DG’s Deli – Albuquerque, New Mexico

DG’s Deli, a mainstay on Martin Luther King Avenue

There are sandwich shops in New York which offer the nobility and gentry
a choice of no less than 100 different sandwiches,
all of them alluring and some of them downright masterpieces.

H.L. Mencken

In conversations with trusted gastronomes about what the Albuquerque area dining scene is most direly lacking, it’s not Basque cuisine, Russian food, Low-Country cooking or the food of any other race or ethnicity that’s most often mentioned. Surprisingly, what my esteemed colleagues believe is most desperately needed in the Duke City is a big city deli–and not just any kind of deli. My colleagues lament the absence of a true Kosher-style deli, the type of which were born in the Jewish enclaves of New York City in the 1930s. While the short-lived Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery quelled some of those longings, it still wasn’t the quintessential kosher deli my urban sophisticate colleagues wanted.

Kosher-style delis are not true practitioners of traditional Kosher dietary laws, meaning the food they produce is not deemed “fit” for consumption by Jews in accordance with standards for cleanliness, spotlessness and for being “intact.” As an example, Kosher practices forbid the consumption of meat and milk together while Kosher-style delis break taboos by offering such favorites as pastrami or corned beef (on real rye bread, of course) topped with cheese.

Hungry Patrons Waiting In Line To Place Their Order

It’s not the “forbidden fruit” aspects my colleagues love about the Kosher-style deli (also known as a Jewish deli or New York deli). It’s the concept of “farshtopt” they (we) love. Farshtopt, a Yiddish word which means “stuffed” is an understatement. At many New York style delis, you can expect your sandwich to be over-stuffed, a skyscraper high behemoth with a pound or more of meats which are generally smoked and cured right on the premises by seasoned professionals who have been doing it for years. You can’t get meats like this from a franchised food service provider nor will you see a pound of meat on any sandwich at any Duke City diner or deli. Best of all, you can provision yourself with meats, cheeses, condiments and sundry deliciousness to take home.

We also love the dour disposition of the countermen who are as quick with their wit as they are with the knife. Some may call it attitude; we call it charm. Countermen expect you to understand the ordering process, to know what you want and to state it clearly and loudly. If you want your pastrami a little fatty (the way former New York City mayor Koch likes it), just let them know and they’ll serve it that way. That’s fatty as in with plenty of marbling for flavor. Your cardiologist might not like it that way, but you will.

Posters Adorn The Walls

We love the New York style delis which specialize in such old-world favorites as stuffed cabbage, matzoh ball soup, knishes, lox schmear, bagels, kippers and of course, pickles (which are made on the premises in plastic garbage bags). Frankly, there’s not much about a New York style deli we don’t like and miss. From an experiential perspective, there’s nothing like them and the food they proffer is incomparable. Not convinced? Rent When Harry Met Sally and fast-forward to Meg Ryan’s er…enthusiastic reaction to a meal at Katz’s Deli in New York City.

The hard-liners among my colleagues consider the word “deli” a misnomer for any so-called “deli” in New Mexico. Others use the word “travesty” to describe the use of the word “deli” on marquees in New Mexico. Most have conceded that New Mexico might never have a true New York style deli. That’s not necessarily bad. New York style delis generally don’t serve sandwiches with green chile. That’s one point–a huge one–you have to concede to New Mexico. Frankly, if you can overlook the fact that you might never have a farshtopt sandwich with house-made meats, you can find very good sandwiches in New Mexican “delis,” semantics not withstanding.

A jumbo-sized green chile Philly

Founded in 1994, DG’s Deli is an Albuquerque lunchtime favorite for throngs–as in lines extending to the door to place their orders–of sandwich lovers. Between 11AM and 2PM, this converted grocery market is the haven and hang-out for hungry health care professionals from nearby hospitals, police officers, students and professors from the university, car dealers and just about anyone who craves the appetite-sating comfort of a good sandwich. During the lunch rush, DG’s receives such a high volume of calls for take-out orders that a busy signal is commonplace and if you don’t get a busy signal, you might be placed on hold for a while. Though DG’s has implemented an online ordering system, you still have to call to confirm your order.

Similar to the New York style delis of old, DG’s offers a variety of meats and cheeses for purchase: chicken breast, turkey breast, smoked turkey, domestic ham, smoked ham, mortadella, capocllo, cotto salami, Genoa salami, prosciutto, bacon, pepperoni, pastrami, corned beef, roast beef and choice ribeye steak. Boar’s Head products are featured. Cheese selections are white American, yellow American, pepper Jack, Cheddar, provolone and Swiss. Available breads are hoagie, sliced wheat, sliced rye, sliced sourdough, Kaiser roll and tortilla. Open for breakfast Monday through Friday from 9AM to 11AM, DG’s offers a nice variety of breakfast burritos, omelets and bagels. If you’re not breakfast inclined, you can have anything from the lunch menu during breakfast hours.

