The Deli Downstairs

The Deli Downstairs is the new kid on — or I should say "below" — the block.

The downtown Ashland eatery opened its doors May 22 in the ready-made, basement space of the erstwhile Allyson's Kitchen deli and wine cellar. With entrances on Main and Pioneer streets, the deli is situated below Three Penny Mercantile and sandwiched between Larry's Cakes and Love Revolution downstairs.

The deli's location — two blocks away from the Plaza — makes it a convenient place to pick up foodstuffs for a picnic in Lithia Park or a pre-play snack on the bricks. Of course, if you'd rather stay put, the deli has a cool, cellarlike space with about a dozen tables and a small lounge area with a couch.

After Allyson's closed in 2011, Michael and Valerie Blazer and Tedd Garrison recognized the absence of a genuine delicatessen in the area. Garrison, who is from Philadelphia, worked at Allyson's from 2006 to 2008 and felt the loss keenly.

The trio decided to reinstitute a deli in the last remaining, subterranean niche formerly occupied by the gourmet emporium. They hope to follow in Allyson's footsteps by adding sales of deli meats by the pound.

The menu, created by Garrison, is organized geographically under the headings "Italy," "Other than Italy" and "Ashland."

The Italian side touts one salad ($12.95), an antipasto plate ($14.95, serves two) and four sandwiches featuring salami varieties (Genoa, hot, soppressata and Toscano), Black Forest and capicola hams, prosciutto, pepperoni, mozzarella and provolone. All the Italian sandwiches are served on Philadelphia's famous hearth-baked Amoroso rolls.

The "Ashland" side of the menu is more universal than it sounds and features favorites such as a BLT, club, pastrami on rye and the "local," a turkey-bacon-avocado sandwich. "Other than Italy" includes a French dip and the "New Yorker," a Reuben sandwich.

Garrison also borrowed one vegetarian sandwich from Allyson's menu and renamed it the "Allyson's classic."

If you would like to create your own sandwich, there are six breads, 13 meats, six cheeses and oodles of veggies and other condiments to choose. Prices range from $6.95 to $8.95, depending on the number of meats included. For the price, I think a side would have been nice.

Some condiments such as chilli- and truffle-infused oils cost extra.

Last weekend, my husband and I with two of our friends headed to Ashland for a picnic, but an unfortunate turn in the weather deterred our plans, and we ate indoors instead.

I enjoyed the "Blazer"— shaved roast beef, slices of Genoa salami, provolone, lettuce and tomato between slices of Apple Cellar Bakery sourdough. My husband ordered the club, a deluxe version thick with Black Forest ham, turkey, crispy bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato on toasted sourdough.

One of our friends, who maintains a strictly "Paleo" diet, ordered the "local" without the bread. Valerie Blazer kindly obliged and brought him the ingredients in a plastic, clamshell container. There also is a gluten-free bread option for no extra charge. Our other friend went for the classic BLT and was duly satisfied.

All of the deli's sandwiches are wrapped neatly in paper. Grab a can of soda ($1 for regular, $1.50 for Jarritos) from the case near the counter, a bag of chips (50 cents) and a cupcake from Larry's Cakes next door, and your picnic is pretty much complete.

The Deli Downstairs accepts most credit cards but not checks.

— Teresa Thomas

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