Deli belly

Stevens & Stevens
Located in the back of Ditto’s Grill on Bardstown Road, Stevens & Stevens has built a loyal following the old-fashioned way, providing quality fare at reasonable prices. Photos by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eats with

Let’s start right out by admitting that I’ve lived in New York City off and on, had plenty of exposure to the NYC deli phenomenon, and don’t really get it.

In a metropolis known as one of the world’s great cities for fine dining, how exactly did such a genre evolve? Heavy, fatty, overpriced food, served by rude waiters whose shtick seems to be insulting the customers … and the customers love it?

It’s no surprise to me that authentic New York deli has never gained much traction in Louisville.

But make a few small changes to accommodate to the local culture, and deli can thrive in the Derby City. As evidence I cite Stevens & Stevens, a lovable eatery that certainly qualifies as a deli … but a deli with a difference. Yes, the food is hearty. Pastrami, corned beef and roast beef do not qualify as diet fare. But you’ll never hear a rude word from the smiling counter staff, and you can get a full lunch for the price you’d pay for a bagel with cream cheese at New York’s finest.

Located in the back section of popular Ditto’s Grill on Bardstown Road, Stevens & Stevens – like Ditto’s, now that I think about it – has built a loyal following the old-fashioned way, providing quality fare at reasonable prices.

Much of the deli’s business is take-out, but those who prefer to stay and dine in will find a comfortable environment in its long, narrow room with exposed red brick and gray stucco walls decorated with poster-size collages with New York City and celebrity themes. Booths and tables sport a classy dark-gray granite look, with room to seat maybe 50 or 60 diners in closely spaced quarters.

Order at the counter and receive your goodies on the spot; if you’re eating in, you take your own to the table of your choice.

We filled up on a hearty lunch. A roast beef sandwich ($5.95) consisted of excellent, juicy roast beef, rosy pink and tender, sliced thin, piled high on light, seeded rye bread.

Broccoli-cheddar soup, the soup of the day ($3.50), was a disappointment: A thick, gloppy mass, it resembled day-old potato soup with al dente broccoli florets and no perceptible evidence of cheddar. Fortunately, that was the only sour note in an otherwise splendid meal.

Stevens & Stevens
Mark’s Special sandwich at Stevens & Stevens.

Mark’s Special ($8.95) offered a more than generous portion of thin-sliced, juicy and very flavorful corned beef and pastrami brisket, served hot, with a schmear of hot mustard on soft homemade rye. It was every bit as good as the best New York City deli meat, without the rude remarks.

It came with a choice of two sides. I chose Shirley’s potato salad and “celeryseed” cole slaw, both 99 cents if ordered a la carte. They came in small plastic cups, packed so full that it was hard to eat them without spilling some of the goodies over the edge. The potato salad was dense and hearty, chunks of creamy potato and a thick, spicy yellow mustard dressing. The slaw was coarsely shredded red and green cabbage with a tangy dressing.

We finished up with a slice of excellent cheesecake ($2.95). Rich, textured and cheesy, it tasted homemade.

A filling deli lunch for two came to $25.28, and we left a few bucks for the bussers.

Stevens & Stevens Deli
1114 Bardstown Road
Robin Garr’s rating: 89 points