Located right on the Village’s main street, the deli is owned and operated by John and Maureen Gutierrez.
Formerly home to Baxter’s Men’s Clothing Store, the deli’s roomy interior offers several seating options, but the prime seats are on the expansive patio that John constructed. It’s a relaxing spot to hang out, especially for the live music gigs during early evenings on summer weekends — bands on Friday and mellower acoustic sounds on Saturday.
For Maureen Gutierrez, the deli is a different aspect of the food industry she grew up in and in which she later worked. Her father was employed by a large company that supplied food for airlines, and Gutierrez later went to work at various food service areas at LAX.
When she and John moved their family to the Central Coast in the early 1980s, she got out of the business entirely and spent a decade at the San Luis Obispo Post Office.
However, “every time we walked through the Village, we’d say ‘This (Baxter’s) could be a really cute restaurant,’” Gutierrez remembered.
As the story goes, Mary Baxter (or “Mrs. B,” as the Gutierrezes came to call her) was less convinced of the merits of an eatery on the site of her former establishment, but she eventually relented and ultimately even made it possible for the couple to purchase the building from her.
“People have been very good to us, and we’ve got very loyal customers — you become friends,” Gutierrez said. That rapport has helped guide the Branch Street deli menu so that it’s very user-friendly, whether you want to grab a quick weekday lunch, take the family out for a summertime supper, or just catch up with friends over a piece of pie and coffee.
In developing the initial menu, “we were trying to think of something a little different that the Village didn’t have,” Gutierrez said. “Since then, we expanded it a lot,” mainly due to customer suggestions and adding kitchen amenities such as a fryer, barbecue and simply more space. Another project recently completed, again thanks to John’s construction skills, was the addition of a dozen beer taps.
Of course, the deli has a wide array of hot and cold sandwiches, most made with Farb’s Bread from San Luis Obispo.
Among the most popular are the in-house roasted prime rib with caramelized onions and au jus, the Ortega Jack chicken breast and the freshly made tuna or chicken-salad sandwiches. The “daily creation” might be yet another sandwich like turkey, bacon and avocado on sourdough, and there are wraps ranging from a Greek with ham, a Baja chicken bacon or a hearty veggie on a tomato tortilla.
“Also, a lot of people don’t think of us as having burgers,” noted Gutierrez. The half-pounders definitely cover the basics — including the Original with caramelized onions, the bacon cheeseburger and a patty melt — and any can be made with turkey or meatless veggie patties. For sides, go for fries or the crispy fried zucchini.
Soups and salads offer some lighter options, whether it’s the freshly made soup-of-the-day, a Chinese chicken salad or tri-tip salad. Dressings are served on the side, by the way, so you can drizzle to your heart’s content.
In addition to a great customer base, Gutierrez added that “we couldn’t do any of this without our wonderful employees. A couple of them have been with us since the beginning, and in a little place like this, that really means a lot — they’re like family to us.”
Branch Street Deli
203 Branch St. (in the Village), Arroyo Grande | 489-9099 | branchstreetdeli.com
Hours: Daily, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The scene: A neighborhood deli with seating indoors and outside on the expansive, dog-friendly patio (contact the deli for patio rental/reservation options).
The cuisine: A wide-ranging menu offers sandwiches and wraps, soups and salads, hot dogs and burgers, plus hard cider, local wine and both draft and bottled beer; some catering services also available.
Expect to spend: Almost all items $6-$8.