The harissa-roast lamb sandwich. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
The pastrami Reuben. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
The chicken melt. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
The rustic interior. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
A dear friend, who is also a cook, told me I needed to meet his friend Alexeis “Lexi” Filipello—he was right, we all spent a night talking sandwiches over drinks. It’s nice when you meet fellow sandwich obsessives, and it’s even better when they open their own shop! ~STAG’S LUNCHETTE~ is a gem of a place in Uptown Oakland—the amount of handiwork that goes into each sandwich here is notable. It matches the rustic interior, which features a lot of ironwork and woodwork from local crafty badasses. (The place was a total dump before. Even the bathroom here is better than many restaurants.)
So, the sandwiches. I am so loving this trend of house-cured meats made from animals that were raised in a cruelty-free fashion. Go people go! On your first visit, you’re going to have to try the pastrami, one of the very, very best I’ve had in the Bay Area. Filipello cures the top-quality beef brisket for two to three weeks, and then smokes it for 10 hours. She also does a couple of other cool things, like cut most of the fat cap off so it doesn’t become a gratuitously fatty sandwich.
You’ll want to try the Stag’s play on a Reuben. The juicy pastrami is thinly sliced and wonderfully seasoned, with a peppery kick. It will make you pause after your first bite, trust. The next thing you’ll notice is a spicy boost from the housemade kimchee-like kraut inside, spiked with caraway. For this spice-loving woman, it was a genius touch. There’s also a little of the piquant house dressing in there for extra zip.
Next, instead of using rye, Filipello opted for levain—she thought the rye took away from the flavor of the pastrami. The final touch is thin and melting slices of a nicely pungent Gruyère. This sandwich is really something special, and for $10, it’s kind of a steal considering everything that goes into it. For those who like their Reubens piled high, there is also a double-meat option. And the side slaw with celery root (and some browned caraway!) is one of the few side slaws I actually wanted to finish.
The lineup of sandwiches changes often (peep the menu board here), from the thinly sliced harissa-lamb sandwich (from the rotisserie!) drizzled with tahini to a chicken melt with their utterly SICK house-cured bacon, Swiss cheese, and grilled radicchio and onions on focaccia. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tartines, check. There are also a variety of salads, a daily soup, and seasonal vegetable sides (this is the kind of deli that has a delicata squash salad). They make all their sauces in house, including a couple you’ll see on each high-top table.
Stag’s is also open in the morning, serving a delicious dark roast coffee and espresso custom made for Stag’s by RoastCo, a killer breakfast sandwich (um, hello olive oil-poached egg on a brioche bun with aioli, Swiss cheese, bacon, and mizuna), and chewy artisan bagels made by Baron Baking (check these beauties out). There’s some talk of starting Saturday brunch—all my fingers are crossed on this one.