Lately, Bottle Liquor and Deli in Morro Bay has hit the news for selling a winning lottery ticket, but you’ll also hit the jackpot there if you’re looking for great deli food at a great value.
Though an appreciative veteran of several local kitchens, when Nicholas Martinez took over the
manager job at Bottle Liquor 11 years ago he had decided that “I was never going to cook in a restaurant again.” However, “we did talk about maybe doing a deli sometime,” he said.
That idea began to take shape a few years ago, when owner Chuck Harper started eyeing a top-to-bottom remodel of his entire store, which his father bought about 30 years ago said Martinez. By the time all was said and done, Bottle Liquor and Deli reopened in June 2009 with a new kitchen and a versatile menu, both designed by Martinez.
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“We care about options,” said Martinez. “That’s why there’s so much to choose from, not only in the deli, but also in the liquor and beer and wine selections.”
Though Bottle Liquor is becoming known for its food, it’s still a place where you can find beverages, snacks, staples and even fishing lures.
Among the hot breakfast options are an eggs-and-sausage combo, biscuits and gravy and breakfast burritos topped with fresh-made pico de gallo. There’s also “a hot breakfast sandwich made with New York sausage, real cheddar and Edna’s English muffins.”
For lunch or dinner (the deli is open until 7 p.m.), you’ll have even more decisions to make, from sandwiches to burgers, salads to sides. A BLT, club sandwich and PB&J are among the “Cool Classics” you can order, while the fresh deli sandwiches offer a wide variety of ingredients to choose from, including capicola, low-sodium turkey and havarti cheese. Sizes depend on your choice of bread and whether you get a whole or half, “but our rule of thumb is one ounce of meat per inch of sandwich,” said Martinez.
Among the most popular grilled-to-order sandwiches are the pankocrusted, deep-fried chicken parmesan on a French loaf with marinara, and the pepper cheesesteak sandwich — think Philly cheesesteak but with pepper Jack cheese instead of Cheez Whiz.
Burgers are also a hot item, especially in the combo basket that includes Bottle Liquor’s fries. Martinez kicks up the crispy fries with a seasoning from Madagascar Spice & Trading, a company co-owned by local chef Len Gentieu of the culinary- themed Papagallo II yacht.
If you lean toward more vegetable-centric options, go for generous salads such as the Caesar or Chinese chicken — both tossed with house-made dressings— or choose from sandwiches such as the grilled veggie with pesto sandwich.
A riff on an item Martinez learned early on in his career from Mike Scanlon and Paul Fisher at Mother’s Tavern, this hot, open-faced sandwich on focaccia bread comes heaped with sun-dried tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, black olives, red onions, peppers, zucchini, provolone cheese and a touch of herb butter.
Much of the bustling deli business at Bottle Liquor is takeout, but a relaxed seating area in one of the store’s front corners offers room for about a dozen patrons. There are also a couple small tables outside, and Martinez said an outdoor deck is in the works that will hopefully be completed by next summer.
“We really want to cater to everybody,” said Martinez, “from construction workers to tourists to families coming by after school.”