Full Belly Deli3064 Mill St., 657-8448
I encountered a Dickensian dichotomy during my most recent lunch date—i.e., the best thing about it could also be viewed as the worst. It’s all about the housemade bread. The sandwich rolls, among the best you’ll find anywhere, are baked large and in charge with plenty of flavor and texture. The flipside is the bread-to-filling ratio seems a bit off. You might feel you’ve been handed an entire loaf lightly seasoned with sandwich stuffing. If you’re a bread lover, this is the nirvana you’ve long sought. If instead you consider baked carbs as a delivery system for meat, veg and cheese, you may want to stick with sliced bread or a wrap at the Full Belly Deli.
Unlike some brunch spots I’ve reviewed in the industrial parts of town, Full Belly Deli already has a loyal following of fans who’ve either previously experienced their cuisine from a food truck or their original location in Truckee, California. The experience shows in both efficiency of service and variety of menu items. The decor features artwork spotlighting the beauty of the Reno/Tahoe region. A continuous stream of reggae fills the room while sports programming quietly displays on the TV. The seating is very hip-yet-comfortable for the 20 or 30 minutes you might spend perched on it.
Breakfast consists of bagels, sandwiches, burritos and a quesadilla ($2.50 - $7) with daily specials including a biscuit and gravy wrap that sounds interesting. There’s a “Little Bellies” menu for kids, and then plenty of salads, wraps, hot pressed sandwiches, subs, and a “Junkyard” section featuring hot, meaty, stick-to-your ribs action. You can order a custom sandwich with a choice of 10 meats plus tuna and chicken salads, four veggies out of 13 offered, any of 11 condiments, and your favorite of 14 breads including long rolls, wraps, focaccia and traditional sliced ($9).
My wife went with the day’s lunch special on blue cheese bread—all-natural turkey breast with Swiss cheese, roasted red peppers, fresh spinach, pesto and mayo ($9). The bread was fantastic, with plenty of fromage among its folds—yet to my taste it dwarfed the ingredients within. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very good sandwich with plenty of flavor, but I felt it could have used a bit more turkey and spinach. But my wife’s all about the bread, so she really enjoyed her lunch.
I ordered the menu favorite “Dirka Dirka,” named for a regular customer named Dirk ($9.50). At our server’s suggestion I selected jalapeño cheddar bread to encase corned beef, pastrami, Swiss cheese, pickles, yellow mustard and jalapeño coleslaw. Frankly, there’s a 90 percent chance I’ll choose jalapeño cheddar anything when it’s offered, so the woman behind the counter was just predicting the inevitable. The sandwich was delicious, and the heavy layer of slaw brought the filling/bread equation to greater equivalence. Despite doubling down on the heat, the coolness of the cabbage and pickle really balanced the flavors. I can’t really speak to the meat other than it was tender. Most of what I tasted was spicy, cheese-loaded bread and exceptional slaw, but I’m not complaining.
Despite outdoor temps in the 90s, I ordered the smallest size cheddar broccoli soup of the three soups offered that day ($4.50 for 12 oz). Definitely housemade, not too thick, with big chunks of perfectly-cooked broccoli stalk and florets. Twelve ounces was too much for us after those huge sandwiches, but I enjoyed it later as a hot late-night snack in the cool breeze of my swamp cooler.
Beverages include fountain drinks, fresh-brewed iced tea, bottled soft drinks including fruit juice, soda, tea, energy drinks, vitamin water, bottled water, and free ice water. Coffee, espresso drinks, hot teas and chocolate are also available along with fresh seasonal fruit and baked goods (cookies, muffins, etc.). Regardless of what you order, you will indeed leave this deli with a full belly.