Rubicon Deli445 California Ave.
Reno, NV 89509
When I first heard that yet another sandwich deli had opened on California Avenue, I thought, “Wow, another deli? That’s finally going to bring some variety to the street.”
An area full of people selling the exact same thing makes me anxious. It took me three years in Ecuador to come to terms with all the juice markets, meat markets and vegetable markets. Being confronted with so much of the same thing forces me to form loyalties, select a vendor and stick with them. Cal Ave is a little like a sandwich market to me—great sandwiches are offered from Reno High to Virginia Street. However, while Rubicon Deli lacks a unique vision for their location, their sandwiches are going to win some loyal customers.
My wife, Kat, and my brother, Eric, and I visited Rubicon Deli on a wintry Saturday afternoon and took note of the expansive outdoor seating, which though unused this season, will draw me back in the summer. My first impression of the place was marred by the music, a deafening mix of modern world fare—and I hate the sitar.
The interior is a blend of organic and industrial, with brushed metals and light colored wood. Running around the periphery of the room are a dozen or so white pleather stools, on which people can scoot up to one of the coolest broken-glass-aggregate counters I’ve seen. Staring at the counter helped me overcome the music. I can’t imagine how cramped the small place must feel during a packed weekday lunch run.
Their menu brings new meaning to the word “simple": six specialty sandwiches and a broad selection of ingredients for creating your own. Still, Kat couldn’t make up her mind, prompting me to nudge her toward the counter to order the first thing that came to mind.
Rubicon Deli puts together some hefty, delicious sandwiches. Eric and I had whole sandwiches and, without each other for motivation, would have had to shamefully take some home. Rubicon Deli sets itself apart with its unique breads and spreads. Lamentably, they were out of the jalapeño jack, as well as lettuce—but this is something new restaurants must work out in time. Eric ordered the Rubicon special ($7.99) on blue cheese bread: turkey, smoked gouda, roasted red peppers, and pesto mayo. Aside from some overpowering pockets of baked-in blue cheese crumbles, Eric loved the sandwich. I chose the spicy tuna sandwich ($8.99) on wheat with provolone cheese. In addition to all the standard veggies, the spicy tuna comes with avocado and habañero mustard. The wheat bread was exceptional—fluffy inside and slightly crunchy on the outside. The tuna tasted creamy, just like my mom’s, and although nothing innovative, had the right celery crunch and omitted the relish. Kat built a half sandwich ($5.75) on top of garlic bread, with Black Forest ham, cheddar, veggies and hot and sweet mustard. The meat was flavorful and the bread, veggies and spread tasted fresh and delicious.
Based on the location, I hope Rubicon Deli is ready for some competition. However, they have certainly worked to create an atmosphere unique from their neighbors. I might take my mother elsewhere after a stroll along the river, or go someplace quieter when nursing a hangover. But California Avenue is a pretty hip street, and Rubicon Deli offers active and healthful food-seekers another option when filling up. It’s a good sandwich place, though it might’ve been even better with a more unique location.