Charleston Bakery and Delicatessen

The Vegetarian has a love of Jewish delis thanks to the gone but not forgotten Harold’s Cutting Board.  Fat Man hadn’t really tried one, but fell in love with the idea of one thanks to profiles on Travel Channel and Food Network.  We gave Charleston Bakery and Delicatessen four tries before deciding for sure if it was one to keep on our ‘to visit’ list.  


I’m giving Charleston Bakery and Deli a 3c.    I really wasn’t expecting a lot since we’ve been here before, although it has been a while since our last visit.   We arrived a little before 4:30 in the afternoon.   As we were walking up I noticed on the door it said lunch lasted until 5 pm and said to the Vegetarian “Good it’s still lunch time.   Wonder what they serve differently for dinner anyway?”   I mean it’s a deli and bakery, I’m not expecting a full blown meat and three meal for dinner.  I’ll come back to this point in a little bit.

Let me tell you about the rest of our visit first.   When you enter the cafe there are huge order boards across the top of the counter for you to view the menu.   It all looks and sounds pretty good.

Then we get to the counter…

Strike 1: At the counter we’re told that lunch stopped at 3pm and they are only offering a very limited menu until dinner starts at 5pm. Now, mind you, the door sign says lunch lasts until 5 pm not 3pm.  Not a major strike in my case because they at least are still offering what I was going to order (a Ruben).  I’ll let the V. tell you herself about how she felt about this given what she was planning to order and I do believe for her this should be a huge strike.

V:  Yeah.  I was not happy to hear about the very limited menu.  The menu board included a few salads that appealed to me and could also be made as wraps.  NO salads were available.  None.  But, the server let us see a copy of the dinner menu and there was one salad on it.  But I could not order it because it wasn’t time for dinner service.

Strike 2:  The meal.  First thing was when I noticed the price jumped up by at least $2 from the price on their board.   The price on the board was already a little high I thought given this is a counter service deli and not a sit down restaurant.  The cashier later explained that this HUGE focal point of an order board was out-dated by about 4 years in response to a different question from the V.  I mean who is going to let something like this get out-dated by that much time.  I’ll let you marinate on that for a while as I’m describing my meal.

V:  For the record, the menu board over the counter mentioned smoked tofu as an addition for $2.  Guess what?  No smoked tofu or any tofu was available.  I ordered the Tomato Pie because it was supposed to be different and I could hopefully eat the crust and some of the tomatoes.  I knew there was a big chance that it wasn’t vegan, but I was hungry and had to eat something.

FM:  As I mentioned earlier I ordered a Reuben which came with a side.  I chose potato salad.  For my drink, I asked for a french press coffee while thinking to myself that better be one damn good cup of coffee for $5.00.  What can I say, I really wanted, no needed, a coffee and from previous visits I knew I didn’t like any of the coffees that they usually offer on the coffee bar and it looked like the bar wasn’t set up anyway.


My impression of the meal.   The Reuben was ok.   The sandwich itself was smaller than any other Reuben I’ve had but it was piled pretty high with meat so that made up for the size.   The bread was not impressive and tasted like it was toasted and not grilled.    The potato salad was bland and had no salt.   I was a pleased by the coffee.  I was given a full french press of coffee and it was decent tasting.

V: The coffee was honestly the best part of the meal.  The $5 French Press served two giants cups of Joe.  And by the way, there are no non-dairy milk options offered here, so black coffee, iced tea, or a bottled drink are the only plant-based options.


FM:  I also split a knish with the V.   I’ve never had one before so I can’t judge it against any previous experience.  I will say that it tasted pretty bland and undercooked.  I loaded up my half with the mustard that was served with it and the hot sauce that was on the table.

V:  This was a disappointing knish.  I regretted the order with the first bite.  I don’t know if FM will try another thanks to this experience.


FM:  In addition to my meal, I tried a bite of the V’s tomato pie.  Given that I’ve had other tomato pies I can judge this against previous experience and all of the tomato pies I’ve had were pretty good.  Some were better than others but all were good.  I was looking forward to trying CBD’s tomato pie because they serve it deep dish style – very deep dish..  and there are two things I love about that thought:  deep dish pie and tomato.    I thought about ordering this myself but didn’t because hey it’s not meat and it can’t fill you up if it doesn’t contain meat.  I mean everyone knows that.   My impression of CBD’s tomato pie was that it was ok – not the best but not bad.  The crust wasn’t great and tomatoes are out of season right now.   If tomatoes were in season and the crust was just a little bit better it would probably be pretty dang good.

V:  Like with the knish, the crust was underdone.  The pie itself wasn’t heated as well as it could have been before serving, but that’s what made it easier for me to avoid the dairy.  The cheese wasn’t melted at all.


FM:  Strike 3: Value for the price.   I feel CBD’s pricing is a little high for counter service.  Others may feel differently but this is my review and for my review it matters what I think.

I almost forgot to come back to this….I mentioned dinner earlier.   As I said, you wouldn’t necessarily expect a meat and three meal from a deli. We got to take a look at the dinner menu.  Well guess what.  This counter service deli is serving what looks like a fancy smancy menu for dinner.  That’s about all I’m going to say about that.

V: If you eat a strict vegan plan, do not stop here for food.  Even the bagels have an egg wash unless you call a day before and order six to a dozen and specify no egg wash. Breakfast options are also very limited unless eggs and dairy ar a part of your menu.

I give CBD a 2.  If I was an egg or dairy eater, my review may have been a little higher. Maybe.

Yes, we were both somewhat disappointed in our experience at CBD.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.



What to expect from us

We’ve been together a while and can navigate our nixed dietary preferences fairly well. For meals at home, for example, all sides and accompaniments are meat-, dairy-, and egg-free.  The main dish is usually what changes somewhat.  If pasta, there may be meat cooked separately that can be added to the meal.  It’s the same for Tex Mex and Soup/Salad/Sandwich nights.  When we dine out, we try to find places that offer at least a few salads and sides that V can modify.

FM:  Ok where do I start….First let me give you my scoring system.   I’m going to give a belly score ranging from 1 (low score) to 5 (high score) with 3 being the medium.   A 3 score is going to be broken down into A (high 3), B (straight middle of the road), and C (low side of 3 but not quite bad enough for a 2).

V:  I’ll go with his scoring system for now. In general, I don’t use letters in mine, but for him, I can be flexible.

We’ll review restaurants, food trucks (and truck stops while on the road), share how we make the menus work at home, and share goodies from our cookbook collections.  Well, V’s cookbook collection that occasionally includes goodies for FM.

If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see, give us a shout.