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Food & Drink

Every Sandwich at Marty’s Deli, Ranked

Normally we’d say something like, “We ate ‘em all so you don’t have to,” but… we kind of recommend you eat ‘em all, too.

Em Cassel

Ranking food can be a real slog. Some of what you eat is great and some of it is bad, but a lot tends to simply be unremarkable. Your notes become less and less thorough as the eating endeavor stretches on; each progressive offering is less distinguishable from the last (with a few memorably outstanding and memorably terrible exceptions).

The ranking you’re reading right now, however, was the opposite of a slog. When Racket’s four staffers sat down to eat all seven sandwiches on the menu at the new Marty’s Deli in northeast Minneapolis, we found almost every one delightful in new and different ways. So much pickling and spread-making and marinating is happening in-house that every sammie is original and unexpected, and the Marty’s-made focaccia is soft and flavorful enough to elevate even simple ingredient combos to Sandwich Hall of Fame territory. Turns out there's good reason for all that Marty's buzz you've been hearing. It was a joy; it was a treat to eat; we would do it again just for the sake of doing it again.

So, sorry to the folks who like it when we say absolutely savage things in our rankings… we have almost entirely positive reviews here. Read on regardless—you can always quibble over whether we put them in the right order. 

Em Cassel

7. The Lefty ($16)

Chicken cutlet, garlic aioli, marinated broccolini, provolone cheese

We had high hopes for this one, but The Lefty left us feeling let down. The chicken is under-seasoned bordering on unseasoned, lacking the crave-able crispiness you want from a breaded cutlet. The marinated broccolini, though? Perfection. It’s salty, briny, crisp. I immediately wanted to try it in an omelet. And Marty’s bread is so flavorful that it almost salvages the whole affair. Someone had to finish last, though, and honestly it’s good we were a bit bummed by at least one sandwich, because these bad boys are so good overall—you’re pretty much looking at nines and tens from here on out.

Em Cassel

6. The Uncle Pete ($15)

Peterson’s bacon, tomato, pickled green tomato, lettuce, basil, pimentón aioli

A BLT lives or dies by the quality of its tomato, which is why the classic sandwich is really only worth eating a few months out of the year. But somehow in the depths of winter, Marty’s has access to a tomato as juicy as you’d hope to find in August. (Tell us your source; we promise not to snitch.) Each ingredient here is top grade, though the tastes don’t quite combine like they should. Not to gripe about a nice thick slab of quality bacon, but sometimes the cheaper, crispier stuff crumbles up to give you that mix of salt and sweet.

Em Cassel

5. The Pool & Yacht ($15)

Chicken salad made with Wild Acres chicken, capers, red onion pepperoncini, sweet pickles, pickled fennel, arugula

Hate to say it, given how proud Marty’s Deli is of their chicken salad, but the veggies are the main attractions on this one. You get a little heat, a little sweetness, and a little saltiness in each bite, even if you’re not sure which ingredient you’re specifically tasting. Is that the pepperoncini or the capers, and what does pickled fennel even taste like anyway? In fact, there’s so much going on here the chicken salad acts as a meaty filler that holds the sandwich together (and, truth be told, the chicken is a tad dry).

Em Cassel

4. The Little Critter ($8)

Salami, provolone cheese, mayo

Yes, we realize that The Little Critter—a simple sandwich of salami, provolone, and mayo, billed as an option “for the picky mickey”—is intended for children. But you know how people go abroad and then come back like, “My god, the bread, it’s so good you can just eat it with butter or a slice of cheese and it’s the most decadent thing you’ve ever had”? The Critter needs no complicated accoutrements; The Critter lets house-made focaccia and mayo shine alongside piles of high-quality salami. It’s oily, it’s meaty, and it’s elegant in its simplicity. And at 8 bucks for a full-sized sammie, it’s also a friggin’ steal.

Em Cassel

3. The Egg & Cheese ($9)

Fluffy eggs, Cooper sharp American cheese, garlic aioli

The cost-benefit analysis of any egg sandwich must be weighed against the Egg McMuffin. Milton Friedman said that. The food scientists at McDonald’s arrived at a divine a.m. treat, and through a combination of scale, purchasing leverage, and suspect ingredients, are able to sell it for around $4. Does the $5 premium you’ll pay at Marty’s justify the experience? Oh buddy, you better believe it. We were prepared to be underwhelmed—it’s a barebones egg sandwich, after all—but this thing is an umami flavor bomb, exploding with a garlicky combo punch of perfectly textured eggs, melty high-end American cheese, and that killer focaccia. The add-ons ($2 for braised greens, $2.50 for a hash brown, $3 for bacon or sausage) might even detract from the streamlined experience. Or, maybe, they might level this already revelatory sandwich to new heights.    

Em Cassel

2. The Raffi Luigi ($15)

Salami, prosciutto, marinated sweet peppers, fennel slaw, spicy mustard aioli

More and more restaurants are getting wise to the slaw-on-sandwich hack, and we’re here for it. The cabbage in Marty’s slaw is cut extra thick, resulting in a satisfying crunch as you sink your chompers into the Raffi Luigi. The stars of the show, however, are the glistening marinated sweet peppers, which pop and melt with a sweetness that interplays magically with the mustard’s bite. Beneath it all, you’ve got a generous pile of thinly sliced meats that feel lifted from a superb charcuterie board. There’s a thrilling cross section of flavors and textures beneath those planks of bread, and while the net result hints at Italian sub, Mary’s execution is as fresh as it is flavorful.

Em Cassel

1. The Seward ($14)

Roasted cauliflower, Marty’s famous whipped feta, curry-pickled beets, fennel pesto, arugula

There were audible gasps when we gently unwrapped this gorgeous sandwich. They say the more color a meal has, the better it is for you. Well, the ROYGBIV gang's all here in The Seward. This sammie eschews deli meats and chicken patties for curried pickled beets, a genius move more sandwich shops should try. The thin-sliced discs start out with a pickle-forward tartness before shifting to a sweet curry softness that leaves a gentle kiss on your tongue. The whipped feta adds creaminess but also a zing of freshness—is that lemon zest in there?—and arugula provides a bitter pepper kick that plays nicely with the herbaceous fennel pesto. Like the best of Marty’s, each ingredient can stand alone—we'd eat the shit out of those beets as a side—but together they're a symphony of pure delight, complexity, and deliciousness. We’re eating our veggies, tasting the rainbow, and absolutely loving it.

Marty's Deli
400 Lowry Ave. NE, Minneapolis
Wednesday-Friday: 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

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