A jumbo meatball sandwich

That means you can have a sandwich selection unlike any in Albuquerque–31 cold sandwiches alone, including a build your own option. They’re available in four sizes: mini (six-inches), regular (eight-inches), large (nine-inches) and jumbo (ten-inches). A wide variety of condiments and dressings are available so you can have your sandwich your way. The menu also showcases sixteen hot sandwiches (not available in mini), eleven “Favorites” and four Vegetarian sandwiches. That’s more than sixty sandwiches alone, not counting daily specials. You can have your sandwich with your choice of sides: potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, chips (eleven options) and pickles.

Several sandwich purveyors in the Albuquerque area won’t use hoagie rolls baked in the Albuquerque area, citing our water’s “chemical” taste as an off-putting influence on how baked bread tastes. DG’s obtains its hoagie rolls from the Le Paris French Bakery, an Albuquerque treasure. The hoagie rolls are actually quite good! The exterior crust crunches when you bite into it, but the insides are soft and chewy, a nice repository for nestling meats, condiments and seasonings.

Tuna Melt: Grilled White Meat Tuna & Swiss Cheese

27 June 2011: A triumvirate of companions with whom I frequently dine consider the Green Chile Philly to be the be-all and end-all for sandwich sumptuousness in Albuquerque. Until its closure in 2017, the standard-bearers were Philly’s N Fries in Albuquerque and until it closed in 2011, Rocco’s Pizzeria in Rio Rancho. The former is beloved for its flavor and the latter for its size. The quest for a Green Chile Philly which matches Itsa for flavor and Rocco’s for sheer size wasn’t quite answered by DG’s Deli where its ten-inch sandwich is redolent with the flavor of sliced choice ribeye steak, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, white American cheese and green chile. It’s a tasty sandwich with both piquancy, but not necessarily the size sandwich savants crave. White American cheese is an under-utilized, under-appreciated cheese which puts the flavor profile all together on this sandwich. It’s so good, however, that Sr. Plata, having consumed the ten-inch jumbo complained it was too small.

7 July 2011: As much as I personally love Green Chile Phillys, I wouldn’t be much of an essayist if I wrote solely about them. It takes willpower not to order one at every visit, but doing so would mean missing out on other good sandwiches–such as the meatball hoagie (meatballs, marinara sauce, provolone and Parmesan cheeses). This is a behemoth in which meatballs mean meat not some mystery meat-substitute filler. With meatballs in every bite and a sweet marinara sauce worthy of mama’s spaghetti and meatballs, DG’s rendition of a meatball hoagie is among the best in the Duke City.

Italian Grinder

12 November 2012: DG’s is a rarity in sandwich shops in that it offers both a tuna melt and a tuna salad sandwich. The tuna melt is for tuna aficionados who like the purity of unadorned tuna. Unlike so many tuna sandwiches, it isn’t slathered in an excess of mayonnaise. Nor is it served with a veritable salad of celery, onions and lettuce. This is tuna at its essence. In fact the only thing coming between the tuna and the bread is melted Swiss cheese, a fairly innocuous cheese that doesn’t get in the way of the tuna.

29 July 2016: If there’s one aspect of dining at DG’s that kosher deli aficionados don’t like, it’s that sandwiches aren’t at all farshtopt. In fact, the meat on some sandwiches is nearly as rare as a New York Giants win (of course, this could be said about almost all sandwich joints in Albuquerque). Case in point is the Italian Grinder (mortadella, prosciutto, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, Italian dressing, oil and vinegar) in which the meats–a single, waifishly thin slice of each meat listed–are dwarfed by seemingly half-a-head of lettuce. Worse, the sandwich is virtually drenched in Italian dressing, making it the predominant flavor. Having partaken of dozens of overstuffed, meat-laden Italian grinders during my days in Massachusetts, comparisons are inevitable. Alas, DG’s Italian Grinder falls woefully understuffed.

Cajun Roast Beef Sandwich

14 November 2019:  The traditional New Orleans po-boy is a hot sandwich stuffed (that’s the operative word here) with seafood, fried chicken or shredded seasoned beef with a “debris” gravy.  Po-Boys tend to be very generously Bourre (French for “stuffed).  Espying a Cajun Roast Beef Sandwich (roast beef, green chile, Cajun spices, and pepper Jack) on the menu heightened my hopes for gravy running down my chin, excess roast beef spilling onto my plate, and the personality of such spices as cayenne pepper and paprika enlivening the sandwich and watering my eyes with joy.  My hopes were quickly dashed when a rather meager portion of roast beef barely extended beyond the bread.  Worse, the sandwich was rather “dry” with none of the gravy and very little of the assertiveness you find in true Cajun spices.  If you’ve ever had a roast beef sandwich in New Orleans, you’ll find this aspect of DG’s Deli’s “Cajun” roast beef sandwich especially disappointing.  The green chile is a nice touch Cajuns would probably enjoy, too.

DG’s Deli is a lively, jumping joint with something to see everywhere you turn. Walls are festooned with posters of movies, pin-up girls (including Bettie Page), bands and more. It doesn’t take long after you place your order for your name to be called to pick it up and ferry it back to your table as all eyes train lasciviously on the sandwich destined for your table.

