WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A SUB WITH A SIDE OF JOY

January 29, 2016 | Red Bank Green

It doesn’t matter if your mood is not so bright when you walk through the doors of Butler's Market in Rumson. Owner Paul Stout has a warm and friendly smile to greet you and make you feel better.

Reopened last June after two-plus years of unsatisfying retirement for its proprietor, the deli’s food is in some ways as good as it used to be, and in many ways, much better.

The wall space in the store, located in a small strip mall on East River Road, is filled with menu boards, including a neon bright specials-of-the-day display. On a recent visit, PieHole was immediately captivated by the words “honey maple turkey.”

Less appealing: the wrap it was offered on. Why? A large wrap can contain just as many calories as a six-inch sub roll. And a fresh roll adds plenty of flavor, while a wrap tends to taste like malleable cardboard.

Behind the counter, Frank Rodriguez, who’s been cooking for 26 years in area restaurants, suggested several alternatives, including a brioche roll and a sub roll. We opted for the sub, which came loaded with Boars Head honey maple turkey, a thick layer of creamy sliced avocado, crisp bacon, lettuce and tomato slices. It was an enormous portion, and a bit of a bargain at $7.95.

Rodriguez asked if we’d tasted his chili, while offering a little cupful. Filled with tender beans and adorned with a smidge of creamy jack cheese, it had a hearty, meaty, tomato quality. It left us wondering if we should have ordered a container instead of the sandwich.

A second sample cup held soup that immediately brought to mind the colors of a forest. One big soup-spoonful of Rodriguez’s mushroom soup later, we realized that we weren’t dealing with ordinary deli food here. The soup was velvety smooth with big chunks of mushroom and thin wisps of spinach that added an extra earthy flavor kick to the brew.

PieHole’s eyes rolled, and Rodriguez smiled the smile of a man who’d just hooked a big fish. “Good, isn’t it?” he asked. Joyous is more like it..

If the chili and the soup are this tasty, what else do Stout and Rodriguez have up their culinary sleeves? We’re going to have to stop in again soon to find out.

 By SUSAN ERICSON, Red Bank Green