and egg salad affair, topped with arugula and an olive tapenade, apparently inspired by Patrick Swayze’s character in the ‘80s classic, “Roadhouse.” The vegetarian version, Brad Wesley, is named for Ben Gazzara’s villain from the same flick. That playfulness even applies to the review pull-quotes in their paper menu, my favorite being, “I’m a priest and I’ve never been so turned on by the sight of fresh deli meats.” 

But, after more than a few rodeos with Stram Don, the name of which I’m guessing has something to do with a gangster movie, I have become an Evangelical—a disciple of pastrami, doing my best to spread the word about my personal Lord and Savior. Except Don actually exists. 

The Stram Don includes pastrami, deli coleslaw, and Swiss cheese with Russian dressing sandwiched in a crusty, house-made, legendary hoagie roll. Photo by Joe O’Shansky.

Don ($15 by himself, though you will know where that money went), at His best, guides lost souls to a higher level of consciousness. He’s just this—the most succulent pastrami west of the Mississippi, topped with an abundant combination of coleslaw and Russian-dressing, the mélange of which will make you want to walk the Earth like a monk and consider the nature of existence, or anything else you’ve ever eaten—gilding an already rare lily like a cured, smoky Gospel. People who might have killed themselves before they ate this revelation of flavors and decided they wanted to live; they hopefully realize that they owe their lives to a sandwich.  

The Swiss cheese element (much like the restaurant’s décor) is a non-factor unless you notice it. Their bread is almost without peer—pretty much everything at Trenchers is made in house—recalling the best of Lone Wolf’s banh mi, or something you might pick up from Antoinette if you’re that into bread. Airy and crusty, it never loses a molecule of its structure, absorbing the miraculous testaments held within. A transfiguration of mere sandwich into a textural Nirvana. The layers of cool and warm, the tenderness of the artisanal meat, the crunch of the slaw, are all narcotic elements that light up neurons you didn’t know you had. Mostly, I take a good bite and then put it down for a second, look someone in the eyes, and see if they recognize an Immaculate Conception. 

I tried not to be hyperbolic. 

Trenchers is located at 2602 S. Harvard and is open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. all week long. Call in an order at 918-949-3788. 

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