Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rice Street Deli – St. Paul, MN

EnyaFace! got me hooked on this place years ago and I have really needed to visit it again. It had been too long. I’ve reviewed this place before and it was absolutely incredible. Granted, last time I got the largest menu item they had – the Gangster Burger (read the previous review for details on this monster) – so you knew I’d be happy. I decided before I even went this time, that I wouldn’t get the Gangster Burger, I’d get something smaller and more reasonable. EnyaFace! and I agreed to meet at the Rice Street Deli for dinner and pick up some delicious food. There aren’t any chairs or tables in here, so you really do have to take it somewhere or eat it in your car.
Just as a recap, the Rice Street Deli is in the Reemco gas station at the corner of Rice and Maryland. Not the safest neighborhood, but also not the worst – I’m just warning people. There are some shifty characters walking around. There are also some really nice characters walking around too, and there’s an awesome Asian grocery store across the street if you want to pick up some supplies for dinner (The Double Dragon). There are regular police patrols that drive by the area and pop into the deli – multiple in the time I was waiting for EnyaFace! to arrive. At the deli, you order your food and receive a ticket which you take to the gas station part and pay for it along with any drinks or chips you’d like. Efficient operation they’ve been doing for years.

I have to mention that the afternoon I went to Rice Street Deli, I saw three different people with prosthetic legs. I’m not sure if that was some sort of sign, but I just thought it weird that in the space of 5 minutes, I saw three different versions of fake legs. Odd.

I got there before EnyaFace! and set about figuring out what I wanted to eat. I also was very amused at the people that came in to pick up food orders. A LOT of variety in the clientele, but I’m guessing as word of this place grows, it’s going to continue to be a diverse crowd. I said I wasn’t going to order the Gangster Burger, so I had some work to do deciding what else to order. They don’t have an online menu, so you have to do it right there in the store at the counter. (And I noticed they have small printed menu flyers next to the counter so you can bring them home or keep one in your car – bonus!!!). They had a lot of things I wanted, but I kept coming back to the Meat Lovers Sandwich and the Gyro Burger. Both sounded delicious. And both were much cheaper than the Gangster Burger – which is $19.99 – so that means they’re both much smaller right?
EnyaFace! showed up and we decided what to get. She had been talking about the Gangster Fries for months, so we decided to share a large order of those. She also opted for a Gyro. I asked about the Meat Lovers Sandwich and he explained it was cheesesteak and gyro meat chopped up on a roll. He mumbled something about it being huge – which intrigued me, as well. The guy working the deli is amazingly nice. The guy is also an amazing cook. I decided to go with the Meat Lovers Sandwich, since if you couldn’t already tell, I’m a meat lover.

It took a while for him to make our meals, but I could see him working hard back there. When he asked what I wanted on my sandwich and showed me the almost finished product, I realized why. The sandwich is like a foot and a half long. I’m not kidding at all. I asked if I could take a photo of what he had made for me. He agreed as he was putting the finishing touches on our Gangster fries. If you didn’t read the previous review, Gangster fries are a slop pile of crinkle-cut French Fries covered in gyro meat, cheese, and tzatziki sauce. Holy crap these were amazing.

Here’s the photo. But I worry this isn’t the best perspective for you to truly appreciate the magnitude of this sandwich. How’s this:

The guy behind the counter is really nice, as I said before. He handed me the sandwich and told me how to carry it, so it stayed right-side-up. The guy takes great pride in his food flavor as well as presentation and it was wrapped so it could withstand traveling to its destination. Waxed paper on the inside kept the things together. Really smart guy and he made sure I knew how to manage this sandwich.

We schlepped all this food to EnyaFace!’s house and dug in. I made a very small dent in the Gangster fries – which I’m sure they gave us the super size instead of the large size – I hope. They were delicious. Basically, you just need to order one of any of these things for a group of 5 or 6 people. I’m dead serious. Huge amounts of delicious gyro meat covered in delicious cucumber sauce. It was awesome.

I began to tackle this Meat Lovers Sandwich. It too was really awesome. The gyro meat and the cheesesteak were chopped up as they were cooked on the flat top grill and then mixed in with cheddar cheese. It was an amazing combination. I’m pretty sure there was American or white American cheese on the giant baguette before the meat is put on. Then I had asked for tomatoes and lettuce. Delicious. Oh wait, then I had him slather the whole thing in tzatziki sauce for me – can you tell I love it??? Amazing meat flavor combined with the cool deliciousness of cucumber sauce – it isn’t wrong to have it on two things you’re eating, I promise.

You can’t eat this thing with your hands. No way in the world. You HAVE to eat it with a fork and maybe a knife. The bread itself was much better than I anticipated. Very soft and had some good buttery flavor. I managed to get bread in just about every bite of this meal, although there were a couple of meat-only bites. I felt pretty good about my progress, but I honestly only managed to eat half of this thing. But to eat about 8 inches of a 6x18” sandwich is pretty good. I really didn’t want to quit, since it was all so good, but I didn’t want to get the meat sweats on this one. I just wanted to enjoy it. I took a photo, so you know what kind of damage I did to it.
I also took a photo of the weak attempt EnyaFace! and I made with the Gangster Fries. Next time, we’ll skip either the sandwich or the fries. There’s just no way you can do both. Maybe if you were feeding 12-15 people this would be a good amount. (I'm guessing you can tell which side was mine and which side was EnyaFace!'s)
EnyaFace! really loves the lamb gyro meat at Rice Street Deli, so she was really happy with her Gyro. She didn’t finish hers either and ended up giving the remainder to her father who was in town visiting.

Like I said, this place really is amazing. And I know they do have normal sized portions of things. Someday I will choose to order one. The gyro burger is next on the list and maybe a couple of the appetizers – the wings in particular. We noticed the guy had dessert kinds of things in his case this time around – cakes, cheesecakes, and baklava. I can’t see myself ever leaving enough room to do something like that, but for those that need dessert, this guy has it.

You really need to go here. Rice Street Deli doesn’t appear to be advertising anywhere, so you just have to spread the word on your own. I’m doing my part, trust me.

Top 5 things about Rice Street Deli
1. Meat Lovers Sandwich
2. Gangster Fries
3. Gyro Sandwich
4. Never-before-seen portion sizes
5. Really awesome staff

Bottom 5 things
1. You will never be able to finish one of these gargantuan sandwiches without a crowd of people
2. A little confusing the first time with where you pay
3. When your health coach at your insurance place finds out about this, you’ll probably get yelled at
4. It’s a little bit “hood”. Don’t be a nancy – just deal with it.
5. I feel like I need to buy a white Tall-T shirt when I’m in the gas station part – they sell them there, next to the hostess cupcakes (really)

Rice Street Deli (Reemco Gas Station)
1200 Rice Street
St. Paul, MN 55117

My next trip to this area will likely take me to the Frogtown Deli on Maryland. I'm looking forward to that!


Kristi said...

I have literally worked one block from this gas station for 5 years now and haven't once stepped foot in that rinky-dink gas station. I had no idea they sold sandwiches that look like that!!!!

Chao said...

Kristi, they have normal sized sandwiches, as well. But if your work ever needs an amazing party sub replacement, I think you know where to go. Really nice folks there.

Anonymous said...

Chao: I'd go to Frogtown Deli with you. I've not been in there yet!

EnYa Face!