Photo by Rimas Zailskas

Photo by Rimas Zailskas

“Gimme a bagel and a schmear.” I’ve always wanted to say that and now, right here in Hendersonville, I can…or at least think it as I’m ordering one of a blackboard array of New York bagels.

My first trip to Mountain Deli on Main Street inspired me to immediately figure out how to get back there the next day. It’s that good. Open since mid-June, this unassuming little shop is run by people with years of restaurant know-how. David and Carolyn Rutecki, husband and wife co-owner team, are the face (and workhorses) of the deli. With a major in Hospitality Management, Escoffier culinary training in France and years of experience as a restaurant consultant to others, David invested a great deal of time and thought to this venture. “I focused on where the economy and the restaurant industry was headed…and we wanted to be true to the history of food preparation.”

The result is straightforward sandwiches that rely heavily on slow cooked roast beef, turkey and pork. A carving station offers up the special of the day, and you get to ratchet up your anticipation as David piles freshly sliced meats onto a plump Kaiser roll.

On my first visit, I was flying solo. Running in late in the afternoon, I ordered a pulled pork sandwich with slaw. It was probably a good thing I was alone…I had sauce from ear to ear. The pork was tender and the tomato-based sauce was sweet and tangy, soaking through the bun, just as it should. The slaw was a creamy mayo based version with just the right celery seed tang. I finished off with a fudgy Ghirardelli brownie. All this for around eight bucks.

The deli is clean and bright with yellow walls and the most beautiful wood floors. Turns out these are original to the building and are approximately 200 years old. Black and white photos of old-time Hendersonville are hung on the walls; I sat in a booth that featured their very building from an 1890 shot. The tables are laminated with regional maps of the Appalachian Trail. “I wanted it to fit the neighborhood and have a mountain feel,” says David.

On my next visit (on the very next day), the carving station was offering up in-house roasted turkey. The sandwich special was a take on “Thanksgiving on a bun” with cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes piled high with the turkey on a Kaiser. While I always opt for my mashed potatoes on the side of things, I couldn’t resist the turkey, so I ordered it with maple pepper bacon and maple mayo with arugula and spinach. Once again, I made a blissful mess of myself with the moist turkey, peppery bacon and mayo. It was fabulous. My husband ordered his usual Reuben and got marbled rye bread piled high with top quality corned beef and kraut. Another delicious homerun.

“We are customer driven…if enough people ask for something, we’ll try to put it on the menu,” says David. Case in point; if you’ve despaired of ever having beef tongue again, look no further. After the third guy (had to be a guy!) walked in and asked for it, David delivered. Same thing with the bagels; David had no idea that they would be the hit they are and has expanded the offerings in response to customer requests. Flown in from H&H out of New York, these beauties are toasted to order and served with a variety of “schmears,” ranging from salmon cream cheese to whitefish salad. I finished off my second visit with a cinnamon raisin bagel covered with cinnamon maple walnut cream cheese. Perhaps better suited to 8am, it was fantastic at 3pm as well.

Carolyn’s passion is for antiques, so the front of the shop has a variety of casual antiques for sale as well as local products such as Haw Creek pure mountain honey, smoked trout from Sunburst Trout Co. and fresh basil from Holly Hill Farms. Just like the pure products they sell, David says, “We keep the food simple and straightforward; everything is made to order.” Price points are simple as well. All their sandwiches run $6.95 and big 9″ hoagies are $8.25. There are two soups offered daily, as well as salads and plenty of vegetarian options.

Mountain Deli is a breath of fresh air in a land of pre-fab food and deserves a visit. Prepare to get hooked.

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