There’s a new restaurant in University City, off of the Loop and on North and South Road, a few doors down from . I stopped in at Frida’s Deli (622 North and South Rd) when it was less than a week old. The restaurant itself is tiny—if you come with a party more than two, don’t expect to find a table. With only five tabletops and a small counter, there’s little room for anything more than ordering. Even the bathroom requires a walk behind the counter and through the kitchen.
The space is more about grabbing and going—perfect for the lunch crowd in and around U City. The deli brings something that and do not: a completely vegetarian menu. Not only is their menu strictly vegetarian, but it also features a number of vegan and raw items as well.
Frida’s menu includes sandwiches (hot and cold), salads, a few soups, and an extensive juice and smoothie list. Additionally, customers have the option to build their own sandwich, salad or juice. The build your own sandwich, for examples, offers a number of breads, proteins (no meat!), cheeses (including vegan options), vegetables, and sauces, allowing one an abundance of options to meet whatever it is he or she is craving.
My husband and I opted to try two of their hot sandwiches. Despite the 100 degree heat, you can’t beat melted cheese on warm bread and we decided to split the Mushroom Rueben (marinated mushrooms, sauerkraut, tomato, swiss cheese, and avocado) and the steak sandwich (steak seasoned house-made seitan, white cheddar, and roasted onions).
I was interested in trying their house-made vegan burger, but they’d already sold out for the day—disappointed as I was, I took this as a good sign that business is booming!
While we waited for our food, we sipped from glasses of orange water (house-made, and delicious!) and peeked in their beverage cooler, which included a number of beverages, most with a healthy bent. At Frida’s you won’t find Dr. Pepper but you will find agave-sweetened cola, kombucha (a fermented tea), and coconut water.
Our sandwiches arrived on brightly colored glass plates. Frida’s is definitely “walking the talk” when it comes to a green restaurant. All real plates and silverware (though I’m not sure what they give the to-go orders), no trash cans (just bins—they take everything to separate and compost), and laminated menus.
It was my first time trying seitan, mock meat made from wheat gluten, and I was pleasantly surprised by how meaty it was. While it was no substitute for steak, I definitely understand how a vegetarian might enjoy it as a substitute for meat. The sandwich was heavily spiced and paired wonderfully with the cheddar and onions.
My personal favorite, however, was the mushroom Rueben. The contrast of flavors was absolutely mouth-watering. Served on hearty rye, there was nothing light or wimpy about this sandwich. All sandwiches come with cucumber salad, which is essentially chopped cucumbers tossed in dill and a little bit of oil, from what I could tell. It was by far one of the healthiest restaurant sides I’ve ever encountered.
Prices are considerably higher than your standard deli, about $8 to $10 for sandwiches and $5 to $7 for juices and smoothies. Is it worth it? It depends on how you look at it. You would be hard-pressed to find a healthier, fresher alternative, and I believe many are willing to pay a few extra dollars for such options…especially those who want to take advantage of the vegetarian and vegan options found at Frida’s.
Though the deli is looking to reach a niche market, I do believe meat-lovers will be just as able to find something they love at Frida’s Deli!