Overstuffed and nary a bit overrated, Country Deli sandwiches are legendary on the Outer Banks for a variety of mouthwatering reasons.
Enormous submarines, triple-deckers and hoagies, filled with meats, cheeses, veggies and sauces, is usually the first answer out of the mouths of locals when they are queried about why they are so fond of this OBX-favorite. That they are remembered by the staff — and are served with huge smiles — are usually the next two reasons mentioned.
Owner-operators Karla and Mark Hutchins know this, too, and that consistency is the key to keeping folks returning; they work hard to impress these company values upon their staff.
“One thing we always tell our staff,” says Karla, “is that we have to make everything the same way each time. The Manhandler is one sandwich that people order a lot, it might be our most popular, and customers want it the way they had it the last time.”
The Manhandler is a huge, heated, submarine, stuffed with over a pound of ham, roast beef, crispy bacon, melted provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, mild or hot peppers, mayo and deli mustard. You can also get a smaller version on a Kaiser roll.
“For the sub size, we do use Amoroso hoagie rolls; there is no substitution for some of our clientele,” Karla giggled, as she shared that they do use the gold-standard sandwich bread, made popular in Pennsylvania and commonly used for cheesesteak sandwiches. Amoroso rolls are also known for their ability to stand up to messy insides without falling apart. A perfect match for their generous fillings.
First opened in Surfside Plaza in 1976, Country Deli is, indeed, a true deli. Yes, they serve a pickle on the side. Yes, they shave their own meats. Yes, you can get as creative as want with your fillings. Yes, they have a fabulous Reuben. Yes, they even have a Veggie Reuben with tomatoes, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and Swiss cheese, heated, on rye toast.
They also have a fabulous new location in the brand new Shops at West Lake, on milepost 9.5 in Kill Devil Hills. Spacious, well lit, and cozy at the same time, the expanded space is comfortable for dining solo or with a group, small or large.
There is a handy self-serve cooler filled with craft sodas and elixirs, as well as a take-one, leave-one book section full of reading material that you can take with you and return when finished.
On a recent visit, I tried the Granny Brie sandwich with smoked turkey, crispy bacon, thinly sliced granny smith apples and thick slices of brie on a salty pretzel roll. Karla said it was another of their most popular selections and I immediately understood why. This is a perfectly balanced sandwich. It was generously portioned and a half was all I could eat at one sitting. Yes, value is another reason locals love Country Deli.
I do need to mention that the Raleighwood is another fan favorite. Who can blame anyone for loving turkey, salami, lettuce, tomato, mayo and deli mustard, sandwiched between two grilled cheeses?! Yup, this is a sandwich inside of two grilled cheese sandwiches. Swoon.
The Mediterranean Delight also caught my eye and will be my next try. It features roasted eggplant, roasted red peppers, tomato, Kalamata olives, pesto and mozzarella cheese on a toasted Kaiser roll, topped with mixed greens. I am almost positive this will be my next, new favorite.
Amy Gaw is a food entrepreneur who has eaten, cooked and written about food on the Outer Banks and surrounding areas for more than three decades. A clean food advocate with a focus on local seafood, Gaw is also a salt maker and the founder of Outer Banks SeaSalt.