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Chef Andy Halvorsen
Chef Andy Halvorsen prepping corned beef for his fabulous Reuben. Photo by David Boylan
ColumnsFood & WineLick the Plate

Lick the Plate: Get the best chef-crafted sandwiches at Moto Deli

In the 700-plus Lick the Plate columns I’ve written for The Coast News, I don’t recall having the opportunity or the inclination to eat my way through the menu of a restaurant I’ve featured. The thought occurred to me recently as Moto Deli is in my neighborhood and I found myself ordering the same couple of sandwiches repeatedly.

If you recall the previous Lick the Plate features on Moto Deli, they were mostly focused on the chef-driven nature of the place, namely Chef Andy Halvorsen whose culinary resume could land him a gig at many of San Diego’s best restaurants.

One stop along his path that stood to out me was under Executive Chef Jeff Jackson at AR Valentien, which I consider a top three San Diego restaurant.

My point is, any chef with that background who directs his focus to sandwiches, well, there is a very good chance those sandwiches are going to rise above most, and in the case of Moto Deli, I’d say they are among the best in San Diego County.

Moto Deli Turkey Salad sandwhich
The Turkey Salad sandwich paired with Bambucha Kombucha Blueberry Tart. Photo by David Boylan

That backstory and qualifications aside, it was time for me to eat my way through the Moto Deli menu and given they are open until 8 p.m., I could spread my efforts between lunch and dinner.

I’m going to start on the lighter side of the menu, with sandwiches that are better suited, in my opinion, for lunch.  The Caprese with tomato, mozzarella, arugula, basil, onion, balsamic, olive oil on an Italian roll is a great one … and available with salami. I love this sandwich with or without the meat and this is now one of my favorites. You may hear me repeating that, by the way.

I’ve never had a Banh Mi sandwich outside of a Vietnamese restaurant but once again, I put my full confidence in Chef Halvorsen to deliver and that he does. And yes, it’s usually on a French-style baguette, but Andy’s Italian roll suits it just fine and well, it rocks. Chicken breast, pickled carrot and daikon, jalapeño, cilantro and Moto spread on that Italian roll make me very happy.

The Turkey Pesto sounds … I don’t want to say boring, that is until you read what the chef has happening on this sandwich. It starts on a toasted Italian roll with house-smoked turkey, arugula, pumpkin seed pesto, Moto spread and the option to add avocado and bacon, which I would suggest. In any other restaurant, this would be the star.

The Turkey Salad sandwich is the same way. It could fit in the “meh” category but not with the house-made smoked turkey (used in the Turketta sandwich), celery, onion, lettuce and tomatoes on squaw bread. Make sure you order a pickle with this one as it completes the multitude of textures happening.

My son Quinn is on somewhat of a vegetarian kick, which allowed me to sample the  Veggie sandwich. Now that I have, I’d order this for sure when I’m feeling the need for a light and healthy option. It consists of roasted red pepper hummus, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion, and avocado on an Italian roll.

The Italian is borderline lunch or dinner fare. If I did it for lunch, it would be wise to eat half and save the other half for later but there is no chance of that happening. The combination of hard salami, genoa salami, capicola, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion on Italian roll will make you forget about the chains out there providing decent, but not good like this Italian. It’s tough not ordering this every time.

I spent a good portion of the last Lick the Plate Moto Deli column waxing poetic about the Cubano as it is quite special. The pork belly, ham, cheddar, muenster, pickles and mustard on sourdough is a lusty, crazy good sandwich that I am limiting to a dinner experience or have a section of the afternoon carved out for a nap.

The Reuben fits into that same category. The house-made corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, 10,000 island (that’s what they call it) served on the side, on buttered rye bread is a monster of a sandwich and could be easily split. Of course, I ate the whole thing.

The Turketta sandwich is one of Chef Halvorsen’s most popular with its House-smoked turkey, bacon, cheddar, avocado, mostarda and Moto spread on squaw bread. Yep, it’s great.

So, the menu item that began this whole adventure is the Meatball Sub and it’s among the best I’ve had in that category. Not sure what the spice blend is with the marinara and provolone on an Italian roll, but geez is it good.

I will admit I’ve not made it to the Pastrami, BLT (shame on me), Egg Salad or Tuna Salad but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they are a cut above as well. All of the bread comes from O’Brien’s Boulangerie, which was a new discovery for me but obviously doing spectacular things with bread.

The side salad offerings are a must and the Mac Salad and Curried Sweet Potato Salad are both very good. That said, when I’m indulging in the heavier fare, I always go with the Super Greens Salad that has this amazing combination of kale, carrot, quinoa, cranberries, pepitas and turmeric mustard dressing.

That is my psychological healthy offset and hot dang if it’s not the best thing with kale in it I’ve ever had. I’ve found myself ordering two or three just to have on hand the next day. Oh, there are other salads, including a Cobb that looks fabulous, Caesar, and Moto Salad. Kids sandwiches and really good pickles are also available.

Sandwiches deserve chips and a solid carbonated beverage and for me, that is either Mexican Coke or my favorite, Bambucha Kombucha. I usually go for the Blueberry Tart or Hibiscus Rose.

That’s it. If you have not yet, give Moto Deli a try. Nice deck right on Coast Highway or take it home.