DG’s Deli
1418 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 247-DELI
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 14 November 2019
1st VISIT: 27 June 2011
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Philly, Meatball Sandwich, Tuna Melt, Italian Grinder

13 thoughts on “DG’s Deli – Albuquerque, New Mexico

  1. Yo Dixie….”Y’all” might consider sashaying over to Red Rock Deli as the phone gal today said she didn’t know if the owner…who was out…served “kreplach”…albeit she said they served (Russian) pelemini when I said they were like Pierogi which they serve. In any event, I’m thinking you might find something to your liking after reading Gil’s Review and comments herein https://www.nmgastronome.com/?p=34903#comments
    Na Zdrowie http://tinyurl.com/ycqrd6sf !

  2. Will try DG’s Tuesday. Is there any place that has Krepla? My Jewish friend brought to Thanksgiving dinner once, delicious, have never seen on a menu..

    1. Two years ago, Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery closed its doors and with that closure, I believe went your opportunity to enjoy kreplach at a Duke City restaurant.

      You might want to check out the superb Abq Jew Web site, a guide to “everything you need to know about Jewish life in Albuquerque.” If anyone can tell you where you might be able to enjoy kreplach in the Duke City, it’s the good folks who run this Web site.

  3. On your 29 July 2016 writeup, you reported a lackluster experience with their Italian Grinder sandwich. I definitely share that sentiment and it is one of the reasons I rarely go back. I think all of the chains like Subway, Jersey Mike’s, and Jimmy John’s has a better Italian Sub, with lots more meat. Quiznos is a toss-up.

    It is amazing that you were able to go forward in time to report on your meal With such a talent, though, why would you waste your gift on a trip to DGs? Is it possible that DGs is the only restaurant left after the zombie apocalypse?

    When is your next trip back to the future?

  4. Have not heard of DGs until I just read Gil’s review. One thing I have to say having had a Pastrami on Rye at Katz’s, at the Carnegie deli, Ben’s and others too numerous to mention is the size is far less important than the taste. What’s the point of a sandwich you can get your mouth on? Authentic Cubanos have a thin layer of pork, ham and cheese and are enhanced by a good mojo and a slice of pickle, then pressed like a panini, no need for a big fat sandwich.
    Having watched food shows for a very long time the Italian chefs don’t stuff their creations like those delis. In a really good Italian hero, sub, hoagie or grinder there is a balance with no single ingredient overpowering another. Thin sandwiches with great flavor and really good bread is the order of the day.
    I wish that the delis here in ABQ would add one more item to their menus, a chopped liver sandwich. I would commit to as many as my cardiologist would allow. Chopped liver with schmaltz, made using a hand meat grinder, on rye with mustard, perfect.
    Just read a note from a friend alerting me to an article called 50 Places to Eat Before You Die, or something close to that. The Range was on it just before the French Laundry. Wow. But that’s not the only restaurant on that Bucket List with a NM connection. Pat’s (King of) Steaks in Philadelphia has a 6 Degrees of Separation connection in that Pat was the manager of Bob Foster, a great, great Light Heavyweight champion of the world when there was one Champ only in every weight class. Bob Foster became an Albuquerque Deputy Sheriff after retiring from boxing.

    1. Good point, Bruce. As you so eloquently stated, one of the keys to a great sandwich is balance. Where delis such as the Carnegie Deli will overstuff their sandwiches with meats, many of New Mexico’s sandwich purveyors tend to be so chintzy with meat portions that some sandwiches more resemble a salad burying a measly slice or two of meat. At least with Carnegie Deli and Katz’s, you can take home the extra pastrami or corned beef and have another sandwich later.

  5. Working at a hoagie/cheesesteak shop outside of a south Philly neighborhood in my youth turned me into a bit of a sandwich snob. I then moved to ABQ and was lost for about a year until I discovered DG’s. All I have to say is: genoa, capicola, prosciutto, provolone, LTO, salt, pepper, oregano, and of course oil and vinegar. Those are the makings of the best Italian hoagie in the city!

    1. Try the “Joe DiMaggio” sandwich at Tully’s Italian Deli on San Mateo, 2 blocks south of Constitution. You will be amazed!

  6. DG’s Deli was a pleasant experience last week. Sr. Plata and I both have the desire to find the best Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches in town. I was not let down by the one at DGs. I also had the largest size (Jumbo) , but keep in mind there is only an inch difference in the sizes, so check out the menu closely to get the right size you like to eat. The quality of the bread, meat, and cheese is top notch and I would definitely return to try something else. I can’t make a decision on the best in town due to infrequent visits, but this one would be in my top 3.

  7. I had the proud opportunity to join Gil and Boomer to DG’s Deli and I am so glad we went there. It is quite a jaunt from where I live and work but boy was the ride worth it. I love Philly Cheese Steaks and I have to say this one here with the Green Chile, host of vegetables and of course the meet was excellent. I ordered the largest size and it was a good size (of course it could be a bit bigger but I say that for most restaurants). I thought the cheese was good and I enjoyed the vegetables that were in the sandwich. I had one large mushroom, got spoiled and wished there were some more of those. We talked with the owner for a few minutes and I had a very warm feeling being at her establishment. I would like to return with my friends and try other delicious dishes.

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