34th Street Deli 

3409 Chinden Blvd., 208-336-1903. Mon.-Fri., 6 a.m.–2 p.m.

The 34th Street Deli is actually located on Chinden Boulevard, not 34th Street as the name implies. It occupies a spot in Garden City between the Sun-liner Motel and Garden City Tattoo and across Chinden from the VFW Bingo Hall. I was prepared for an interesting visit. However, I was not fully prepared for what we found.

I met my wife there for lunch one weekday, surprised to find that the deli and the tattoo parlor were connected. Both businesses are owned and operated by Leonard Maddux. I was also surprised to find a junior version of Maddux ducking behind the counter and hopping up on a crate behind the cash register to take our order.

By "junior," I mean young enough to be in school on a weekday. I asked him about his role helping at the deli, assuming he was there because maybe school was out for the day. Instead, he explained that he's homeschooled. Thinking he looked about the age of one of my young daughters, I asked what grade he was in. He said he's in third grade, but added matter-of-factly that he's "in fifth grade math."

After questioning the young cashier, I looked at the large menu board hanging near the cash register and saw that it featured mostly typical deli fare with one very pleasant surprise, Aussie meat pies. It turns out that Maddux spent some time in Australia before moving to Boise and opening his first tattoo parlor here. Having been to Australia and enjoying Aussie meat pies ourselves, my wife and I were excited to see them offered in Idaho.

The good news was that they were on the menu; the bad news was they weren't in stock. Making a mental note to come back again, I ordered the daily special, a Texas barbecue plate ($6.50) with a medium Diet Pepsi ($1.25). My wife opted for a tuna salad sandwich ($4) with a side of Greek tomato salad ($2.50) and a small Pepsi ($1).

We sat down in a small seating area between the deli and the tattoo shop, in which the walls are covered with photographs of old Maddux family photos from more than 50 years ago, along with more current pictures of motorcycles and tattoos.

When our food arrived, my wife found her sandwich was quite substantial—ample tuna salad filling between thick slices of bread. Her salad was less satisfying. After one bite, she noted, "we're not in Greece." The roast beef on my platter was a bit tough but the flavorful barbecue sauce made that less noticeable. The side of potato salad was unexceptional, but the flavorful garlic toast made up for it.

Later, I went back with Dave, a co-worker, hoping for better luck on the Aussie meat pies. The young boy—whose name, I learned, is Devin—was behind the counter again. Unfortunately, the Aussie meat pies were again not available so, I had to settle for something else.

Dave and I both ordered the meatloaf sandwich special ($5.50). Dave ordered a bowl of chili ($3 with grated cheese on top at no extra charge) and a side of macaroni salad ($2.50) and I got a green pea salad ($2) with mine. The sandwiches featured thick slabs of meat loaf between warm slices of bread along with an barbecue sauce. The sauce added a lot because the sandwiches would have been a bit dry otherwise. Dave's said while he prefers chili with more distinct ingredients, he thought the cheese topping was a nice touch.

My pea salad—a mix of green peas, bacon and water chestnuts—was a refreshing accompaniment. Dave's macaroni salad earned high praise, too. "It's one of the best I've ever had," he said, adding, "It's the best part of the meal."

If you go to the 34th Street Deli, you'll probably be waited on by the homeschooled third-grader who's in fifth-grade math. And, if you're lucky, you might even find Aussie meat pies in stock. If so, order one for me, too.

—Curt Nichols excelled in fifth-grade math.

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