Greetings Lunch Friends! Despite rumors to the Contrary, Rabbit and the Publican did not burn to death in the Salty Nut Fire earlier this month. No, all of the Lunchmen are alive and well, if not actively blogging. However, 2012 is now here and with it the promise of fresh, new entries on some of the Capital City’s new establishments. While we’ve been somewhat dormant these past few months, several new places have come on our radar, and reports on a few other established joints that have yet to be reviewed also are being prepared. Stay tuned for more postings in the near future.
Today’s review is of a relatively new place (less than 5 years old) that has quickly become an anchor of the Rosewood Drive eating scene – I’m talking about 5th Avenue Deli. This place is, if nothing else, a local establishment. The walls are adorned with Gamecock memorabilia, the sandwiches are all named for neighborhood streets, and even the employees are recognizable from their time as servers at other local jaunts. Since this place has been around a while, you may be asking yourself: “Self, why are the Lunchmen just now getting around to a review?” Well, I’ll be perfectly blunt – two of the Lunchmen want to put this place on the permanent Boo List without even an official review. As you know, you only get one chance to make a first impression with Tank and the Publican, and if you screw that up, well good luck ever falling into their good graces. I however, had never even darkened the doors 5th Avenue, so we settled on a compromise. I would gather up Lunchmen friend Captain Charley and newcomer "The Gipper," and we’d all give it a go.
I arrived a little early on a rainy Tuesday, but quickly recognized a colleague who worked in the area waiting on his food. He claimed to eat there “at least twice a week” – definitely a good sign. I also spotted several USC baseball players at a small table in the back – another positive indicator as college athletes tend to go places where the portions are large. Encouraged, I perused the menu and was a little taken aback by the volume of options. There are at least twenty different sandwiches to try, so picking just one can be daunting. They also had two different types of pasta salad, coleslaw, and potato salad. It was going to be hard to get a full taste of the entire menu in one trip, even with three diners. In an effort to cast a wide net, I went with the “choose 3” option and got a helping of chicken salad, pasta salad, and potato salad. All were homemade and delicious. Now I understand that Chicken Salad is a very personal thing, so what I may enjoy (in this case shredded chicken, light on the mayo, heavy on sliced almonds) you may despise. However, no one can doubt the time and care put into the recipe. As for the pasta and potato salad, they were both on par with any other Columbia area deli, and the added bacon in the potato salad probably pushed it into the top 2 or 3 in town.
One complaint – since I didn’t get a sandwich, I didn’t get a pickle. Personally, I think that if you ask someone for ANYTHING at a deli, it should come with a pickle, be it a sandwich, cup of soup, or just an extra fork. It’s a scientific fact that consuming a pickle at the end of the meal helps significantly with digestion, and as the Hobbit likes to say – “if you don’t take care of your body, who will?”
Captain Charley went with "The Duncan," a Roast Beef Sandwich with horseradish, provolone and au jus on the side, which the server claims is one of the most popular items on the menu. It was large, but does not come with a side (none of the sandwiches do). To complete his meal required an additional purchase of a side item. I haven’t asked, but I’m 99.99% sure that this is the reason Tank and Publican are against 5th Avenue. You can’t skimp on the sides and expect those two connoisseurs not to penalize you heavily for it. The meal looked good, but with a drink, I’m pretty sure it cracked the sacred $10 threshold that no self-respecting deli wants to violate. Nevertheless, it looked and smelled like a good sandwich:
As for The Gipper, he took a walk on the wild side and, at the suggestion of our server, opted for the Tuesday Special – the BBQ plate. Maybe he was excited about being featured on the blog for a first time and as a result sort of blew his load early with the order. Would this “back-seat-on-prom-night” rookie move result in culinary delight or disaster??
Normally I’m skeptical of and non-BBQ place trying to serve swine, but as the picture shows this place knows what it’s doing. I think it’s encouraging that the special is every Tuesday, which means they have had many chances to hone their craft. The Gipper devoured the sandwich, which did come with coleslaw included. Overall, this place is definitely solid in terms of variety and execution. However, its just too damn expensive (expect to pay around $10) for this site’s taste. Couple that with the distance from downtown, and 5th Avenue is more of a rainy Saturday lunch play with the wife than a legitimate work week option. That said, if you do make the trip, your stomach won’t be disappointed.