Nashville’s “delicatessen community” is defined primarily by sandwich chains and delis in large corporate grocery stores.
David Mitchell is trying to change that.
In March 2008, Mitchell opened Mitchell Delicatessen in Inglewood’s Riverside Village. The full-service deli has become an East Nashville staple, providing natural meats and cheeses (which can be purchased by the pound — in true deli style), sandwiches and soups.
Mitchell Deli also offers the area’s only salad bar, a defining characteristic that is as significant to David Mitchell’s business plan for success as it is to East Nashville’s fast-changing restaurant climate.
Customers have taken note.
“I’m responsible for David having oatmeal,” Barry Bonifay, who visits Mitchell Deli almost daily, said with a chuckle. “His cranberry almond oatmeal is one of the great delicacies in Nashville.”
Mitchell’s background prepped the young businessman well for venturing into the deli world. He was working in the food service department at the Green Hills Whole Foods (and, prior to that, in the deli at Wild Oats) when he decided Nashville’s deli culture needed a profile boost. At the time, the city boasted of few indie-owned authentic delis (depending on how you define “deli”), with standard-bearer Noshville, Arcade fave Phillip’s and the now-closed Goldie’s leading the pack.
An Eastwood Neighbors resident, Mitchell visualized culinary-savvy East-siders as perfect potential customers. He found Dan Heller’s Riverside Village space — hoagie-sandwiched between what are now Sip Café and Watanabe — and worked with his father to transform it. Mitchell Deli was an instant hit.
Of course, a cynic could argue that any deli in Nashville will be popular, as the city’s authentic delicatessen offerings rank slightly ahead of its Peruvian cuisine options (meaning non-existent).
“With supermarkets being the prominent way that people buy their groceries in Nashville, it is easier for the customers to have a ‘one-stop shop,’” Mitchell said. “Whereas, in larger cities, there is less of a supermarket presence and more mom-and-pop grocers. You go to the neighborhood baker, butcher and delis to get your groceries for the week.”
Most of the nation’s best old-school neighborhood delis are in large cities in the North, and Mitchell has taken some cues from those. Obviously, he opened his restaurant in a mixed-use district, with both commercial and residential. Also, bagels are big at MD. The eatery offers daily specials and, like any delicatessen worth its salt, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Mitchell said some of his customers who have moved to Nashville from other cities are pleased to see Mitchell Deli.
“A lot of people who have transplanted to here, that’s one of the first things they say,” he said of his attempt to give the east side a slice of, say, Philadelphia or Boston delicatessen life.
Walking through the Mitchell Deli door might not spur a feeling of stepping into a New York City deli, but the vibe is inviting, all the better to bolster some tasty food.
On a recent visit, this writer enjoyed avocado soup and a grilled veggie sandwich (toasted hoagie with squash, zucchini, bell pepper, onions, lettuce, tomato and mayo). Highly recommended.
A quick look at the Mitchell Deli menu reveals various tempting gourmet sandwiches, including a turkey, avocado and bacon (featuring Benton’s bacon and cheddar cheese); a Reuben (locally raised corn beef, sauerkraut, Thousand Island and Swiss cheese on a toasted light rye bun); and a muffalatta (mortadella, prosciutto, sopressata, provolone and olive tapenade on a toasted hoagie). Sandwiches range from $4.99 to $7.99.
Breakfast offers Benton’s bacon, house-made sausage, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, biscuits, gravy and bleu cheese grits, while four style of bagels round out the robust fare.
Of note, deli platters (comprising meats, cheeses, veggies, salads and fruits) and box lunches are available for large groups. Catering is also provided.
In addition to the salad bar, David Mitchell has a well-stocked cooler with various drinks (including the hard-to-find Combucha Juice), specialty meats and cheeses, a small yet pleasant dine-in area and (in the back) an herb garden.
Mitchell buys his breads from Clarksville-based Silke’s Old World Breads and, after originally using exclusively vendors, now obtains much of his produce from the Nashville Farmers Market.
“Last year. when the gas crisis struck its all-time high, I noticed that all my vendors were charging me fuel costs,” he recalled. “Because I receive produce on a daily basis, I was hit with a fuel charge every day. So I decided to go to the Nashville Farmers Market. I realized that I could hand-pick local produce for less than what I was paying to have ‘commercial produce’ delivered to me.”
Mitchell said Randy Boone at Barnes Produce has been his major supplier of homegrown tomatoes, squash, peppers and fruit, all grown throughout the state.
“So not only am I getting a better deal on higher quality products and supporting the local economy and farmers, but I’m also reducing my carbon footprint because I buy local,” Mitchell said. “It’s a win-win.”
Customers see that win-win. To date, Mitchell said former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell, members of Louisville-based jam band My Morning Jacket and Nashville Predators star Jordin Tootoo are among the restaurant’s well-known visitors.
1402 McGavock Pike
7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays