When Poppies Deli was in its heyday, Michelle Lightfoot was something of an urban legend -- not "crocodiles in the sewer" urban legend, but an "I want to tell everyone I meet to eat there" urban legend. Lightfoot, who left Poppies right before its demise, recently set up shop for herself at deli seven20 (720 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, 513-381-3720).
While it's a little off the beaten path for a quick lunch, longtime fans should find their way back to Michelle's kitchen; she's building a new lunch Mecca.
True believers shouldn't be put off by the corporate-ness of deli seven20's immediate surroundings. The building's corporate office space and décor are rather bland, especially compared to the non-corporate personalities running the joint. There's no seating in the deli itself, but you can take your sandwiches and salads in the foyer and muse on why a basketball hoop is set up in the middle of potted plants and tables or you can take a quick walk back up to Lytle Park and enjoy your repast outside, wondering why a statue of Abe Lincoln is staring at you.
In the food department, Michelle's crew definitely has not lost their touch.
Old favorites like the Rin Dang Doo ($7) are back, as are the addictive homemade chips. But there are plenty of new items as well, such as the b.a.t.s. ($5) (bacon, arugula, tomato and sweet chili mayo), Portabella ($7) and Dino ($7.50) (Roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, pesto and a balsamic reduction) sandwiches and the Spinach ($7) and Greek ($6.50) salads.
We all begrudgingly passed on the special that day -- the Gobblin Olive (turkey with an olive tapenade) -- and ordered a La Jenny sandwich with turkey, Brie and jalapeno jelly ($7.50), the Portabella sandwich and a Salad 720 ($7) with blackened chicken ($8.50).
My coworker, who never met a Brie she didn't like, did find the focccia a little dense and flat-tasting, but we concluded that plainness was a plus with sandwiches that have such strong, flavorful ingredients. My other co-worker's Portobello sandwich was so colorful that I was getting a little giddy from the bright green of the arugula and bright red of the roasted peppers.
My salad with mixed greens, Roma tomatoes, avocado, toasted pine nuts, bleu cheese, bacon, chilled pasta and English cucumber was the freshest I'd had in an eon.
Don't forget to check out the new Take and Bake menu when you stop in; the deli is offering casserole items like chicken tortilla casserole ($20/serves four). Who knew -- lunch and dinner all in one stop! Grade: A
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