Deli Tini sits smack dab in the middle of my old ‘hood. Before I moved, I drove past it every day, wondering what the heck it was. Its darkened windows and mysterious “coming soon” banner opened the floodgates of my imagination: martinis and sandwiches? I was excited to see what they would conjure up. Olives on toothpicks are, after all, the common thread that binds cocktails and delicious, delicious lunch foods. It seemed a…unique pairing. But I like unique.
My companion and I finally ate at Deli Tini on their twentieth day of business. Many things indicated that they were still a fledgling restaurant–their menus, for instance, were two-page long Microsoft Word documents, stapled together like a college essay–but their food and service didn’t miss a beat.
While you may be disappointed to discover that Deli Tini does not actually serve martinis (I was, but only midly so), you will be equally interested to learn that the “Tini” in Deli Tini is actually a play on the name of the owner, Tini Casten. Tini is the daughter of George, owner of the locally famous George’s Grill, just down the street. One of the sandwiches on Deli Tini’s menu, “George the Generous Greek,” is named after him. I like George’s Grill; they have excellent pancakes and one of those whimsical, tiny parking lots that make you feel as if you’re in a quaint northwestern city. Full disclosure: I saw a roach there, once. The good news is that it wasn’t in my food. I’m probably a lot less squeamish about these things than I should be, but hey, this is Louisiana. So I cut them a break.
Anyway, I digress, as I am wont to do. On the day we went, Deli Tini was already running like a well-established restaurant. Prompt, easy service aided by friendly chitchat and a dining room packed equally with hungry newcomers and members of Tini’s inner circle. While Deli Tini promises to eventually serve salads and other lunchy options, in their early days they’re offering only sandwiches, both hot and cold. The decor of Deli Tini–white walls adorned with local art, plus neon and metallic tables and chairs–is reminiscent of a hip, urban hangout (I just realized how woefully unhip I sound for using the phrase “hip urban hangout”), but their sandwich offerings are enticing, fresh, and interesting without being totally bizarre.
Deli Tini offers a new sandwich special each day, drawing from a large pool of seasonal and homemade ingredients. Components like roasted chicken, dried cranberries, strawberry balsamic dressing, goat cheese, and chipotle mayonnaise come together in wild and woolly combinations, while traditional standbys are kicked up on their permanent menu–tuna salad on pita, for instance (“The Bush Doctor”), and an outrageous grilled cheese called simply, “The Big Ed,” with four cheeses pressed on cheese bread. Their irreverent sandwich names are just as quirky and memorable as the sandwiches themselves. Like any sandwich shop worth its salt, Deli Tini has a few vegetarian choices (see the “Shake Your Buddha Spencer”: roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, spinach and artichoke hummus, sprouts, tomatoes, avocado and provolone on a whole wheat tortilla) and a build-your-own option, lest the ham and cheese people feel left out–but even they have choices: American, Swiss, mozzarella, pepper jack, provolone, Colby, Havarti, Gouda, cream cheese, sharp cheddar or goat?
Each sandwich is served with a few bread-and-butter pickle chips, and while I usually hate, HATE bread-and-butter pickles, these are crisp and fresh-tasting (and obviously homemade) without that creepy syrup that the jarred stuff leaves behind. For an extra cost, you can opt for fresh, in-season fruit, homemade potato or pasta salad, or a bag of chips to accompany your sandwich.
Generally, I was extremely impressed with Deli Tini. While Tini Casten no doubt had a few insider tips from her restaurateur dad, the friendly, prompt service lacked the crazed, disjointed feeling that so many new restaurants have. I look forward to the eventual expansion of their menu and their further establishment as a standby lunch or dinner spot in oft-overlooked Highland.
520 East Kings Highway, Ste. 106
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