Express Deli is a family-owned deli that is making some of the best sandwiches in Cleveland. Express Deli was listed #41 in Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in America in 2018. According to a Yelper, the parents Pierre and Maha bought the place 24 years ago when they moved from Lebanon in 1998, it was more like a Mini Mart. (Note: that explains why I haven’t heard of them until now – I moved to the east side in 1992). They thought it would be a good idea to serve good deli food at the Mini Mart, and have turned it into a true deli over time as it rose in popularity. Located on Smith Road just off I-480 (W. 130th exit) and just past Brookpark Road in Brook Park, it is tucked away at the end of a small, nondescript strip mall. When you walk in you are greeted like a family friend. Head to the back – that’s where the magic happens.
Make sure to tell them if it is your first time. They offer a tasting tour of their three most popular sandwiches – the turkey, the pastrami, and the Reuben. Each features a special sauce. The turkey is served with the house dressing (a delicious herbed oil), the pastrami has a garlic mayo and is topped with a thin pickle slice, and the Reuben is a small bite of Reuben (corned beef, Swiss and kraut) with a mix of their delicious Thousand Island dressing and garlic mayo. They started the samplers about 7 years ago to have people try and love what they ended up purchasing, and maybe get them to try something they normally wouldn’t.
If you are a regular reader, you know I’m not a fan of corned beef. It is a rare place that can make me change my mind. Well, I tried the Reuben bite and liked it so much I actually ordered the Reuben on my first visit! They make their own corned beef on the premises, so maybe I’m just a fan of their corned beef. I guess I like lean corned beef. The sauce and melted cheese made every bite super creamy, and the sauerkraut was not sour at all. I can see why everyone loves this and it’s one of the top sellers.
I had originally decided to order the chicken cordon bleu wrap until I tried the Reuben, so that was my choice on my next visit. Maybe it was an off day, maybe the Reuben has ruined me for all other sandwiches, because I thought it was just okay. The cordon bleu sandwich has a lot of fans. It’s made with chicken, ham, Swiss, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and a honey mustard sauce. I don’t see any tomato, but it still wouldn’t have magically saved it. I’m not a huge fan of wraps; I find the texture of the wrap or pita too dry, which then detracts from the fillings. I’ll try it on a hoagie next time, because it is one of my favorite food pairings.
One of their other most popular sandwiches is the Beirut Chicken. I asked what bread he might recommend for it instead of a pita wrap, but he really urge me to get the pita wrap since there was so much going on in the sandwich. It is made with marinated & sautéed chicken breasts, garlic mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, thin sliced pickles, cole slaw, and sriracha. I was initially only going to eat a few bites and then eat the Reuben I had also ordered, but I soon found that I had eaten half of the sandwich and was ready to finish it. The sandwich was that good! The flavors really complemented each other, and each bite was a delight. I set aside the sandwich to eat half of my Reuben and was pleased that the wrap only got soggy in one spot when I went to eat it later. And for the record the Reuben was perfect the next day – no sogginess to speak of despite all the sauces on it.
I also ordered the chicken noodle soup. Since I wasn’t eating it right away I was okay with it not being heated up. Once I was ready to eat it at home, it heated up nicely, and the noodles were a total treat. The homemade broth will definitely cure what ails you!
They have a huge cooler filled with soft drinks, iced teas, flavored water, hard seltzers, and beer as well as a wall of crunchy snacks (chips, pretzels) to go with your sandwich. I also grabbed a bag of Zappo’s Voodoo Chips and Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips (my two favorite chips) and a bottle of Mountain Dew and a Crush Grape. The chips and beverages are very well-curated. The homemade cookies are also soft and delicious.
The macaroni salad was just okay. Davis Bakery has ruined me for all other macaroni salads. The pasta salad was really tasty. I highly recommend it. It looks like the black bits are olives, but they are beans. I still didn’t hate it. The seafood salad was great. I ate it straight out of the container with a fork, but it was especially good on a toasted slice of croissant bread. I also enjoyed the pickle. I do plan to try the potato salad too. But come here for the sandwiches.
I must be spoiled from all my years in Germany, because the Braunschweiger sandwich just didn’t do it for me. I prefer a softer meat spread. It’s also possible that it was too much of a good thing. I got there close to closing time, and she used up the Braunschweiger on my sandwich. It was very generous, but I prefer thin slices over huge hunks. I won’t get this again, but there are plenty of other delicious-sounding sandwiches to choose from.
There are no tables. It’s takeout only. Eat in your car if you must.
Open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 and Saturday from 11 to 4.
5185 Smith Road
Brook Park, OH 44142