Sometimes it just doesn't get any better than a well-crafted sandwich, and Ella's Deli prepares some of the best in town. Located in the old Mark's Super Subs shop just west of 11th and Harvard, this little deli stacks a hearty "sammich" for the hungry customer.
Forrest and Karen Camp are the proprietors, taking the space one year ago. After a few months renovating the building, which Forrest said was in disrepair, they opened early last January and now seem settled.
"We had a lot of late nights to get the menu written, and once we figured out our customer base, we fine tuned the menu to what it is today," said Forrest.
The name of the place indicates that the Camps love jazz. The name "Ella" comes from Ella Fitzgerald; but more importantly for the Camps, Ella is also the name of their beloved Bassett Hound. "She is the star," Forrest said.
Forrest said a jazz theme for the menu came about because both he and Karen are jazz aficionados.
"We love the era and the feeling of the 'old school' of food. We took our favorite people and built a sandwich around them," he said.
For example, he cited the Duke Ellington. "He's a great person and it's a great sandwich." This particular sandwich is hot sliced roast beef soaked in au jus, Provolone cheese and horseradish on French Baguette, toasted to perfection Panini-style and served with a cup of au jus for dunking.
Just a glance at the menu elicits a smile: Jelly Roll Morton Hot Grilled Peanut Butter & Jelly Panini; Louis Armstrong Ham & Provolone Cheese, John Coltrane Roast Beef & Cheddar Cheese, Miles Davis Club Sandwich, Fats Domino Hot 'Nawlins Style Beef Po' Boy Panini.
Most sandwiches come in three sizes: Half Sammich, Regular 7 inch and Large 11 inch. To sample some of the sandwiches or "sammiches" as they call them, I placed a large to-go order for a number of people assembling at my house. I began with the Ella Fitzgerald Hot Italian Panini ($8.49, regular size). This sammich had Genoa salami, smoked 95 percent fat-free ham, Provolone cheese, oil and red raspberry wine vinegar, chopped Italian peppers, lettuce, tomato, chopped black olives and oregano on a toasted French baguette.
I ordered two Benny Goodman Hot Rueben panini sammiches ($8.49), consisting of hot pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and horseradish on toasted marble rye. A Miles Davis Club Sammich ($8.99): smoked turkey, bacon, 99 percent fat free smoked ham, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato, stacked between three pieces of toasted homestyle white bread. Then, I ordered the Cannonball Adderley Hot Meatball Panini ($7.99): Italian meat balls drenched in Italian spiced red sauce and shredded Provolone cheese piled onto a toasted French Baguette.
For the children, I ordered two Bessie White Hot Grilled Cheese Paninis ($5.99): American and Provolone cheese on toasted white bread and two Grilled Dawgs ($3.99 each), hot dogs, naturally.
I also ordered a Sarah Vaughn Egg Salad Sammich ($6.99), made in-house with fresh cooked eggs and mayo, dressed with lettuce and served on white toast. Forrest said that, when planning the menu, he and his wife wanted to bring back classic sandwiches like the Egg Salad Sammich, the Dave Brubeck Grilled Tuna Salad Panini and the Fats Waller Cold or Grilled Pimento Cheese Sammich.
All sammiches come with one side: Tater salad, cole slaw, tabouli, chips or hummus with pita bread. A cup of soup or chili can be substituted for an extra $1.99.
Our sandwiches were large and packed with ingredients. My Ella Fitzgerald had a robust flavor, and every now and then I tasted the spicy Italian peppers. The dressing, oil and raspberry wine vinegar, added extra satisfaction.
The Benny Goodman Hot Rueben was piled high with sauerkraut and, as my friend said, "This sandwich is exceptional. The slightly sweet kraut added a good dimension to the sandwich, and the pastrami was spiced well." The children enjoyed both their Bessie Smith Grilled Cheese Paninis and the Grilled Dawgs.
The sides were good, especially the hummus, which even the children enjoyed. The chicken noodle soup was tasty, but the noodles were too soft for my preference. The chili was standard yet satisfying, with nicely sized pieces of ground beef.
Karen prepares the sides herself, said Forrest, except for the potato salad, which comes from a vendor. Likewise, the soups and chili come from a vendor, but Forrest was quick to say that they add extra ingredients to all the food that comes via vendor.
Forrest said that they are pleased with the two vendors who supply their fresh breads and meats, Specialty Bakery and Tulsa Beef.
The Camps put a lot of effort into the décor of this little place, which is very homey and comfortable. The autographed celebrity photos and the model airplane hanging from the ceiling are family heirlooms. Forrest said his father made that plane in the '50s. "All artifacts are from our family and have a story behind them."
3208 E. 11th St.
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