Our Gourmet: It’s easy to like the Big Easy Deli

January 16. 2018 6:26PM
Sesame bagel with lox, onions, tomatoes, capers and lox cream cheese at the Big Easy Deli on Brown Avenue in Manchester. 
Big Easy
Pine Island Plaza, 2626 Brown Ave., Manchester; 641-3354 (no website)

Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.

Cuisine: Fresh-baked New York-style bagels; breakfasts, delicatessen sandwiches; baked goods, soups and salads.

Pricing: All bagels with toppings and egg-breakfast sandwiches (except two) under $6; all other items on menu under $8.

The scores for Big Easy
Atmosphere: 18/20
Menu: 18/20
Food: 18/20
Service: 19/20
Value: 20/20
TOTAL: 93/100

Bagel fans and delicatessen aficionados who have not been to the Big Easy have somehow missed a special little gem on Brown Avenue that has been around for more than 20 years.

But there is still time, sandwich lovers, because the Big Easy isn’t going anywhere and breakfast and lunch treats are available six days a week.

We happened upon this friendly little place many years ago, but admittedly did not patronize Big Easy very often. Shame on us.

Recently, however, we’ve found ourselves in the neighborhood more often, so we made a point of a breakfast outing one recent Saturday, just before noontime, and we’re here to report it’s thriving on Saturdays at about that time when brunch is a natural.

Big Easy bakes its bagels — every day, about 20 varieties — but only after boiling them in water, which makes them shine and hold their flavor inside a slightly crispy crust. That is an authentic New York-style bagel, so if you like your bagels with the works, go for it. A toasted bagel with a very thin spread of butter is a good start, then pile on the cream cheese, Norwegian lox (smoked salmon), sliced red onions, tomatoes and capers.

But wait, there is lots more. Garden salads, grilled chicken salads, Greek, chef, Caesar, tuna or chicken-salad salads are available, along with soup specials, sweet potato fries, and grilled chicken sandwiches, which come on any variety of bagel or bialy, or a wrap or bulkie roll or breads of wheat, white, dark and light rye with just about any type of deli meat you can think of. Sandwiches are piled high and well dressed.

Breakfast offers any combination of eggs, bagels (with more than a dozen flavors of cream cheese), breakfast meats and grilled veggies.

The sandwich menu offers 20-plus deli sandwiches, along with a dozen specialty open-faced bagel sandwiches, which include pizza and other melted-cheese combinations. Notables here include a Broccoli Melt ($6.99) with two kinds of cheese and an herb-garlic spread, and a Turkey Pizza Melt ($7.99) with Swiss and cheddar, turkey meat, a tomato-basil spread, and peppers and onions.

We’ve enjoyed several of the deli sandwiches to go, and there is a method to Big Easy’s success between the slices. We complimented the chef one day on her sandwich-making skill, and soon learned that “Edges are everything!” when building a proper sandwich — side-to-side, front-to-back coverage. We wholeheartedly agree. When the edges are ignored, you’ve got at least 4-5 bites of mostly dry, unattended bread. That is not exciting. Nor is it understood, even slightly, by most chain-store sandwich makers.

All sandwiches come with an large, authentic slice of deli pickle, most recently of the half-sour variety. There is no better pickle than a half-sour, in our opinion.

Most notable among the sandwiches, in our limited experience, is the roast turkey breast sandwich ($6.99) with tomatoes and Russian dressing on light rye, and the simple but outstanding pastrami ($7.69) with Swiss cheese and New York-style deli mustard, which is spicily better than yellow and not as tart as Dijon.

We have also tried the Corned Beef Reuben ($8.09), with melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing, both in-house and to go. We recommend eating the Reuben in-house, when it’s fresh off the grill, warm and robust.

On our Saturday breakfast jaunt, we grabbed the last available table and there was a steady stream of folks lined up for takeout, or ordering a meal and hoping for a table. After you order at the counter, servers bring your food to your table, and Big Easy’s cheerful staff is quick to clear and clean tables when they open up.

Egg combinations on bagels with fried potatoes seemed to be a big favorite among the crowd this day, so we enjoyed an egg/ham/melted cheese sandwich on a spinach bagel, and the Norwegian lox and cream cheese concoction described above on a sesame bagel. For added authenticity, we ordered some scallion cream cheese ($3.95 for an 8-ounce tub) to go with the lox-spread that came with the bagel, and to bring some cheese home.

A hearty, tasty breakfast/lunch it was, with coffee and orange juice to get the day started. The ham/egg/cheese was like a small omelet between two slices of bagel. Delicious.

The bakers at Big Easy also put out homemade muffins, cinnamon buns and other Danish, along with cookies and brownies.

This is a great place to eat, and the friendly atmosphere extends from the back of the kitchen to the front door. Big Easy has the feel of a neighborhood favorite, and the three women who were cooking, serving, hostessing and cashiering were as family-friendly and lively as the crowd.

Over the years we have found that the selection of authentic delis and shops that bake real New York-style bagels is sparse in New Hampshire, but Big Easy’s chefs have been serving up great bagels and deli sandwiches with all the trimmings for a long time now. They are very good at what they do. And Big Easy is easy to find, in the northern portion of Pine Island Plaza.

So now, gourmands, better late than never, get thee to the Big Easy, and eat well!

Our GourmetManchester

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