September 2, 2022 – There are some signs you’re ready for a good sandwich at the Reef Dog Deli in Capitola.
One is sitting right in front of the shop. “5 reasons to eat here,” it reads, then checks off “1. We’re family friendly; 2. We are serious about food made from scratch; 3. Nationally recognized sandwiches; 4. Homemade smoked meats; 5. In summary: we are awesome!
My favorite sign appears on a shelf in the window: “Do small things with great love.”
This little bit of kitsch clicks with the cute vibe of the place, which includes cheerful yellow accents, a large photo of the late, namesake large pup behind the ledger, and other intimate slogans like the one on the overhead beam (“Mai all those who enter as guests leave as friends”).
Other promising signs: the recommendation of Edible editor Deborah Luhrman; the happy band of people snacking in the small adjacent park; and the robust dish of the day listed on the chalkboards inside and out, namely the BLT with summer heirloom tomatoes, pork belly bacon, garden basil, cucumber, leaves lemon wedges and pesto mayonnaise on toasted sourdough. (Personal note: a good sandwich deserves toast.)
The BLT hints at the attention to detail that shines with every sandwich on the backrest here.
The Foxy Loxy, for example, isn’t your grandpa’s turkey hoagie. House-smoked turkey is served on a grilled ciabatta with melted peppercorn peanut, cranberry compote and achiote-spiced pickled root salad.
The Happy Cow, meanwhile, demonstrates that vegetarians are not an afterthought. This happens through stuffed and marinated mushrooms, smoked eggplant, grilled peppers and onions, melted provolone, chimichurri, spicy olive aioli and baby spinach, also over grilled ciabatta.
The most visually irresistible gets meaty: The Reefy’s House-Smoked Stacks Beef Brisket Pastrami, Melted Old Vermont Cheddar, Onion Jam and Whole Grain Mustard over Grilled Jewish Rye.
On a recent visit, my taste buddy and I shared The Surf Trip, complete with spice-crusted local halibut, savory celeriac remoulade, pickled red onions, gochujang chili paste mayonnaise and young shoots.
There isn’t a surplus of outstanding fish sandwiches on Monterey Bay, and this one belongs on the shortlist.
We also delved into the soup of the day, a roasted fennel and tomato number with its own thoughtful touches – homemade croutons and tangy chimichurri – along the way.
The soup is a solid representative of clever supporting cast like deviled egg dip, jalapeño pickles and pickled Sicilian olives. Paired with grab-and-go sandos like half-Italian charcuterie or roast beef, it’s a potent picnic ready for the nearby beach.
Longtime chef Anthony Kresge, who co-owns the place with his wife Jennet, brings a boatload of local culinary credibility to bear. He has worked or consulted on name check spots like Shadowbrook, Sotola, Vino Cruz, Seabright Deli and Belly Goat Craft Burgers.
He “traded the tweezers for the smoker,” to use his parlance, in November 2020, which means a two-year anniversary is on the horizon.
The Kresges plans to celebrate with a brand change in the gastronomic sense as Reef Dog Deli, Provisions and Fine Food with more customizable and affordable sandwiches, a selection of beers and wines, Buddha bowls and marinated meats at take-out, seafood and select items. .
The only thing missing is Reef itself, but it’s definitely there in spirit. (He died Feb. 6, 2021, or 2/6, overlooking 26th Street after a lifetime of hitting the beach for the day or visiting neighbors’ backyard parties.)
Anthony describes him as “everyone’s friend”.
“Reef was loving, dedicated, committed, sincere, passionate and happy,” says Anthony. “As a customer, these are the characteristics of the type of places I want to go.”
Now he and his team have cultivated just that.
More at reefdogdeli.com.
Mark C. Anderson is a writer, photographer, editor, and explorer based in Seaside, California. Join @MontereyMCA via Instagram and Twitter.