California dreaming

At California Avenue Delicatessen, the Rueben might be a better choice than the fish tacos.

At California Avenue Delicatessen, the Rueben might be a better choice than the fish tacos.

Photo By Heather Anderson

California Avenue Delicatessen

1201 California Ave.
Reno, NV 89509

(775) 322-3354

On a recent Friday afternoon, my friend Matt and I biked over to the California Avenue Delicatessen for lunch. I think it’s highly responsible to offset meat-eating by pedaling instead of driving. The California Avenue Delicatessen sits tucked into the corner of the small shopping center immediately west of the Village Shopping Center—the location of the Village Center Farmer’s Market every Saturday.

I smelled something wonderful before reaching the door and noted a handful of people seated outdoors, enjoying their meals. Once inside, Matt and I were enveloped by attentive, welcoming and attractive servers. That, combined with an active, communicative kitchen, screamed total competence. That’s why I didn’t wince when Matt checked out the daily specials, noticed the fish tacos ($9.95), and announced, “That’s pretty brave of a deli to do fish tacos,” before ordering them.

I ordered a cup of New England clam chowder with garlic bread ($3.95) and the French dip sandwich ($8.95), which comes with Swiss cheese on a sweet French roll and a side choice—pesto pasta got my vote. The sandwich was stacked generously with thin roast beef. The bread was flavorful, had a slight crunch from toasting and withstood repeated au jus dunking. And there was no shortage of flavorful au jus in which to soak the tender roast beef. However, while the pesto pasta side had a good, fresh basil flavor, it needed a little more bite from more garlic, salt or parmesan.

The garlic bread and clam chowder were so good I put them away in short order. The chowder was very thick, creamy, laden with large clam pieces and had a flavor I couldn’t pin down. I guessed wine, but the server never got back to me to confirm. The garlic bread also rated highly, with a thick covering of garlic pieces, and it occasionally found its way into the au jus.

Sadly, this is where our pleasant story takes an unfortunate turn—the two fish tacos sank from the start. To begin with I was well into my meal before Matt was served his plate. On sight, we were perplexed by the thick, Italian-breaded halibut chunk protruding from each end of the wheat tortillas. The breading helped the fish’s flavor immensely, but the overall texture was pretty poor. Further, the tacos were adorned with little more than iceberg lettuce, a trifling amount of tomato garnish and a side of generic, vividly bright guacamole. Matt knew he was ordering the last portion of fish —maybe he should have chosen anything involving the gigantic homemade meatballs in the display case, or a sandwich.

All said, I enjoyed eating at the California Avenue Delicatessen. The inside dining area is tight but comfortable. The artwork and signs lend the place a quirky air. They cater, sell a large selection of meats and cheeses by the pound, and prepare quite a few different soups and salads. I’m excited to try some of the other sandwiches and their Italian entrees, available by advance order and for take-out. I saw many people hefting large brown bags from the kitchen to their SUVs. If I’d had an SUV to take back to UNR instead of my stupid bicycle, I would’ve made room for one of the homemade desserts, like tiramisu.