After more than a year, what's been keeping Del Rey Deli in Playa Del Rey going? The dinky operation sits inside a small strip mall well off the beach, and little has been typed up about them in the fourteen months since they opened the front door, yet they've been largely thriving in this sleepy oceanside neighborhood. The answer to their success: college kids. Well, sort of. It also helps that they make their own chorizo and offer one of the city's best pretzel buns.
Del Rey Deli almost didn't open at all. Owner Tim Edwards looked unsuccessfully into several other spaces and concepts before landing on his current hideout on Pershing Way, but quickly found himself mired in legalese and unending bureaucracy when trying to build out his ideas. After months of hand-wringing and some key advice from friends, Edwards was eventually able to open the doors to Del Rey Deli in January of last year, immediately upping the daily dining options for everyone in the slightly isolated neighborhood - college kids included.
With its (relative) proximity to Loyola Marymount - and it's reasonable prices - Del Rey Deli is a natural choice for collegiate types on a budget. There isn't a single cold sandwich on the menu over $9, and nothing costs more than $12. That most expensive single item? It's a house-cured pastrami sandwich, thickly cut and served Reuben-style inside two hefty slices of marble rye. An array of other options, from the roasted chicken to thinly sliced pancetta available on the brunch menu, are given their own level of care inside the tiny back kitchen.
The rest of the room has a classic deli vibe, from the cold case up front to the hanging signage and simple wood tables. There's some patio space between the front door and the parking lot, a few stools along the window and a tiny pour-over coffee station to one side, which is itself a bit of a hidden gem. Not much else is there, because not much else is needed.
All of the breads, including the darkly toasted split-top pretzel bun, arrive fresh from Ca d'Oro in Inglewood, who worked with the Del Rey team to bring to life exactly the breads the shop needs, and nothing more. Simple airy ciabatta loaves hold together fresh greens and beguiling cured meat slices, while crunchier Cuban sandwiches hold slices of ham, Swiss cheese and tender pulls of pork.
The chorizo crumbles when it should and offers small puddles of oil that you'll discover as dots on your clothing long after you've left. It's salty, freshly ground and punchy from a round of seasoning, and comes courtesy of Humberto Raygoza, who doubles as one of the guys working behind the counter, slinging sandwiches. Originally just a hired hand, Raygoza soon brought in samples of his housemade chorizo to impress the crew. Now it's impressing just about everyone else, too.
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You'll find punch cards that add up to free sandwiches and weekly two-for-one deals, like any college town sub shop, and Edwards will be the first to tell you that the music selection is almost as important as the sandwiches. Yet, through the veneer of recent twentysomethings who stream in through the door looking for the day's sandwich special, there is also a strong contingent of Playa Del Rey locals who come for quick-service meals that will affordably feed a family.
In what he describes as a "chronically underserved" neighborhood, Edwards has been able to match price, quality and location to the customers he serves, be they retirees, young families or, yes, college kids looking to stay local and relax on a weekend morning. And yes, they're coming for the chorizo egg sandwich, served on that impeccable pretzel bun.