Broadway Deli opened for business over the weekend with no more pizzazz than an A-frame sandwich board propped up on the sidewalk outside its front door at 8 South Broadway.
But for months, this bustling neighborhood of bars, music venues, bookstores, boutique shops and restaurants has been buzzing with questions and speculation about what the new business behind the covered-up windows would be, and who would be running it.
As it turns out, the entrepreneurs in question are South Broadway stalwart bartender Jermaine Smith (of Badger’s Pub, 3 Kings Tavern and the hi-dive) and longtime Denver-based chef Brett Neilley. The two joined forces earlier this year in acquiring the space, once home to Swift’s Steakhouse #4 (and more recently to Authentic Greek Cuisine), as the venue for what they enthusiastically describe as a “fresh and exciting place” serving tasty, affordable sandwiches and side dishes. Broadway Deli is their special contribution, delighting late-night diners in an operation that also has a full bar serving a line of beers and mixed drinks.
“I think it’s going to kick so much ass, because it’s something everyone’s been wanting to have down here, and also it’s local," says Smith, the deli's general manager. "It’s all local people, and people that love this neighborhood. We put this in for the neighborhood,”
There has long been a glaring vacancy on Broadway: a late-night food spot that isn't pizza. Certainly, Fat Sully’s, Pie Hole and even Famous Pizza, to a certain hour, offer a greasy slice of thin-crust, last-call goodness. And at the south end of the strip, at Alameda Avenue, Illegal Pete’s dishes out delicious gut-bomb burritos into the wee hours, but for the party animals and weekend warriors pouring out of the hi-dive after a show, or for the scores of bartenders and cooks in the ’hood, there has been little variety for a quick place to eat before calling it a night. That’s where Broadway Deli hopes to step in.
However, Neilley says their mission isn’t limited to just the nocturnal food scene. Opening at 11 a.m. daily and staying open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, the deli will serve a diverse menu, with breakfast items also in the works, inspired by South Broadway and its people. Neilley plans to bring a fine-dining consciousness for high-end ingredients and attentive preparation to menu items, but at street-level prices. He uses fresh mozzarella, meatballs made in-house and salads made from scratch. It's with this overlap of quality and affordability that Broadway Deli hopes to thrive.
“We wanted to bring in something that was fresh. We take our sandwich-making seriously,” Smith explains.
Broadway Deli’s menu is split along hot and cold subs. The same goes for the side dishes. Cold sandwiches include turkey, salami, chicken salad and corned beef, which Smith says is sliced so thin it’s like it dissolves in your mouth, while hot options include hand-breaded chicken or meatball parmigiana and the Broadway Chicken Cutlet, served either grilled or fried. For a side, you can get coleslaw, macaroni, potato or mixed-green salad, along with green chile, mac and cheese or the soup du jour. Samantha Chapman, the deli’s sous-chef and baker, also creates homemade cookies, brownies, cheesecakes and special desserts. The sandwiches, in six inch or foot-long sizes, cost $6 to $12.75; extra toppings are 50 cents to a dollar. And side dishes and salads range from $3.50 to $6.50.
“We priced the menu for the neighborhood. It’s very blue-collar. It’s all about the neighborhood,” Neilley notes.
Smith adds that there’s strong mutual appreciation among the businesses along South Broadway. “Everyone was so excited about it. We weren’t trying to take away from anyone. It was like, ‘Here is a new option.’ Everybody wants to foster everyone else’s scene, but there was no variety."
Neilley says friends and business owners on the block were thrilled when they caught wind of plans for Broadway Deli. “I liken it to when music scenes come together and people aren’t fighting each other and they are supporting each other. As one person does good, everybody does good.”
During their first late-night rush, Neilley popped his head out of the deli to see his friends a couple of doors down at Pie Hole Pizza also doing a good business. “Not only did they accept us, but they embraced us, literally,” Neilley says of Jim Norris, co-owner of Mutiny Bookstore and former 3 Kings Tavern boss, who hugged him when he pointed out that it was he and Smith taking over the building. “It’s been such a good atmosphere for us to be here."
After a few years of kicking the deli idea around, Smith and Neilley took control of the property earlier this year, spending months renovating the entire space from floor to ceiling, including the kitchen and back storerooms. Sunlight now streams in through the large storefront windows, into the shop’s bright, airy interior. White walls are accented with shiny corrugated metal, varnished barnwood countertops and colorful framed art from local artists such as Vincent Charles, Joshua Finley and Jesse Frazier, who are South Broadway fixtures in their own rights, regularly showing at galleries in the district.
“It’s a such a conglomerate of tight-knit people who love South Broadway. I see this as my home. This is what I love,” Smith says.
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Working in commercial kitchens for a “zillion” years, Neilley, formerly of Dougherty’s, Cherry Cricket and Park & Co., now relishes being on the other side of the prep line from his customers, making their sandwiches as they want them, hearing their feedback and being face-to-face with his clientele, who seems more like friends on a first-name basis.
Smith says it’s vital to build on these neighborhood bonds to establish a solid business that he hopes will appeal to anyone and everyone on Broadway. “It’s those little things like that that I think sets us apart, because we care," he notes. "We put ourselves into this place and into making a great experience and a great meal. That is the only way you can come in, brand-new, and be able to explode and have people say, ‘Oh, we’re coming back here.’”
The Broadway Deli is open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.