Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 6, 2020

River City Roundabout: A great take on simple staple at Old World

In addition to its regular fare, Anastasia’s Old World Delicatessen features specialty sandwiches, giving customers something different to try. - Photograph provided

If British statesman and notorious gambler John Montagu really did invent the sandwich, I imagine its simplicity so stunned the English of the 18th century that they wondered why no one had thought of it before.

From its supposed beginnings as a serving of sliced meat between two pieces of toast (crafted, as the story goes, to allow Montagu to continue a marathon gambling session), the sandwich has evolved into an art. In skilled hands, the combination of bread and other ingredients can produce a masterpiece.

If this is how you feel about sandwiches, then you’ll want to visit Chattanooga’s newest art gallery, Anastasia’s Old World Delicatessen at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Chestnut Street. It’s a cut above the run-of-the-mill sandwich shop.

Anastasia’s commitment to making great sandwiches begins with its selection of ingredients, which include Boar’s Head meats, fresh bread from Niedlov’s and a second local distributor and crisp produce. The deli also makes its own sauces daily.

But like the paint Claude Monet used to create his masterpieces, Anastasia’s selection of ingredients merely provides the components it needs to craft memorable sandwiches. The real magic is found in the way the deli combines these ingredients to create flavor profiles I believe will surprise and please your palate.

Take, for example, Anastasia’s Tennessee Smoke T.N.T., a spicy sandwich consisting of Cajun turkey, three-pepper colby Jack cheese, chipotle aioli, mixed greens, Roma tomatoes and red onion slices on black Russian rye bread.

The turkey is more smoky than spicy, giving the sandwich a deeper flavor than a typical hot deli meat would, while the placement of cool vegetables next to the heat of the cheese provides balance.

The black Russian rye visually conveys the heat of the sandwich and pulls the various flavors together. The result is a sandwich with textures that line up perfectly with its flavors.

If heat is not your thing, then you might prefer the French dip, a slow build sandwich consisting of a pressed baguette, fresh sliced roast beef, caramelized onions, provolone cheese and au jus. In the hands of Anastasia’s makers, this sandwich comes together beautifully.

As with any quality art gallery, you can return to Anastasia’s time and again and still discover new things. I learned this when I tried the pesto ham fig jam during my third visit. The combination of uncured ham, fontina cheese, basil pesto and fig jam on pressed sourdough bread found a happy home on my taste buds.

Anastasia’s also makes delicious sides, including an unforgettable giardiniera. The deli’s giardiniera is a mix of house-pickled cauliflower, celery and carrots that have been marinated in a nice olive oil and basil blend. The use of white balsamic vinegar while pickling gives the side a playful bite.

To complete the deli experience, Anastasia’s opens at 9 a.m. during the week and on Saturdays to offer a selection of gourmet breakfast sandwiches, including both meat and vegetarian options.

My favorite is the avocado toast, which consists of a fried or scrambled egg, sliced avocados, sliced Roma tomatoes, carrots and beets on pumpernickel bread.

Even if you’re a meat lover, you have not experienced Anastasia’s best breakfast until you have tasted the blend of creamy egg yolk, fresh vegetables and crunchy toast.

As the morning presses on, Anastasia’s fills its grab-and-go cooler with fresh salads and housemade cakes and loads the basket by the cash register with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins and banana bread.

By the time a line begins to form for lunch, there’s plenty of food on hand.

Anastasia’s is owned by its namesake, Anastasia Burton, a food industry veteran with a resume that includes Whole Foods Market in Chattanooga and Nashville and the lobby cafe in the local Westin.

Burton’s passion for feeding and nourishing people took root at a young age. During parties and family gatherings, her grandmother would emerge from the kitchen carrying big platters of beef Wellington and broccoli. In the same manner, her other grandmother would host epic meals every Sunday for her extended family.

Burton was mopping the floor of the Westin’s lobby cafe when Byron DeFoor, a local businessman and owner of the building that contains Anastasia’s and several other West Village businesses, asked her if she’d like to run her own restaurant.

Burton opened Anastasia’s to brisk business in September. Although the space has also housed a doughnut shop, a different sandwich shop and other ventures, Burton made the place her own with not just her food but also her unique taste in decor.

Large windows run along the two sides of the corner shop, inviting people to peer inside. Paintings of what appear to be a Parisian cafe border the windows that run along the Chestnut side of the building, hinting at the charm of the interior.

Stepping through the door, patrons will find themselves immersed in an old-time mercantile, complete with produce and baked goods stored on wine racks through the dining area. Along the back wall, the menu is scribbled on a large chalkboard framed by an antique bar.

It’s the perfect spot for either a quick lunch or a downtown dinner for families with children. (Old Gilman Grill, Alimentari and Citron Et Sel occupy the other side of the block-long building, but might not always be mom and dad’s first choice for dinner with the children.)

Although other businesses have come and gone from the space Anastasia’s now occupies, the deli is poised to take advantage of a revitalized West Village that’s drawing visitors out of the Westin, Marriott and Read House Hotel to walk the streets of downtown Chattanooga and experience the local cuisine.

Even if you don’t work downtown, or won’t be staying in one of its hotels, Anastasia’s is worth the drive to the city just for its delicious food. I bet even John Montagu would have agreed it was the best sandwich he’d ever eaten.