Gimme Eighties Gourmet!

This original low-rise Deli Lane (there's a newer branch on Brickell, on the ground floor of one of downtown's skyscrapers) has been around since the 1980s, making it one of Miami's first purveyors of gentrified yuppie food: quiches and similar light entrées, vegetable salads consisting of lettuces other than iceberg, fruit salads consisting of fresh (noncanned!) fruits. Unlike most of the era's eateries, though, Deli Lane is still going strong. This is partly due to the new ravenous hordes attracted by the nearby Sunset Place complex. And it's partly because the pleasantly pink-and-green California-casual café has a relaxed feel, especially its extensive outdoor area. But mostly it's because the fare, though simple, remains reasonably priced and well done, with a number of unusual items not found in most light-bite eateries.

For instance: When was the last time you encountered a whole baked artichoke, filled with seasoned breadcrumb stuffing and served with not just the usual accompaniment of hot melted butter but also cold, creamy tarragon dipping sauce (for $6.95)? It's fun finger food to share, and with the platter of baked Brie with honey-soaked almonds plus truly fresh fruit salad, makes a lovely, savory lunch for three or four friends.

So popular in the early 1980s it was a cliché, quiche isn't as easy to find these days. But the Lane serves up four variations, all with flaky crusts and creamy filling. The vegetable version is especially recommended, its crunchy broccoli, peppers, and artichoke bits perfectly countering the richness of the custard and buttery shell. Quiches come with a generous portion of salad, either caesar or a more interesting mix (romaine plus spinach, arugula, chicory, cucumbers, and tomato) that works just as well with the thick, mild creamy caesar dressing.

With wood-oven pizzeria Blú almost next door, it might seem strange to order pizza at a deli. But Deli Lane's strong suit isn't authentic Italian pizza; it's Wolfgang Puck-esque designer pies. Though "traditional" tomato sauce/mozzarella pies are possible, a more scrumptious strategy is to order a "gourmet" ten-incher (both $5.95) with flavorful fresh pesto, tomato slices, and ricotta cheese, then ask for added tomato sauce (available upon request) and, for a small extra charge, mozzarella. The pungent pesto also stands up well to black Greek olives and onions.


Deli Lane Caf

7230 SW 59th Ave, South Miami

305-665-0606. Open daily, Monday through Thursday, 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; till midnight Friday and Saturday, 10:00 p.m. Sunday.

Most unique, however, are some of Deli Lane's sandwich combos, the perennial favorite being a pressed duck hoagie ($8.95). This sounds kinda questionable if one thinks of Chinese-style sweet pressed duck, fatty and lacquered, combined with melted Brie, sautéed onions, and mayo. The "pressed," however, doesn't refer to the duck but to the whole sandwich, which is griddle-flattened like a Cuban sandwich. The treatment works even better with rich duck meat and Brie than with pork and lesser cheeses.

Still those with a craving for Asian tastes can satisfy those, too; a choice of deli salads (most pasta-based) comes with all specialty sandwiches, and the sesame chicken bowties, though more Asian-esque than Asian, are very tasty.


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