The Real Deal is Vegetarian Friendly
Home to such carnivorous concoctions as "The Clogger," The Real Deal is surprisingly veggie friendly.
Vegetarian diners at The Real Deal might assume that their choices at the popular Centre Street deli are extremely limited. The restaurant is renowned for such carnivorous creations as "The Clogger" ($7.59), a sandwich consisting of two-thirds of a pound of lean shaved steak with bacon, Genoa salami, and extra cheese, or the even more meaty "Frankenstein Burger" ($8.49), a sub made with a full 16 ounces of ground beef. But they would be wrong!
With its extensive menu of starters, salads, sandwiches, and pizzas, The Real Deal offers a surprising abundance of vegetarian dishes. I invited a group of friends, both vegetarian and not, to join me at The Real Deal to sample some of its many meatless options.
Meatless appetizers at the restaurant include French Fries ($2.99 pint, $3.99 quart), Cheese Fries ($4.49), Spicy Curly Fries ($3.49 pint, $4.49 quart), Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce ($5.99), and Onion Rings served with spicy Kick'n Bayou sauce ($4.99). Deep frying is a well-practiced art at The Real Deal. Everything arrived crisp, piping hot, golden brown, and not greasy.
We especially liked the Vegetarian Spring Rolls ($6.79), an unusual offering at this all-American deli, consisting of three wontons filled with shredded cabbage, soy, and carrots. Served on a bountiful bed of greens with a sweet chili dipping sauce, they would be proud to appear on the menu of any Asian fusion restaurant.
"Loaded Skins" (6.49) are ordinarily served with bacon but vegetarians who are not counting their calories can still enjoy the golden potato skins filled with melted cheese, green onions, and a side of sour cream. The choice and price (generally between $3 and $3.50) of the Soup of the Day changes regularly but often includes at least one vegetarian option. Mike Black, one of The Real Deal's owners, told us that the restaurant has recently featured fall flavors like Spiced Pumpkin Bisque and Squash and Apple soups.
Portions at The Real Deal are notoriously generous, and vegetarians can easily make a meal of their entree sized salads, all of which come with pita bread. These include the "Pacific Beach Salad" ($6.99), made of fresh baby greens, crumbled goat cheese, dried cranberries, pickled red onions, and cucumber, or the "Santa Barbara" ($6.79) with walnuts, mandarin oranges, and gorgonzola served on a bed or romaine. The "Mediterranean Salad" ($6.99) is made with fresh baby greens, feta cheese, cucumbers, mandarin oranges, olives, and pickled red onions. Romaine lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes, and black olives comprise the "Garden Salad" ($5.49). "Greek Salad" ($6.19) is the aforementioned "Garden Salad" with a generous scoop of feta cheese. Salads come with a wide and creative choice of dressings including zinfandel vinaigrette, lemon vinaigrette, balsamic, Italian, bleu cheese, peppercorn parmesan, Greek, ranch, honey mustard, Oriental honey ginger, and Caribbean mango vinaigrette.
Vegetarian sandwiches include two types of panini ($6.99), both of which are served on a toasted foccacia. The "Carmela Soprano" is made with roasted eggplant, provolone, roasted red peppers, spinach, and pesto mayonnaise. The "Portabella" panini, which we sampled, is an especially splendid combination of marinated mushrooms, spinach, tomato, red onion, and pesto mayo. Another veggie sandwich choice is the "Sicilian" ($5.99), a classic cold combination of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, and olive oil, or an eggplant parmesan sub ($5.99 small, $6.99 large) with provolone cheese.
So-called "Gangster Wraps" are available in two vegetarian varieties. The "Vinny Gorgeous" features havarti cheese with baby greens, tomato, alfalfa sprouts, and pickled red onions. The "Bugsy Siegel" wrap is made with provolone and Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onions, and carrots.
The Real Deal also offers two varieties of veggie burgers. Owner Black told us that the restaurant uses vegan Garden Burgers for both of these hearty sandwiches. The "Dr. Jekyl" burger ($7.29), served with fries, is a mammoth creation consisting of two veggie burger patties topped with grilled mushrooms, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pesto mayonnnaise. The "Zombie" burger ($6.49), also served with fries, is a spicy black bean burger accompanied with cheddar cheese, crushed avocado, lettuce, tomato, and red onion. Grilled cheese ($3.99) or grilled cheese with tomato ($5.49) can be made with your choice of quality Boar's Head brand American, cheddar, harvarti, provolone, Swiss, jalapeno, or Muenster. cheeses.
Vegetarian diners can also create their own custom sandwiches ($5.99 small or $6.79 large) with egg salad, or one of the cheeses mentioned above, and select from a wide array of breads and veggie garnishes. Most of the breads that The Real Deal uses are either baked on-premise, or sourced from The Real Deal's affiliate Sugar Bakery, which is right next door to the deli. These include white, wheat, light rye, pumpernickel, white or wheat wrap, and submarine, braided, foccacia, onion or bulky rolls. Garden choices include lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, hot peppers, carrot, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, roasted peppers, pickled red onions, and red onion, allowing customers to design a nearly infinite variety of meatless sandwiches.
At 18 inches round, The Real Deal's thin crust pizzas ($10.99) are huge. Veggie pizza toppings ($1.50) include mushrooms, portabella mushrooms, green peppers, sliced tomato, onion, basil, eggplant, and pineapple. The "Monte Bella" ($16.99) features portabella mushrooms, baby spinach, garlic, and fresh mozzarella. Even the non-vegetarians among us were pleased with the "Margherita" pizza ($14.99) that we tried. Cooked to perfection, it combined tomatoes, garlic, basil, fresh mozzarella, extra-virgin olive oil, and Romano cheese.
The Real Deal has a wide selection of hot and cold beverages including a full coffee bar offering lattes, mochas, and espresso. Desserts options, which also come from Sugar Bakery, include cupcakes, cookies, and other sweet treats. Owner Black told us that he is looking forward to the opening of a second Sugar Bakery this November in Roslindale Square, and that the addition will further improve The Real Deal's bakery operations.
When asked whether The Real Deal has many vegetarian customers, owner Mike Black replied, "Certainly! If it didn't sell, we wouldn't have it on the menu. But the most important thing to me is taste."
With its personable staff, fresh ingredients, expansive menu, and quality food, The Real Deal scores a tasty triumph, and deserves a capital "V" rating for Very Veg Friendly.
Located at 1882 Centre Street, The Real Deal (617-325-0754) is open Monday - Saturday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Delivery is available. Service is prompt and courteous but seating is limited especially during peak times. Parking is on-street only. The Real Deal also has a Jamaica Plain location.