On Montauk Avenue in New London, just south of the L+M Hospital campus, is a snug building housing two small but hugely important businesses - to folks like me, anyway. One is the Yankee Clipper liquor store - hurray for beer! - and the other is the relatively new Bobby B's, a deli/catering operation with great promise.
Area residents probably remember the previous occupants at the Bobby B's address. For a long time, it hosted a muffin/coffee bodega; more recently, a Kansas City-style barbecue joint was there.
Bobby B's isn't breaking any new conceptual ground: the earnest, hardworking Bobby and his crew churn out basic breakfast choices, soups and salads, simple desserts, and stalwart deli sandwiches - but everything is very good and lovingly crafted to order.
Because of the limited space, emphasis is on take-out, but it's also possible to enjoy on premises. The front of the house has two tall-top tables and window-front counter space for six or seven customers. There's a big screen television, an always simmering pot of fresh coffee, newspapers for perusal, and friendly banter. There are also a few outdoor tables for when the local weather decides we're not Mississippi.
We discovered Bobby B's because my wife, Eileen, and I pass it in the course of our daily walk, which follows a rigorous, Tour d' France-like course. The typically absurd way I came to actually sample Bobby B's was on a Saturday morning, when - gamboling along in mid-exercise - we veered off path and into Bobby B's for a few bottles of water from their cooler of beverages and juices.
Five minutes later, we emerged with the H20 - and with me clutching a huge bacon/egg/cheese bagel ($4.25), which I then happily munched for the next mile or so. A good idea, health-wise? Probably not.
But it was a truly fine sammich: several stalks of very crisp bacon, a fluffy fried egg and, as per my request, Swiss cheese: all structured aerodynamically on one of the fresh bagels brought to Bobby daily from Brooklyn.
At that point, I was sorta hooked, and we're working our way through the menu. Examples:
• Eileen favors another breakfast sandwich, which includes scrambled egg, cheddar and fresh-sliced tomatoes on a hard roll ($3.50) - and it should be pointed out that, beyond sandwiches, there are wraps with options such as chorizo and pastrami, French toast and pancakes, and a sirloin steak & eggs platter.
• There are home-baked muffins (two for $4.50). Every day is different, but a recent morning provided blueberry and chocolate chip. Both were huge and just-out-of-the-oven warm.
Muffin tops are hip - people think they're the best part of a muffin and that probably started with a "Seinfeld" episode - but these are truly fine all the way through. A moist, cake-y pastry with copious mini chocolate chips and - while there could have been more of them - flavor-explosion blueberries.
• You can get a corned beef or pastrami sandwich with your choice of bread and cheese and, if so desired, "Reubenized" ($7.25). The basic corned beef with Swiss on rye with mustard is a veritable sculpture: a large clump of sliced, brine-happy, utterly lean beef with the softly melting Swiss - all moistening the fresh rye in that fine deli fashion. Beautiful.
• I've also enjoyed the honey BBQ pulled pork with cheddar and crunchy slaw on a Brioche roll ($7). This is a monstrous construct - a fist-sized heap of tangy, tender, shredded pork, coated (but not too heavily) in the honey. The melted cheddar and slaw sing simple but sweet harmony.
• The Veggie Lovers ($7) consists of grilled mushrooms, roasted red pepper, zucchini, summer squash and red bell pepper mingled with crumbled feta on a Panini bread that seems a sourdough/ciabatta hybrid. There's a toothsome, chewy bite to the bread, which is sliced vertically rather than the horizontal cut of most panini presentations. In this fashion, the huge amount of fresh veggies held form. Too, the feta didn't get gooey in the press. Nice.
• I think it was Churchill, or possible Andrew Jackson, who said that the backbone of a nation is only as strong as its citizens' best chicken salad. Bobby B does just fine, thank you: his version ($6.50, $7 on a grinder roll) has big cubes of tender breast meat, not too much mayo to goop it all up, a bit of celery for texture, and a big sprinkling of black pepper. Throw on some Swiss, tomato and shredded lettuce - and conquer worlds.
Important to note: there is a lot of sidewalk construction taking place on Montauk. Don't let this deter you. Call ahead if you want, but try this place. Oh, and Bobby B's delivers - including to boats and the waterfront. They also do catering gigs - and look for them on-site this weekend at Sailfest.