The Deli’s new owner looks to continue tradition of ‘one of Lexington’s best kept secrets’

People in Lexington have been leaving their law offices, government buildings and downtown shops for the past 30 years to grab lunch at a local institution. As the new owner of The Deli, Crystal Smith is looking to keep the tradition of friendly service and quality food going while also eyeing expansion.

The Deli is still going strong after 30 years. (photo by Rachel Ham)

The Deli is still going strong after 30 years. (photo by Rachel Ham)

The lunch counter at The Deli was opened in 1985 by Dick and Sandy Coleman, who purchased the former Sub City and renamed the eatery. They operated The Deli on Columbia Avenue until 1993 when they relocated to Lexington’s Main Street.

When Dick’s health declined, the Colemans sold The Deli to Rita and Nick Autry, and the Autrys kept dishing up customers’ favorites like the Pub Delight and Hungry Man sandwiches. The restaurant changed hands once more in January when Smith left the corporate restaurant business to take over the locally owned eatery.

Smith, a lifelong Lexington resident, says that even though The Deli isn’t staying in the Coleman family, it is staying in the community.

The Deli’s kitchen underwent minor renovations, but Smith doesn’t plan to shake things up too much. She also has the support of Pat Mitchell, who joined the kitchen staff during the Autrys’ ownership and still works at The Deli today.

“There’s been quality and consistency in the menu,” Smith said. “This is one of Lexington’s best kept secrets.”

People can order from a varied menu of soups and salads, cold cuts, deli sandwiches or one of The Deli’s Ultimate Super Subs like the Cheeseburger Sub. Smith also is working to improve the catering menu.

Response has been positive so far, and Smith already has extended the hours of operation. She said she might add dinner-style entrees to the menu to offer customers more variety, and several customers have offered to submit family recipes. Smith’s own salsa recipe will be making an appearance on the menu soon.

“I have to have Lexington County tomatoes for it,” she said.

She also said expanding the existing restaurant and adding a second location are strong possibilities for the future.

“I’m keeping my eyes open (for space),” she said.

Smith in the meantime is enjoying the daily interaction with customers and getting immediate feedback from them as she often serves as a waitress herself.

“I want to make their dining experience as best as possible,” she said.

The Deli is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Visit The Deli in person at 821-F East Main St. or online for more information on the menu and catering or available job opportunities. The restaurant also is hiring wait staff and kitchen staff.

Categories: Business, Lexington County