A new wave of delicatessens has hit Denver over the past few years, bringing a combination of tradition and creative thinking to the city's sandwich scene. And leading the charge is Leven Deli, which won our Best Sandwich Shop award in the Best of Denver 2019.
"If the pastrami is good, the rest of the sandwich is sure to follow," we explained in our award. "And at Leven Deli, chef/partner Luke Hendricks makes pastrami from scratch, starting with whole beef brisket that's cured for more than ten days before being smoked."
We recently reached out to Leven Deli co-owner Anthony Lygizos, to see how it felt to win the Best of Denver, and also to find out how he and his team strive to make their shop special for customers. "There are a few reasons Leven has become a neighborhood favorite," he shares. "First, we feel we hit the jackpot with our location: right behind the Denver Art Museum. We are so lucky that our neighbors, the DAM, the Clyfford Still Museum and the Kirkland Museum are incredibly friendly, supportive and invested in our success."
But the neighbors wouldn't keep coming back if the food wasn't great, so Lygizos and Hendricks make sure the food lives up to their customers' standards. "Our kitchen makes just about everything from scratch." Lygizos explains. "Beginning with baking fresh bread every morning, to Luke teaching the kitchen team the perfect technique to smoking brisket into pastrami, or a new recipe creation, our kitchen team takes a ton of pride in their scratch cooking approach."
The deli sandwich holds high honors in the lunchtime canon, so we don't take the Best Sandwich Shop award lightly. Our designated eaters plow through dozens of sandwiches each year to determine the best, and readers share their strong opinions, too. So last year's win was well deserved by Leven Deli.
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"Luke and I are big believers in writing visions for our business and sharing our visions (and goals) with our team," Lygizos adds. "Before opening, Luke and I collaboratively wrote one-, five- and ten-year visions for Leven Deli Co., and within our five-year vision, we set the goal of earning Westword's Best Sandwich Shop award. So to earn the award during our first year was humbling. It was gratifying to see how much pride the team felt after receiving the Best Sandwich Shop award...we started to find our stride, and it was really due to the confidence all our team members developed as a result of feeling acknowledgement for their hard work."
Leven hasn't been resting on its laurels over the last year. There's a new soft-serve ice cream machine dispensing fun flavors such as bourbon caramel apple, mocha crunch and blood orange. And the deli has added wine-bar service in the evenings, including a tapas-style food roster offered from 4 to 7 p.m. "We've also just built a nice new wine rack that spans a whole wall near our bar," Lygizos notes. "We released our new by-the-bottle wine list on February 12, and it has some pretty serious wines on it."
The Best Sandwich Shop award for 2020 has yet to be decided, but you can have a say. Our Readers' Poll is still open at readerschoice.westword.com, where you can vote for your favorites in more than 100 of the categories that will be in the final issue, coming on March 26. The deadline for voting is March 18.