Back in 1994, right after arriving in San Francisco from Connecticut, I took a job working in the Embarcadero Center. On my first day, I noticed a sign for Lee's Deli and decided it would be a good place for lunch. See, in my mind, I saw the name... Lee's Deli. Lee is a good Jewish name so I figured I would stop into his deli and get a nice corned beef sandwich and maybe some matzoh ball soup.
Color me surprised when I saw that Lee isn't a first name, but the family name. In front of me was a long, fast moving queue leading up to a completely Asian serving staff who was serving up sandwiches at lightning speed. The murmur of the crowd was punctured every few seconds with a shrill scream of "NEXT" from one of the women behind the counter. I had to immediately adjust my expectations and figure out what I want fast... there were only a few people in front of me and at this speed, within a few seconds I would have to order.
Quickly, I stammered out my order: turkey (freshly roasted), bacon, cheese and avocado with sprouts and avocado on dutch crunch (I learned how to order a Californian sandwich pretty fast, didn't I?) with mustard and mayo. As fast as I ordered, the sandwich was put in my hands and I paid, barely moving out of the way before the server waved her hand to the crowd and screamed "NEXT!"
The sandwich? Good. Not amazing, but pretty darned good. Over the years they were consistant - a hundred times better than Subway.
After a 7 year hiatus, I went back to a Lee's Deli this afternoon... this time, the Lee's on 2nd Street. The concept has changed - now there's a wonton soup bar, a chinese food bar, a salad bar, but the sandwiches were still there. I got in line and heard the young Asian woman behind the counter say that magic word...
I placed my order, grabbed a gatorade, paid and went outside to enjoy a warm St. Patrick's day. The sandwich was exactly the same as it was over half a decade ago. The turkey was fresh, the bacon crispy and the avocado abundant and creamy. All in all, I paid $5.45 for the sandwich and with the gatorade it came to $7.20.
I'm not sure when I will be back, but I certainly WILL be back. I figure I could go there when I am old and grey and it will be exactly the same. I might be a little slower, but they won't care... as I hobble up to the counter, they'll be motioning me over and screaming the magic word...