Soup-er South Side Sandwiches

In the Feb. 13 issue of MidWeek Kauai, I wrote about a horseback ride and picnic lunch with CJM Country Stables. Typically, on adventure excursions you have a great time, but for me, it’s diminished by lunch. Usually it’s processed “meat” slipped between dry, hard bread. But the sandwich on that picnic was so delicious and welcome after a morning of riding, I had to find out more.

Walking up the weathered wooden steps and into Koloa Deli, the smell of fresh bread, spices and roasting meat wake my stomach from its slumber, my mouth begins to water, and I think, “This is an excellent sign!”

The stars are the nine-inch sandwiches made with bread baked that morning by Lea Tanigawa. Owner Ron Magrin isn’t going to put any old topping on that pillowy soft Koloa Deli Roll. He chooses Boar’s Head meat and cheese. Boar’s Head meat is not processed. Rather, it’s whole cuts of beef, pork and poultry roasted in savory spices, and cut right before your sandwich is made.

Boar’s Head is certified by the American Heart Association, and the meat and cheese don’t have artificial ingredients, are gluten free, preservative free, MSG free, nitrate and nitrite free, contain 0 grams of trans fat, and the animals are raised without antibiotics or hormones. If you want, you can order deli cuts by the pound, and make your own sandwiches at home.

There’s also lasagna ($7.85) and spaghetti ($5.95) with house-made meat sauce, and soups include Portuguese Bean (monthly) and a buttery Clam Chowder with big chunks of tender clams. Daily specials include hot sandwiches such as the Hot Chick ($8.50) on a toasted roll with buffalo chicken, pepper jack cheese, pepperoncini, onions, tomato, lettuce, mayo and ranch dressing.

That smell of roasting meat was a whole pork butt that just spent four hours in the oven. Cook Jimbo Davis pulls it out, shreds it and mixes it with barbecue sauce. The BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich ($8.25), on a toasted roll and topped with coleslaw, is also one of today’s specials. All the daily beef specials, such as the meat-ball sub, lasagna and spaghetti, are made with local beef from Medeiros Farms in Kalaheo.

My husband Dan orders The Godfather ($9.25), a popular specialty sandwich loaded with Genoa salami, capocollo, mortadella, prosciutto, provolone, onions, lettuce, artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, olive oil, vinegar and fresh oregano. It’s an explosion of flavors and textures and goes down quickly.

I create my own sandwich, and even though I can have it on white or whole wheat sandwich bread, also baked that morning, I choose the deli roll and add peppermill turkey, bacon (also Boar’s Head) and local avocado with mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. It’s an excellent rendition of the classic and for the first time, I begin to regret that I live in Kapa`a.

If a nine-inch sub is too big for you, you can order a half sandwich and add a fresh salad or one of five deli salads including a garlicky Italian bean made with fresh parsley, artichoke hearts, garbanzo and kidney beans; cold and crisp coleslaw with chunks of pineapple; mac salad with black olives and celery; creamy Yukon gold potato salad with sweet pickles, black olives and celery; or the pasta salad with spicy pepperoni, cubes of fontina cheese, artichokes, black olives and roasted red bell peppers.

Magrin grew up on an artichoke farm in California that also had a family garden and raised cows for meat, as well as chickens and pigs.

“My grandparents didn’t even go to the store,” recalls Magrin, adding that his grandparents emigrated from northern Italy. “My grandmother used to make giant pots of stuff for the ranch hands and that’s where I learned to cook in big quantities. After I got out on my own, I copied what she did.”

In about five months, Magrin is going to sell beef from his eight-acre ranch in Lawai. He’ll use some cuts for sandwiches or specials, and offer cuts such as 1 1/4-inch dry-aged T-bone steaks. He’s also installing an aquaponics system and will grow lettuce and tomatoes for the deli, and sell catfish fillets alongside the cuts of meat.

If you love a good sandwich, this is one place you have to try! If you go while this story is current (through March 26), tell the staff you read about them in MidWeek Kaua’i and they’ll give you a 10-percent discount.

Koloa Deli 5476 Koloa Road, Koloa 742-9998 Open Monday through Saturday

7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit