Restaurant News & Reviews

Lincoln Market and Deli in San Luis Obispo has gourmet flair and vintage character

The hefty Lincoln Ortega features turkey or beef, Ortega chilies, pepper jack cheese and avocado on sliced sourdough.
The hefty Lincoln Ortega features turkey or beef, Ortega chilies, pepper jack cheese and avocado on sliced sourdough. The Tribune

Neighborhood markets like Lincoln Market and Deli used to be the hub of their communities, “but this is one of the last of a dying breed,” said proprietor Linda Derks.

Introduced to the market as a customer when she worked nearby as director of dining services at The Villages, Derks recalled that “every time I came in here I thought how much potential it had.”

Perched at the corner of Lincoln and Broad in San Luis Obispo, the building dates back to the early 1940s, and originally was a market that served the residents of the surrounding Anholm Neighborhood.

“All that was the inspiration,” said Derks, who bought the business in December 2006. “To bring back the feel of the ’50s, but with contemporary touches,” and virtually every square inch of the market’s expansive interior has gotten some careful attention under Derks’ tenure.

Nods to the past such as a vintage freezer and historic photos are seamlessly woven in with modern updates like wireless access and a flat screen television.

To give the market’s indoor seating a community feel (there’s also a relaxing outdoor patio), Derks opted for seating along a window counter and at one big long table — an arrangement that easily accommodates quite a few diners in comfortable ebb and flow fashion. On any given day, the chairs might be occupied by solo diners, a group of beachgoers, a contracting crew, part of a soccer team, students, professionals from nearby offices, parents and their after-school charges, and other neighborhood residents.

In terms of foodstuffs and provisions, Lincoln Market and Deli fulfills both sides of the equation with an upscale flavor. As befitting a neighborhood market, there are everyday items such as sundries and sodas, but the majority of the shelves display fare such as premium ice creams, locally baked pastries, organic wine labels, and quality brewed coffee and iced tea. There’s also an entire aisle dedicated to gourmet chips, and yet another aisle or so showcasing an impressive selection of microbrews and imported beers.

As for the deli, “all our salads — like the twice-baked potato with bacon and chives — are house-made, and that makes a huge difference,” said Derks. There are also daily soups and specials such as pastas, or you can make up your own deli sandwich with meats, cheeses and about 10 kinds of bread. However, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with better combos than the 25-plus signature sandwiches available.

Standouts “on the hot side” of the signature menu include pastrami and Swiss on toasted rye; the Buffalo Bleu with chicken, spicy wing sauce, bleu cheese and onions on a French roll; and the Lincoln Ortega with turkey or beef, Ortega chilies, pepper jack cheese and avocado on sliced sourdough.

Sandwich offerings “on the cool side” encompass classics like a BLT, egg salad and a club sandwich, plus creations like the Tuscan Turkey with smoked mozzarella and basil pesto or the Strandwich — a hearty serving of roast beef, turkey, crispy bacon, cheddar cheese, jalapeño honey sauce and jalapeños on an onion roll.

Derks has relished the chance to revitalize Lincoln Market and Deli, and enthusiastically talks about plans for its future, but she does admit that “it’s been a lot of work and been very challenging.”

Though she has many years of experience in the food service industry — she was also the general manager at Novo — none of it involved running a market or deli. But she says, “it’s always rewarding putting your own skills to the test and I’m so grateful for the staff I have and for the fantastic neighborhood — they’ve all been very supportive.”

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