Oakwood sandwich shop abides
By Tom Baker
Sometimes when I’m out having a casual bite at a dry joint I think to myself, “Man, it sure would be nice if they had some adult beverages to complement this great food.” Wait – who am I kidding? I think that every time. But I’m not just talking about a couple of standard bottles – I’m hoping for something interesting, and/or preferably on draft. Lucky for us, Cooper’s Deli in Oakwood not only offers the casual comforts of a deli, but they also have drinks for big people and a (bonus!) loft and patio.
Cooper’s came on the scene in early May of this year, opened by the same crew running Archer’s Tavern in Centerville. Located in downtown Oakwood, Cooper’s replaces the short-lived, but rather enjoyable, Select Start Coffee House. The first floor dining room features dim lighting, a small wrap around bar and the deli proper. Two sets of stairs lead to loft space with a couple of couches and bistro tables, and from here you can access the patio that overlooks the main drag. Word is they work with Ashley’s Pastry Shop just down the street for some of their breads and desserts and, according to their menus, order their corned beef and pastrami straight from the Big Apple. Even better, they’ve established a relationship with Cincinnati’s Rivertown Brewing Company, and this partnership resulted in a Cooper’s-branded IPA that offers a no-holds-barred 8.5 percent ABV at the bargain price of $3.50 a pint. Winning.
We started the party with the IPA and a Belgian out of Colorado’s Avery Brewing (another big boy at 9 percent ABV), along with their Italian Sub ($9.75), and, of course, a Reuben ($9.99). The Reuben is a must-try considering this, first and foremost, is a deli. The corned beef with swiss, sauerkraut (which I don’t even much care for) and Russian dressing on marble rye was excellent – I’m planning on going back for another one as I write. The Italian – salami, ham, provolone, banana peppers, red onion, lettuce and tomato – was tasty, augmented by a tangy balsamic dressing that sealed the deal, but the hoagie bun was a little underwhelming. All of their sandwiches come with a choice of chips, German and sweet potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw or applesauce. Unfortunately, the house-made Archer’s Chips are a thing of the past, but the sides have been consistently good. I can’t speak for the German potato salad, as it was gone every time I visited. They must be doing something right.
On another visit we went for the Mini Coopers ($9.99), the Turkey ($8.99) and a Margherita Mo ($7.99), one of a handful of flatbread pizzas they offer in addition to sandwiches and salads. The pizza was a pleasant surprise, featuring grilled tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil with red sauce – a great option for kids or the meat averse. The three Mini Coopers – pastrami with swiss, slaw and stone seed mustard on mini brioche buns – were good but suffered a bit due to the dry brioche. The Turkey sandwich, with its unique cranberry orange chutney and a smear of goat cheese, won my companion over and reminded us how putting a little spin on something simple can make a big difference. For those looking for less cured meat options you’ve got them. In addition to the above pizza, try the Veggie Naan ($9.99) offering sautéed asparagus, mushrooms, red onions and fresh mozzarella pressed on a panini grill between soft Indian-style naan bread. I would have preferred some seasoning to ramp up the theme (maybe a chutney or some Indian spices), but it was a solid option nonetheless.
The consistently friendly and gracious service lacks polish, and any rough edges are made up for in heart and lack of phony hospitality. Be forewarned that your server might sit down with you to take your order, or refer to you, as happened to me at lunch, as “dude.” The only real issue that comes out of this for me has a little to do with service, and more to do with the wine list. I have yet to order wine at Cooper’s, but certainly plan on it. Dropping names like Kermit Lynch, Cline and Louis Martini, and heavier hitters like Cakebread, Darioush, Stags Leap and Heitz, they even offer a couple of $100-$200 bottles. Considering the menu prices average around $10, these big numbers seem a little out of place. What’s more, I’m not sure if anyone on staff, especially El Dudarino, would really know what to do with a $200 bottle of wine if I ordered it. That said, it would be a solid list for anyone, much less a deli to offer, so take advantage.
I do know that some folks think Cooper’s is too spendy, but I would ask – ever heard of Zingerman’s? Go to Ann Arbor, have lunch and then let’s talk. Overall, Cooper’s is a solid joint. Featuring deli sandwiches, meats and salads by the pound, catering, great beer and wine, a patio and genuinely friendly service, it meets needs across the board. The Dude approves.
Cooper’s Deli is located at 2515 Far Hills Ave. in Oakwood. For more information, call (937)610-1999.
Reach DCP food critic Tom Baker at TomBaker@DaytonCityPaper.com