AUBURN – Changing times call for changing tactics.
That’s the reason behind the Black Watch Restaurant’s newest offering: a full-service gourmet deli.
“There’s been a need for this downtown since Austin’s closed,” said Jamie Pelletier, Black Watch manager. “People can get stuff from Gritty’s or the Blues Cafe to go, but in terms of nice gourmet deli sandwiches, there’s really been nothing.”
The closure of the Austin’s Fine Wine and Foods last year is just one of the events that has changed the local culinary scene. Since then, several new restaurants, including Gritty McDuff’s, Espo’s Trattoria, Fish Bones, Cleopatra’s, Munroe Inn, the Great Falls Grill and Antonio’s Deli have given diners more options.
The result: a dip in business for some established local restaurateurs.
“You can’t add 1,200 new seats to the L-A area without increasing the base population, and not have it affect business,” said Pelletier. “Some of the smaller guys who’ve been around a while are having a rough go of it. So you find a niche to supplement things.”
For the Black Watch, that meant renovating the downstairs of the two-story restaurant to accommodate a full-service deli and seating for 16.
Bistro tables and chairs are scattered between the restaurant’s storefront window and the deli case. A coffee bar featuring Green Mountain Roasters coffee is off to one side, and a nearby refrigeration case is filled with juice, soda and water.
Pelletier said the panini sandwiches – assorted gourmet fillings grilled between two pieces of specialty bread – have been hot.
“I think it’s because the grilling brings out the flavor of the bread,” said Pelletier. Fillings range from Reuben corned beef to Tuscan chicken.
The deli offers a wide array of cold cuts and luncheon meats; cheeses; egg, tuna, ham salad; and some unconventional fillings such as roasted vegetables and clear meat lobster. Side salads also run the gamut from conventional pasta or green salads to tortellini salad Florentine, Mexican bean salad and Oriental noodle salad. Homemade soups are also offered. Prices range from $5 to $7.
As a special enticement, Eminger Berries are also displayed. Susan Eminger, who makes the specially dipped berry treats, is the deli chef.
“I firmly believe in real food,” she said. “That means we don’t use preservatives in our food preparations.”
Pelletier said business has been steady since its unofficial opening a week-and-a-half ago. He said the whole deli is geared toward the downtown business crowd. No lunch order has taken more than 6½ minutes to turn around.
“We recognize that not everyone has an hour for lunch, so we designed this for speed,” said Pelletier.
The deli also has a limited breakfast menu of bagels, muffins and pastries, and offers catering for business functions.
“The feedback we’ve gotten has been good,” he said. “I think this is going to work.”