People who want a good sandwich come to Swanson’s Deli.
Sandwiches like the warm turkey pesto offers a pile of thick, fresh turkey with melted Swiss, house-made basil pesto, lettuce and tomato on a toasted panini. Add some balsamic vinegar dressing or use as a dipping sauce for a distinct lunch-time treat.
Sandwiches reflect true deli fare: the Washington has medium rare roast beef, provolone, tomato, lettuce and basil pesto spread on toasted panini bread, while the Bob Special is roasted beef, turkey, melted Swiss, and bacon bits on a hoagie with a side of house-made Russian dressing. There are also Italian subs, BLTs, a grilled pimento ham and cheese, and a favorite – house-made chicken salad on wheatberry bread. Sandwich combinations, breads and sauces can be customized. Salads are fresh and substantial – no dreary bag lettuce.
The chef salad has a significant helping of deli meats and cheeses as well as a hard-boiled egg and cucumbers and tomatoes. Sides are house-made as well: a cucumber-tomato salad that features feta, a pasta salad tossed in a Greek vinaigrette, and a potato salad with a special Southern-style dressing. There is also a small salad and chips as a side.
Owner Robert Swanson said at least 85 percent is made in-house, and most produce is purchased locally. He also comes up with weekly specials that are posted on a chalk board.
How did Swanson’s Deli get its start?
Swanson came up with the concept after working in the restaurant industry and receiving on-the-job training. He said he loves a “true” deli and wanted to offer one to the downtown lunch crowd.
Swanson’s Deli opened eight years ago. He came up with the menu items and personally preps and constructs orders himself. Steven Leno is Swanson’s general manager/host/waiter.
What does the place look like?
Part of Swanson’s appeal is its location. It is literally a hidden gem tucked into what is the 1912-built, Italian renaissance revival-style Arcade building – Columbia’s first shopping center. The building, replete with ornate architectural details, is getting a facelift and is expected to draw in many more shops and restaurants, as it did in the early 20th century.
The deli has seating for a total of about 40 both inside and outside in the common, open-air, covered courtyard space. It, too, will soon be under renovation for about 12 weeks but will remain open. Leno said they have plans to work around the activity. Once completed, he said the deli will have high ceilings and stained concrete floors. There will be expanded seating opportunities, too, including in the popular “outside” space in the courtyard.
Who eats here?
“Lawyers, stockbrokers, hospital staff,” saids Swanson. “Everyone from working class city workers to CEOs.”
Swanson’s also draws many friends meeting for lunch – plus, with catering and pick-up ordering available, there is another base of regular customers.