ANNE BRALY: I can't believe I've been to the Yellow Deli only twice since it opened in April 2008. I mean, when it first opened on Brainerd Road back in the 1970s, I was there front and center just about every week, enjoying the kind of deli food that had never come to Chattanooga. At the time, it was the only place in my neck of the woods I could get a Reuben sandwich. Now, I can find them in many restaurants around town.
So this time, i decided to step out of my comfort zone and have the Original Lamb sandwich. And what a delicious mess it was. When I say mess, that's not a bad thing. It's just that there's a massive amount of bread with this sandwich, then add a little too much of the special sauce, and you have a four-napkin sandwich on your hands.
Our server looked at me curiously when I asked her for a knife and fork to go with my sandwich and chips. I needed them both, though -- the knife for cutting the sandwich in half and the fork when I ended up with the sandwich innards piled in my basket when I took the top piece of bread off.
It sounds like a massive production, and it was a little more than an average sandwich in size as well as flavor. I've had plenty of gyros before, but this was different. This had more thickly sliced lamb and nice slices of cucumbers, lettuce and tomato, along with a special sauce with a sweet edge to it. Altogether, it was pretty good.
HOLLY LEBER: It was only my second time there as well, and both times I've had the Cranberry Cashew salad. This time I added the stew of the day, a creamy, cheesy potato chowder that wishes it were from New England. It was rich and tasty, and the small cup I had was more than enough to satisfy my curiosity and just enough to keep me from feeling too guilty (as I sit here eating a slice of the deli's buttered sourdough bread while I type this).
The salad has mostly romaine lettuce, with small cubes of cheese, dried cranberries (or Craisins, as the cool kids call 'em) and sweetened cashews. There are a few slices of tomato as well. Essentially, it's lettuce with a few salad accents on it. They need to stock up some more vegetables on there. Add on more red pepper than the one garnish ring. Or how about some avocado or hearts of palm or cucumbers? And halve the amount of cheese. A salad should not have a matched amount of cheese and greens. All in all, I'm going to say this dish has potential, but it can soar higher up the mountain of salad greatness.
ANNE: The uniqueness of the Yellow Deli is long gone, now that there are so many more restaurants in town than there were when it opened 37 years ago. I was impressed with the crowds, though. It really is in a location where a good restaurant was desparately needed. It serves the UTC crowd, naturally, since its practically in the center of campus, as well as the area's business district.
The look of the place is outstanding. I love all the handmade tables, chairs, the staircase and other appointments that make the plain brick building look and feel like a cabin in the woods, not a busy city street with cars zooming past. I also liked the soft music playing in the background. All in all, it was a nice, relaxing lunch.
HOLLY: For as ... holistic (you know what I mean, and let's just leave it at that) as the Yellow Deli seems to be, I'm surprised they don't have a wider selection of vegetarian dishes. The food was fine but perhaps not wholly satisfactory to my needs as far as a meal goes.
I do like the relaxed environment though. Perhaps I'm the type for whom the Yellow Deli is more appropriate as an alternate-to-coffeehouse venue. Papaya Maté does sound interesting.
E-mail Anne P. Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mail Holly Leber at email@example.com.