"If you visit New York Deli Case, you haveto go on Tuesday," my source enthused. "That's when they make a chicken cutlet sandwich that's amazing."
How many times have I heard such a gustatory promise, only to retch afterward? Actually, not that often. Ustedes are geniuses, gentle readers, and know good grub when you eat it. Do share your secrets, as the gentleman above did, and I will share mine in this column, ¿comprende?
Anyways, let's talk about New York Deli Case, tucked into a shopping plaza off the road to nowhere that is Marguerite Parkway in Mission Viejo. Deli lovers will know the drill: A long, frosty display case contains slabs of meat that patiently wait for their date with a cleaver. Silver trays filled with different kinds of salads: tuna, chicken, a sickly pink concoction known as shrimp salad, and some with actual vegetables. Cookies, pickles, cheesecake. A fading menu hangs overhead, with daily specials taped on and scribbled out in cardboard paper. Plop this place in LA's Fairfax District, and the lines would extend out the door starting at dawn.
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As it stands, though, New York Deli Case mostly caters to a breakfast-and-lunch crowd, all looking for South County's finest sandwiches. It prepares an array of East Coast standards—hefty sausage and peppers or veal Parmesan for Italian fans, multi-folded pastrami for bubbes and boychiks, liverwurst for God-knows-who. You can order sandwiches made with bread slices or rolls, but pick the rolls: They're baked fresh every morning, soft on the bottom and inside with a lightly browned top that shatters in your mouth like peanut brittle.
But on to that chicken cutlet sandwich. The tipster was right: damn good. I expected an Italian twist—maybe some tomato sauce or veggies—and so was initially disappointed when I finally opened my tightly wrapped sandwich in the Weekly's office: a massive, thin chicken cutlet, tomatoes, lettuce and a smear of mayonnaise. But the chicken cutlet was perfect—breaded, moist and so dense with flavor it's practically suffocating. The lettuce and tomato served little purpose, but the mayonnaise provided a sweet tang. A Holmesian pickle accompanied the sub. Half of the chicken cutlet sandwich was more than enough for lunch; I ate the entire thing and didn't eat for the rest of the day.
Only one complaint to my kind tipster: Why didn't you tell me about the other Tuesday special—the fabulous chicken gumbo spiced with sausage and jalapeños?
NEW YORK DELI CASE, 28570 MARGUERITE PKWY., MISSION VIEJO, (949) 364-0321.