In many ways, Deli George's location--the back half of a Carl's Jr. on Broadway Avenue--serves as a metaphor for the lunch spot as a whole.
Both the interior and exterior design are unmistakably Carl's Jr. But just as Deli George has dressed the space up with art and plants to wash away the sterility of the carbon-copy fast-food joint, so has it dressed up the conceptual trappings of the deli. Deli George still does hot and cold sandwiches, salads and even meats and cheeses, but it makes them its own.
The Red Reuben ($5.99 half, $8.59 whole) is a good example. Instead of corned beef and 'kraut doused in 1000 Island, it features roasted pork and tangy red cabbage slathered with stone-ground mustard. And if you don't like that, you can go right back to the standard Righteous Reuben ($5.99 half, $8.59 whole), which satisfies the traditionalists. Neither redefine lunch, but both are tasty, reasonably priced and stand alone.
On a recent trip, the cashier recommended a cheesesteak as one of the spot's signature offerings. Deli George has five to choose from, all of which feature a variety of different toppings. In the case of the Kuna Cheesesteak ($6.99), pastrami replaces steak.
I went with the Bacon Steak'n Mushroom ($8.29), which featured thin-sliced rib eye, bacon, sauteed mushrooms, grilled onions, Swiss cheese, provolone cheese, mayo and lettuce on a French roll.
When I sat down, an employee assured me that the sandwich was "so good you'll die."
Thankfully, I lived. Otherwise, how could I tell the tale of a tasty lunch?
Conceptually, a cheesesteak may be a cheesesteak may be a cheesesteak. But there is still some wiggle room in there, mostly in the realm of ingredient quality. And Deli George wiggled in a good direction. Aside from overflowing with a green scourge of shredded lettuce, Deli George's cheesesteak was top-notch. There wasn't a touch of stringiness in the steak or a fatty patch in the bacon. The restaurant may still have looked a bit like a Carl's Jr., and delivered the food almost as quickly, but the sandwich tasted straight out of a classy bar and grill.
Going to Deli George for the first time takes a bit of work. And even though the sign is upside down--a mistake made by a sign painter that the restaurant kept for branding purposes--it is actually open. But if you're looking for a sit-down quality sandwich at fast-food speed, you won't do better in downtown Boise.