Stone Cold Swagger
By Bill Gerdes
Sigmund Freud famously—and apocryphally—once said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” and to that I’d like to add that sometimes a deli is just a deli, no, not the latest foodista nook serving deconstructed sobrassada empanadas from Bilbao, nor the latest foo-chic spot with eight salads on the menu, seven of which rely heavily on pine nuts. Cobblestone Bakery & Deli is a simple well . . . a bakery and deli. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.
It’s an understated place, with an understated layout. There’s a soda fountain near the entrance and then a series of simple tables. A wicker stand with bags of artisanal chips sits in front of the cash register. On the Saturday I stopped in, the film Spaceballs played incongruously on a television to my right. Mel Brooks and John Candy discussed the “Schwartz” as I gazed across at their bakery display, which seems to have been depleted by a steady stream of customers throughout the morning. A few pastries with an Easter Bunny motif appear to have survived until the afternoon. A chalkboard lists the breakfast options: breakfast burrito, croissant, and bagel, minimalism in almost morning haiku form.
But I’m here for lunch. I start off trying one of the specialty sandwiches, a buffalo chicken on Panini bread, no understatement here. Nope, I’m hit by tangy, spicy, yet sweet buffalo chicken sauce that’s so loaded with swagger that it overwhelms the rest of the sandwich in a rout, leaving me gasping at my Coke in a buffalo chicken induced state of bliss. Like all of the baked goods and deli salads, my coleslaw is made on-site. Nice. It comes in a crappy plastic cup. Not as nice. It’s vinegary, peppery perfection, and suddenly who cares what it comes served in?
I next try the roasted turkey breast, a humongous affair on French bread, and laden with lettuce, Vermont cheddar, purple onions and mayonnaise. Again, there’s nothing intrinsically “wow” to the thing, nothing show-offy or even terribly creative. It’s only quite tasty. And huge. Prodigiously so, and unlike the sort of similar monstrosity one might get at a chain, it’s relatively subtle, with the side bonus of not being so slathered in condiments as to become syrupy glop slapped on top of squaw, rye or whatever. There’s a massive array of meats, cheeses and condiments to choose from at Cobblestone, so one could catch many a lunch here before growing tired of the menu. They’ve got hot options like the Reuben and the French dip, pies, Danishes, and they can whip up a mean cake. You’ll just have to deconstruct it on your own time.
Cobblestone Bakery & Deli, 8304 Limonite Ave., Riverside, (951) 685-6161; www.cobblestonbakery.com. Open at 7AM, closed Sunday and Monday. MC, V.