After 30 years as a sandwich-dispensing institution near the University of Arizona, Sausage Deli refuses to grow up. And therein lies much of its charm.
"Rustic" is one way to describe the roadside sub shack; "run-down" is another. But only one word — bliss — works to describe the supersize sandwiches crammed with fresh meat, cheese and veggies vying to jump out of their bread casing and into your mouth.
The interior is part mountain cabin, part dorm room. Beer bottles of all varieties line the mantel, and chattering college kids zip in and out, bantering with the easygoing staff.
You walk inside the cozy, lived-in place, jostle for a spot in line, stoop and squint to catch a glimpse at the menu behind the counter and place your order.
Then you step back and brace yourself awkwardly for a few moments while new customers come in through either side, sometimes asking if you're in line, sometimes cutting in front of you. They call out your name once your sandwiches are up, and you pay and search for one of only a few tables inside the joint or out on the patio.
If there's a better bang for your sandwich buck in town, I don't know where to find it.
We tried well-stuffed 10-inch sub sandwiches from the "House Specialties & Mistakes" portion of the menu. The highlight was the Italian Grinder, with salami, pastrami, smoked provolone and a slew of veggies, including thick, homemade pickles and chunky tomato slices that tasted like they were straight off the vine. How good is it? I first tried the grinder when I was 16, and it's been my default ever since. Every time I veer from the masterpiece I regret it even though I enjoy the alternative. I could write love sonnets to the grinder.
Nearly as strong was the embarrassing-to-order Susie Sorority, a healthy choice with thin-sliced turkey, sprouts, Havarti cheese on whole wheat, touched up with a hint of mayonnaise. The chicken salad and club tasted sort of like you'd imagine, only twice as filling and three times better. Probably the most important lesson I learned in college was to always return to Sausage Deli when in need of a sandwich fix.
• Where: 2334 N. First Ave.
• Phone: 623-8182.
• Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.
• Italian Grinder $6.25.
• Susie Sorority Sub $5.50.
• Chicken Salad Sub $5.75.
• Sausage Deli Club $6.25.
Total, before tax and tip: $23.75.