Portland has plenty of sandwich shops. Does it have any legit delis, though?
Ask East Coasters, and after they finish staring off into space, fondly recalling petting a bodega cat at 3 am while buying a pastrami sandwich and a bong from a nameless corner store somewhere in Brooklyn, they'll assuredly tell you, "Nope."
Snappy's, the new "retro bodega" opened in January on the bustling inner eastside, isn't likely to satiate convenience-obsessed New York transplants, but it's still a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Jammed between Nong's Khao Man Gai and Marukin, the diminutive sandwich shop—co-owned by Chris Thornton and Matt Lynch, both of Boxer Ramen—makes good on its promise of no-frills sandwiches made with laudable efficiency and sold at below-market prices.
Lynch and Thornton keep the aesthetic cheap and simple. Wood paneling and white pegboards line the walls. The ceiling is a grid of colorful milk crates. A tiny TV-VCR combo above a dual Bunn drip machine shows wobbly old VHS tapes of movies like The Dark Crystal, and the Arvydas Sabonis poster ties the shop even closer to the year 1996.
Throw in a jar of loose Oreos priced at a quarter each, several flavors of Utz chips on the back wall and a hodgepodge of vending machine classics, and the result feels more like the snack counter at a municipal swimming pool than an overcooked update of something that's already fine as it is.
The sandwiches are equally unfussy and understated. With the exception of the 4 Pointer—an Italian-style hoagie with salami, mortadella, soppressata, capicola and provolone ($10.50)—not a single item tops $10. In this case, the high price tag is well-earned. Zesty, high-grade meats pile neatly under a clump of shredded lettuce, doused in oil and vinegar and delivered on a fresh baguette from Vietnamese bakery An Xuyen that's crusty on the outside and soft on the inside.
The chicken salad ($6.26), one of a handful of sandwiches served on toasted white bread, lacks the mayonnaise tang that props up the awesome tuna melt ($8.25). But the turkey club is the real standout among the old-school standbys. Everyone knows what a turkey club is, so there's no sense in explaining what Snappy's does with it. Just know that it costs $9, and it is very good.
The most luxe item on the menu is a $9.75 beef-and-cheddar with an optional $1 cup of au jus, but you've had that one before, too. With its generous smear of sinus-clearing horseradish and melted cheddar, it's worth revisiting here either way.
Of course, certain Portlanders will roll their eyes at this whole concept, shrugging it off as a "hipster" version of venerable hoagie shops like Taste Tickler, East Side Deli and Charlie's. That's not entirely false. But when you consider how many more people are moving to and working in the inner eastside each year, and the slow expansion of takeout spots where you can reliably cop a lunch for less than $10 in under 10 minutes, it's hard to argue Snappy's is stepping on any toes. Ignore the nostalgic accoutrements, and what you're getting for the price is consistent, affordable and pretty damn tasty, positioning Snappy's as the sandwich counter of choice for the part of town developers foresee as the downtown Portland of the future.
EAT: Snappy's, 609 SE Ankeny St., Suite B, 503-265-8710, makeitsnappys.com. 10 am-8 pm daily.