Restaurant of the Week: The Deli

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The Deli, 9671 Foothill Blvd. (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga

The Deli is a sandwich-making institution at the epicenter of old Cucamonga, the crossroads of Foothill Boulevard (Route 66) and Archibald Avenue. It’s in half of an old market that apparently dates to the 1920s.

I don’t know the age of The Deli, but it was in full swing in 1997 when I arrived here and it’s still packed at lunchtime, with no obvious change or dropoff in quality.

It’s not an ethnic deli, just a sandwich shop. Most of the sandwiches are hot. They have dip, steak, sausage and chicken sandwiches, burgers, cold cuts, hot dogs and salads. i haven’t made a survey of the menu, but the grilled Cajun chicken breast sandwich ($6, pictured) is my standard order; the burger ($2.89) and Italian steak ($7.69) are pretty good too.

The oak-intensive interior is full of character, especially with the two model trains that chug along on tracks suspended from the ceiling (pictured) and the vintage photos of the intersection that line one wall. The soda machine stands atop an old safe. The shaded patio, which has its own order window, is a nice place to hang too.

At noon, the place is a hive of activity. (It’s open until 8 p.m.) One can’t help but notice that almost every employee is female, an observation a staff photo makes even clearer. Is The Deli an EEOC complaint waiting to happen?

Who knows, maybe it already has. When I visit I’m often reminded of the “Seinfeld” episode in which Elaine files a complaint with the feds against the diner over the pulchritude of its staff, and the investigators, two men, in the name of research become regulars.

But the eye candy is unnecessary (or a bonus, depending on your viewpoint). It’s the food, atmosphere and sense of tradition in a young city that make The Deli well worth a visit.

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