Cheesesteak, pho and falafal

Kathy’s Deli does a lot and does it right

Skee Savangsy, co-owner of Kathy’s Deli, serves up a chicken Philly and a lamb burger with a smile.

Skee Savangsy, co-owner of Kathy’s Deli, serves up a chicken Philly and a lamb burger with a smile.

Photo by Meredith J. Cooper

Kathy’s Deli
671 Walnut St., Ste. 1
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; closed Sun.

Somehow, despite living just blocks away for the past several years, I’d never stepped foot in Kathy’s Deli until a few weeks ago. Indeed, it’s easy to drive past the small eatery, situated in a nondescipt strip mall on Walnut Street, without noticing it. Now that I know of the wonders it offers, though, I might just become a regular.

Kathy’s is a small, no-frills spot where you order at the counter for takeout or to eat at one of a handful of tables. Drinks are serve-your-own, from a fridge near the register. And a sign on the door saying that restrooms are for customers only is the only indication that there is a restroom at all—it must be in the kitchen.

But you don’t go to Kathy’s for the ambiance (though the colorful murals are pretty rad); you go there for the food, which is killer. The window facing Walnut advertises Asian, Mediterranean and American foods—a strange yet wonderful assortment of teriyaki bowls, pho, falafel, burgers and Philly cheesesteak subs. So, what kind of mood are you in?

On my first visit, I planned to try the pho, as I’d heard rave reviews and it was raining outside—perfect soup weather. There are two options: chicken and beef. A third soup on the menu got me asking questions, though—what is khao piek sen? I was told that this soup had a similar homemade broth to the pho but includes hand-rolled rice noodles, like udon, instead of the thin ones, along with chicken, green onions and cilantro. I was sold. My boyfriend, Chuck, ordered the pastrami sandwich, which, like the cheesesteak, comes in three sizes—small ($5.25), medium ($7.25) or “BF,” short for “bigfoot” ($9.25).

It’s amazing how food so simple can be so satisfying. That’s exactly what I can say of the khao piek sen, which turns out is a traditional Laotian soup. It was everything it was advertised to be and not a single bit more. The noodles had just the right silky texture and the broth was immensely flavorful without being overwhelming. My only complaint is that the white meat chicken was dry.

The pastrami was similarly simple and delicious, served on a white roll with mustard and pickles, as ordered. Not my flavor of choice, but I took a bite anyway—yum.

For visit two, it was my turn to try out a sandwich. And since the cheesesteak is one of Kathy’s claims to fame, I settled on the classic, minus bell peppers but with grilled mushrooms and cheese. Not wanting to pass up on the No. 2 combo ($7.50) from the Asian menu, which is raved about on social media, I ordered that, too. It’s teriyaki chicken, rice and veggies, plus three egg rolls.

First, the cheesesteak. The meat basically melted in my mouth it was so juicy and tender. A serious winning recipe there. My only quibble is the bread. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the super-soft white bun, I have to say the sandwich as a whole was lacking in texture—just a slight crunch to the crust would have cured that up immediately.

Second, the No. 2. Any worries about the teriyaki chicken being dry were gone at first sight. If you’re a fan of Teriyaki House as I am, this plate will look familiar. Chicken on a bed of white rice, served with broccoli, carrots and cabbage. Sauce came on the side, along with three impeccable egg rolls. My personal preference is for veggies to be cooked a little longer—these were at that stage where they’re not quite fork tender.

The menu also includes a breakfast selection, plus a list of Mediterranean items, from falafel to Egyptian shakshuka, a baked tomato and egg dish I’ll have to order on my next visit.