Restaurant of the Week: Lisa’s Gourmet Foods

Lisa’s Gourmet Foods, 600 E. D St. (at Monterey), Ontario

Lisa’s is a convenience store on the corner of a residential neighborhood and must have been there for decades, although the exterior has a fresh appearance. I had no idea they had sandwiches until Jim Bowman, a city councilman, urged me to try the deli counter sometime. The former fire chief said Lisa’s is a favorite of firefighters, whose main station is just blocks away.

The market itself has staples like potato chips, baby food and toilet paper, plus booze, and I’m unclear where the “gourmet” part comes in. Maybe it’s an old-school name like Upland’s C&M Fancy Mart, which doesn’t look all that fancy. Anyway, the deli counter is in the back. They have a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, most of them $3.75 for a half and $6.25 for a whole.

I got one of the Lisa’s Specials, a half Godfather ($4). It had ham, salami and mortadella, plus lettuce, tomato, mayo and, crucially, olive oil. There are two picnic tables outside, but with a guy lounging foodless at one and a fellow with a shopping cart laden with recyclables stalled near the other, I headed to the Civic Center a few blocks west, the closest thing to a park that came to mind.

The sandwich, on crusty French bread, was outstanding. And filling. And, for the price, a six-inch sandwich was a steal. Highly recommended.

The ambience of the Civic Center, not so much so. East of the library is a broad, utopian-style, empty plaza. It’s almost completely characterless, but it does have a couple of benches, and it’s certainly quiet. I ate there in peace, undisturbed except for the effects of stupefying architectural mediocrity (although the library is nice).

For a richer aesthetic experience, take your Lisa’s sandwich somewhere else. Wonder if they’d let you eat at the fire station?

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  • Sandy Morgan

    Yes, David, Lisa’s has been around for quite some time. I remember first going there when I was 17 (I’m 50 now) and it had been around for awhile then. They have always had spectacular sandwiches for a great price. I still can’t finish a half a sandwich. And hey, it’s beautifully peaceful sitting under those huge trees in the civic center, what ‘cha whining about???

    [Oh, it was peaceful all right. In half an hour I saw four people. — DA]

  • Dee

    I have to stop reading your food pieces before breakfast. I’m dyin’ here.

    [Maybe I should write more often about breakfast instead of lunch… DA]

  • Brian

    Dave, speaking of breakfast, have you eaten at Zeke’s? Just west of your office, N/W corner of Fourth and Vineyard? Great food, pancakes the size of a basketball…

    [I have. It’s a good big-breakfast place. — DA]

  • judi

    Oh, David, your blog really is a Way Back Machine!

    Some of my earliest childhood memories are of Lisa’s (as it was simply called before they added the gourmet part). My grandma and I would walk from her home on B Street on early summer mornings to buy some salami and provolone cheese for lunch. I loved going inside the somewhat darkened store, because the air inside was cool and almost thick with the incredible aromas of garlic and olive oil and fresh, crusty bread. (I haven’t been there in years — does it still smell good inside?)

    Lisa, herself, would wait on us. While she talked to my grandma a while, she would give me some samples of the tasty deli treats. Between listening to the two Italian women talk and laugh, and the unbelievably deliciousness I nibbled on, it felt like I was wrapped in a cocoon of joy and comfort. I remember thinking that I could live in Lisa’s forever.

    We’d carry our food back to Grandma’s home, and then sit outside on her patio to eat some of the best sandwiches ever made. Grandma would talk about “the old days” in Ontario, circa 1930s and 1940s, as we watch the butterflies play amongst her garden flowers.

    Too bad you couldn’t have had your lunch in Grandma’s back yard, David. It was the greatest place on earth to have a Lisa’s lunch. I guarantee it would have so surpassed your Civic Center experience.

    Thank you for triggering some of my favorite memories.

    [You’re welcome, Judi. Nice to hear more about the old Lisa’s. The present-day Lisa’s doesn’t sound much like the one you visited, alas, but the sandwiches are pretty good. — DA]