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Photograph by George Sakkestad

Manwich: Chad Fields takes on one of his massive creations.

The Sandwich Project

Anchor Deli adds a second location full of hoagies for the truly hungry

By Janet Blaser

Over the years that I've been writing about food in this town, people have asked me lots of questions. "What's your favorite restaurant [for breakfast, lunch or dinner]?" "Why do 'they' do 'this' that way?" and "Why aren't there more delis around here?" Now, not everyone who's wanted more delicatessens has been from New York, or even L.A. Hardly. Despite their royal heritage as an edict issued by the Earl of Sandwich hundreds of years ago, sandwiches in this time and place serve a more down-to-earth clientele. I mean, think about it--can you even estimate how many sandwiches you ate while you were in elementary school?

Sandwiches serve a purpose: They're quick, easy, delicious and endlessly versatile. Chad Fields knows this, and knows it well. The former chef/owner of Popa's Restaurant has turned his bright, efficient space on Mission Street into an easy-in/easy-out expansion of the popular Anchor Deli near the drive-in theater on Soquel Drive. In the few weeks he's been open, Fields has been busy, to say the least. "There's been days we've had to close early because we ran out of bread," he says, shaking his head.

It was about 18 months ago that Fields, wife Suzanne and mom Sharon bought the original Anchor Deli, a local mainstay that's been around for 23 years. Fields was ready for a change; the three years of running Popa's, while immensely satisfying, had left him with precious little time to spend with his family. A quick turn-around and the doors opened again, with Chad working behind the high counter with the built-ins that used to hold wines now full of bags of bread. Just the name, Anchor Deli, gave them instant identification with what has become known as a reliable, consistent and quick place to get a good, solid lunch.

There's a certain working-class charm to going into a deli and getting a big sandwich custom-made to your exact desires. Fields works the medium well. You'll find a large, clear board on the wall with dozens of sandwich selections, ingredients, hot and cold choices, as well as house-made soups. "These sandwiches are not for the meek and wimpy," he says proudly. "These sandwiches attract very large men, those who like to eat."

Be hungry before you go, then, or have the need to feed many. The sandwiches come in three "sizes," measured by length: a 6-inch small ($4.90), 9-inch medium ($6.95) or (I kid you not) a 2-foot large ($16). And while that's dinner for my entire family of four, I have no doubt the "very large men" Fields spoke of happily consume the whole thing by themselves. Fields uses basic Italian bread to make his hoagies and piles them high with meats, cheeses and standard sandwich accouterments. He's been surprised at the popularity of certain sandwiches, like the pastrami and roast beef, but still dutifully acknowledges the abundance of vegetarians by offering prices for veggie sandwiches that reflect the absence of meat ($2.75-$3.75).

Ever the visionary, though, he's got plans in the making to satisfy his "inner chef." Once a month, the restaurant will offer one seating for a five-course, family-style dinner, reserved in advance. Out from storage will come the tablecloths, fine wines and Fields' barely latent talent on the line. This month's meal is already scheduled and completely booked by regulars who miss the Popa's menu and ambiance.

Will he really get more time at home? We'll see, but with plans for hot take-out dinners and catering, I wonder. You can find Anchor Deli No. 2 at 2332 Mission St., on the west side of Santa Cruz. Weekday hours are 10am-4pm and Saturday 10am-3pm. The deli is closed Sunday. Call 426.5141 to order ahead or for more info.

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From the February 9-16, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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