Cartwright’s Market, long a Grants Pass meat-lover’s destination, celebrated the grand opening of its new Medford location last weekend. Cartwright’s meat counter is legendary, and so is their deli, with the Reuben that you’ve been waiting for.
Talk deli to an East Coast eater and you’ll get stories of the biggest pastrami on rye sandwiches in the world, pickles that pucker your pouter and matzo ball soup. Not all of New York City’s historic delicatessens are still in business, but food memories of Carnegie, Stage, Lindy’s and Katz’s linger long. Here in Oregon, its Kenny and Zuke’s up in Portland that most deli lovers will know.
What’s the measure of a good delicatessen? Everyone has their favorites, maybe tongue or bagels or that kosher dill. For me, say deli and I think Reuben. If you grew up with real delicatessen then moved away only to find ersatz deli at grocery-store cold cut counters, the Reuben is the Holy Grail.
You’ll find that Holy Grail of a Reuben at Cartwright’s Market deli in Medford.
Cartwright’s assembles their Reuben with a pile of thinly sliced, house-smoked, lean corned beef, crisp sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and sweet Russian dressing on marbled rye, no seeds. The rye is fresh, lightly grilled, the sauerkraut juicy enough that it combines with the Russian dressing and drips down your hand as it should. Open wide and enjoy a whole sandwich at $9.99, add beer battered french fries for $1.50.
All of Cartwright’s sandwiches, grinders and specialties are made-to-order and are big enough for two. The Ribeye is a tender slice of beef on a French roll with whatever you want — just killer — and so are the burgers that run from $8.99 for the basic, fries included, to the Bonanza at $11.99.
Not all of Cartwright’s sandwiches are authentic deli but they are good eating never the less. The Philly Cheesesteak is definitely not from Philadelphia, the beef a shredded pot roast and cheese a unique and flavorful in-house concoction of cream cheese, cheddar, scallions and garlic called gush. A true Philly Cheesesteak is shaved beef strip loin and Cheese Whiz on an Italian roll, maybe some greasy fried onions and a little ketchup. Period. Perfect.
Salads, olives and spreads share center stage in Cartwright’s delicatessen, just as they should. All are made in house, but unfortunately are not labeled as to product, ingredients or price so this counter is somewhat confusing. On the three occasions I’ve shopped Cartwright’s Medford location, the cold cuts have not been priced either and with new staff, pricing seems to be a guessing game until the deli register rings up the total.
Be prepared to wait during the lunch and dinner hours, a good investment for good deli enjoyed there at Cartwright’s or save time by calling ahead for take-out if you’re eating elsewhere.
Cartwright’s Market is in the old Foodland location, where old timers can again enjoy the bright red and white tile floor, ample parking and easy access. Maybe you’ll stop in for deli, but there’s a lot more to tempt your palate.
The 65-foot meat counter (all natural, no hormones or antibiotics) is recipe-inspiring, the 60-tap growler station convenient and the cheese department complete. There are good selections of fresh breads, local and organic products and produce, and a range of Cartwright-branded pickles, peppers, preserves and sauces. Daily and weekly specials are advertised on Cartwright’s Facebook page.
Oh, I forgot the Coneys! While you’re at Cartwright’s, don’t miss the natural casing frankfurters. Steamed, broiled or fried, these No. 5-long dogs snap just like they should.
Cartwright’s Market is at 745 Stewart Ave., near at Kings Highway, and is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Call ahead for takeout, 541-500-1469.
— Maureen Flanagan Battistella is a freelance writer living in Ashland, Oregon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org