Expect far more than some sack lunch sandwich at Sammich Chicago-Italian deli in Ashland.
Sandwich-savvy owners Melissa McMillan and Chandra Corwin opened the hideaway deli at 424 Bridge St., across the boulevard from Southern Oregon University, on May 15 and have been slapping together mouth-watering stacks ever since.
"We've always known that we wanted to open a restaurant together, but we just didn't know what kind," said McMillan, 31. "Finally, we just decided to go for it with pretty much no money, and people are loving it. Everything we're doing is the old-school way ... we make everything from scratch or get it fresh from someone who does."
All of Sammich's bread comes from either La Baguette Hardware Cafe or SunStone Artisan Bakery in Ashland, most of the deli's veggies are grown and delivered fresh from Talent-based Fry Family Farm, and all of the meat comes from ranches in the Pacific Northwest, McMillan said.
"We try to stay within a 30-mile radius for all of our vegetables," McMillan said.
"No tomatoes until tomato season, but when that hits, we're going to have one raging BLT," she said earlier this month.
Sammich buys raw pork belly from Willow-Witt Ranch on Shale City Road outside Ashland and cures it in-house, McMillan said. "All of our meats are nitrate- and preservative-free — no additives — and we cure and smoke everything right here. We are committed to local, organic and great customer service," she said.
Corwin spent about eight months perfecting a brine for the deli's pastrami, she said, while the idea of opening a deli was still just a dream.
Between the pair, who are partners, there is about 25 years of restaurant experience, they said.
To open Sammich, Corwin, 32, quit her position as head chef at Cucina Biazzi, where she worked for about 10 years, winning Ashland Top Chef in 2010. Corwin also placed second in the 2011 Iron Chef of Oregon competition at Bite of Oregon in Portland.
"Things are off to a great start, and a lot busier than I was anticipating it would be," Corwin said. "I feel like I made the right decision. I always kind of had the dream of opening a deli, because I've always loved sandwiches."
McMillan has worked at Cucina Biazzi, Lark's Home Kitchen Cuisine, and Tabu Restaurant in Ashland, she said, and also coaches youth baseball in Ashland.
The pair came up with the name Sammich after reading a definition for the slang term on urbandictionary.com. According to the user-generated website, "sammich is a term reserved for only the holiest and mightiest of all sandwiches. A sammich is a true work of culinary art; a feast on a bun, if you will."
Some of Sammich's holiest and mightiest are the Chicago Italian beef, the ultra-juicy TimChan, which is a Chicago cheese steak, and pastrami, which has emerged as the deli's staple sandwich, the owners said.
"We've had New York Jews in here raving about the pastrami ... that says something," McMillan said.
Expect to spend at least $9 at the deli, unless the $7 grilled Tillamook Cheddar and Swiss cheese sandwich with tomato soup hits home, which it did for recent SOU graduate Hannah Kolni.
So far, it's her favorite sandwich at the deli, said Kolni, who was having a hard time choosing something different during her second trip back.
"It was just so good ... thick with a variety of flavors," she said.
"I hope that people discover this place. It seems like real people are running it."
The deli offers indoor and outdoor seating, and typically can be smelled before seen if a brisket is smoking. Its doors are open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and until 8 p.m. the rest of the week except Sunday, when it is closed.
The deli's Facebook page, "Sammich Ashland," is updated daily with specials.
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Talent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.