* Where: Mindy B's Deli, 828 Georgia Ave.
* Phone: 423-521-7932.
* Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday.
* Price range: $2.49-$4.49 half sandwiches, $3.95-$7.95 whole sandwiches, $7.95 three-salad plate.
* Payment: Cash and credit cards.
When I needed lunch recently, and needed it fast, a co-worker pointed me toward Mindy B's Deli downtown. This fun and funky little restaurant is in the Volunteer Building on Georgia Avenue. Normally, I would walk the few blocks from East 11th Street, but the deadline clock was tick-tick-tocking, and I was in a rush. So I found a spot for Hocus Focus just around the corner on Patten Parkway and fed a parking meter lunch too.
Three people were in line ahead of me when I walked in, and several more were waiting for their food. The line moved swiftly enough. This was my first visit, and I didn't have much time to study the menu, so I went with one of the daily specials, a Ballistic Beef Sandwich ($7.95).
I can't say the Mindy B's staff shared my urgency, but the 15 minutes or so I waited on lunch was actually the most restful part of my day. So, thanks, Mindy B's, for that complimentary serving of Zen.
Several people claimed call-in orders while I waited, so I snagged a copy of the menu from the counter so I could do the same on my next visit.
For such a small place, the menu boasts a surprising number of options. Seventeen sandwiches are on the list of house specialties (ranging from $2.95 for a half sandwich, up to $7.95 for a whole). There's a variety of breads, meats, cheeses, veggies and "saucy stuff" to build your own ($4.49 half, $7.25 whole).
Mindy B's Facebook page says the deli roasts its own beef and turkey and makes most of the food in-house, including all the salads in the deli case and all the sweets. Bread is from Bluff View Bakery.
They've put some thought into naming the sandwiches. The Thanksgiving is house roast turkey with herbed cream cheese and cranberry sauce on whole wheat. The Ooh La La is smoked ham, apricot preserves, Dijon mustard and Havarti on sourdough. The Ooey Gooey is peanut butter and honey (or jelly) on sourdough. The Coop is house chicken salad. The Fisherman, herbed tuna salad. There's even The Chattalogna, a stack of bologna, American cheese and yellow mustard grilled on sourdough.
With salads, you can build your own ($7.15 with meat, $5.95 without) or get The Plain Ol', a basic mix of salad greens, carrots, cucumber, olives, tomato and house croutons ($2.95 half, $4.95 whole).
A deli case holds an appetizing array of other choices, all made in-house: hummus, black bean and corn salad, herb-grilled vegetables, egg salad, tarragon chicken salad, pimento cheese, herbed tuna salad, potato salad, garden pasta and fruit salad. You can choose three on a plate for $7.95 or order as individual sides ($1.25-$3.95).
Chili and soups are also available, served with crackers or cornbread ($3.95 and $5.95).
Two kinds of pie - peanut butter and Butterfinger - and cups of banana pudding were in a nearby cooler, along with fresh fruit, juice drinks and canned V8 juice. Tea dispensers and fountain Coke products were at a serve-yourself counter nearby. Banana nut bread and brownies were stacked on platters at the cash register, no doubt to encourage impulse buys.
I asked before I ordered something called Ballistic Beef. I like spice, but I'd rather not catch fire eating lunch. The friendly woman at the counter said there were jalapenos and a jalapeno horseradish on the sandwich, but either could be served on the side. Jalapenos aren't usually a problem, so I went low-maintenance and told her to make it like they normally do.
Also on the sandwich were house-roasted beef (sliced thin and piled high), smeared with white cheddar and Creamy Q sauce (delicious) and served on a grilled salt- and pepper-seeded bun. Lettuce, tomato and onion were options, and I opted for all three. I added a side of garden pasta, and it came with a dill pickle spear.
Back at the office, I thought I was much too busy to eat the whole sandwich at one sitting, so I ate just half. But with the rest of the sandwich still out on my desk, I decided on one more bite. And then another. And another. And soon it was all gone. The garden pasta and pickle disappeared somewhere along the way too.
It was all really, really tasty. The jalapenos added just the right amount of heat to the sandwich. The garden pasta was particularly good. It was made with bow-tie pasta mixed with black olives, onions and green peppers, among other ingredients. It was plenty moist without swimming in vinegar. Perfect.
I would gladly order the same meal again, except I want to branch out into other parts of the menu.
Mindy B's is a colorful place. Three walls are painted an acid green, the fourth bright red. The wainscoting is made of tin. Black trim, white coolers and big black-and-white floor tiles ground the space. The seven four-seater tables have bright white tops, with wooden chairs painted red and chrome stools with red seats.
Chalkboards on the back wall list the menu staples. A chalkboard on the counter wall lists the daily specials. A neon "Order" sign, complete with an arrow, directs customers to the right place to get in line. If the tables are taken, you can wait on a rustic church pew off to one side. One ends holds reading material. Two walls are adorned with local art. Bouquets made of paper flowers are stuffed into vases on each table.
All in all, it's a cheerful look, with decor ideas worthy of a Pinterest post.
The service wasn't overly fast, but it was definitely friendly, which is always appreciated. Sandwiches are made to order, and that kind of attention takes a little longer. If you're in a hurry, call ahead for pickup.
I may be the last downtown worker to have found this place, but I'm glad to have finally made the discovery. The prices are reasonable. The food is high quality. I can't wait to try something else.
Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.