I suspect that anybody who follows a gluten-free, low-carb or organic diet has already scoped out Mimi's Market & Deli in Hixson.
The market portion of the business, which opened in November 2012, boasts more than 2,000 such products, as well as fresh local produce and grass-fed beef.
My only dietary restriction is trying to limit myself to seconds instead of thirds, so I wasn't sure this specialty food store was for me. But a co-worker had recommended the deli weeks ago, so my daughter and I stopped in last Saturday to sample the goods.
I can sum up the meal in one word: Yum.
My goodness, we had such trouble deciding. The menu very helpfully includes all ingredients for each sandwich, a must for customers who have allergies or other food restrictions. Plus, several selections have such intriguing names.
The Rock & Wrap Spicy Chicken? That's marinated strips of chicken breast, cheddar cheese, Cuban black bean salad, lettuce, tomatoes and a specialty Rockin Sauce stuffed into a spinach herb wrap.
Stampede starts with piled-high roast beef, then adds pepper-jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and a smear of Black Forest stone-ground mustard.
Piggy Went to Town combines Black Forest ham with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, bell pepper and a house-made Italian spread.
Pig in the Garden, better-known as a BLT, gets a flavor boost from homemade Russian dressing rather than mayonnaise.
You'll also find an Italian panini, chicken quesadilla, Italian turkey club, a three-meat hoagie, a garden sandwich, two sizes of fresh salads and six varieties of hot dogs, made with quarter-pound, all-beef franks.
Sandwiches are priced at $5.45, $5.75 and $5.95. Hot dogs run from $3.95 to $5.50. You'll pay $4.95 for a small garden salad, $6.95 for a large. You can top it with Cuban black bean salad for an extra $1 or marinated and grilled chicken breast strips or the chicken salad for $1.50.
There are five regular bread selections for sandwiches: wheatberry, sourdough, marbled rye, spinach herb wrap and white hoagie bun. Gluten-free breads (add $1) are available in white, whole-grain and hoagie. There's also a low-carb, seven-grain bread.
Sides range from chips and a pickle spear to potato salad, coleslaw and black bean salad. Brewed tea and fountain drinks are available, along with the market's coolers of bottled soft drinks, vitamin water and sports drinks. There's an add-on special for a fountain drink and chips with any sandwich for $2.25.
Sandwiches are made with Dietz & Watson meats and cheeses, which contain no artificial colors, flavors, fillers, extenders or MSG and are low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, according to the company's website.
If I've had that brand before, I was unaware. But I will remember the name. Owner Jeff Crawford said these were the best deli products he and wife Liz could find when they opened the business. After tasting my sandwich, I'm in total agreement.
Craving something hot, I went with the Eiffel Tower ($5.45), otherwise known as a French dip. The menu promised tender, seasoned top round piled high on a hoagie with provolone cheese and mayonnaise. And, oh yes, au jus.
My daughter ordered the chicken salad sandwich ($5.45), a chunky, white-meat chicken salad served with lettuce and tomato. The menu didn't specify that the wheatberry bread would be toasted, but it arrived that way - a slight disappointment, as she likes her sandwiches on soft bread. But the chicken salad had heft and plenty of flavor.
I couldn't have been happier with my selection, quite possibly the best French dip I've ever tried. The roast beef was exceptionally lean and tasty, and the provolone had just enough heat for a good sticky melt. I thought I could eat half for lunch and have the rest for dinner, but it was too good to save. I ate every delicious bite. It didn't come with a dill pickle slice, a bit of a surprise in a deli, but I went back to the counter and bought one (35 cents).
A party of several adults and children at another table had bought a platter of cupcakes, so the dessert case looked a little bare. But Liz Crawford said she had just put cake pops in the freezer to set the chocolate. She retrieved those, and we added one to our tab. These were sizable rounds of white cake, balled up with cream cheese frosting and encased in a chocolate shell. Delicious.
We were waited on at the counter by Liz Crawford and, bless her heart, she's patient. It was our first visit, and everything sounded good. She helped us tweak our order with great suggestions.
The food was made to order and arrived with little wait time.
As I paid for dessert, I mentioned wanting to try the chili on my next visit. Jeff Crawford spooned up a sample to whet my appetite.
I like these people.
Mimi's is in a storefront in a small strip of businesses between Zaxby's and O'Charley's on Hixson Pike. Most of the space is occupied by the market. The deli counter and prep area are off to one side. Seating, on the opposite wall, includes three extra-long booths, four three-seater high-top tables and a long counter at the window with four individual seats, good spots for solitary diners to use the complimentary Wi-Fi.
The walls are a pleasant green color, with large blocks of chalkboard paint to list menu offerings in the deli and guide shoppers to specialty sections in the market.
The room was light and airy. The tables and parquet floors were spotless.
When my kids were little, we would reach a consensus on where to have dinner out by each of us picking our Top 3 choices and hoping that instead of nine distinct choices among the three of us, there would be some overlap. That practice has spread to my extended family too, and we often use that method in meal negotiations.
Based on a single visit, Mimi's will become one of my go-to picks whenever I'm in Hixson.
Contact Lisa Denton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6281.