When I worked in downtown Fort Wayne, I rarely ate out for lunch. I preferred to pack my lunch because it was cheaper and it kept me from having to buy new pants every six weeks. Each month though, I would have to take a lunch break to drive out to the southwest side of town for a hair cut. For no logical reason, I used this regular event as an excuse to eat out for lunch. I eventually fell into a routine of heading straight to Deli 620 for a tuna salad sandwich, jalapeño kettle chips, and if there was a nip in the air, a cup of soup. It has now been over a year since I last worked downtown, or visited Deli 620, so I decided it was time for a return visit.
Pushing open the heavy wood and glass door to see that little had changed was as comforting as returning to my room in my parents house and finding everything as I left it. They still had a big blackboard with the menu neatly written on it in multi-colored chalk. Along blue and yellow walls, booths and mismatched chairs surround tables covered with old-fashioned vinyl tablecloths. The specials of the day are written in crayon on a large roll of white butcher paper which hangs on the wall and is held flat with an old yard stick. Hand painted signs indicate where to order, and at the end of the long salad bar was the owner, Lindi Miller, who used to know me by name.
As I made my way to the end of the counter, I wondered if she would recognize me after such a long absence. Sheepishly, I handed her my business card and started to stumble through some sentences about running a food website and wanting to do an article on her. However, before I could finish my thought, she said, “Josh! How’s it going?” Ordering the same thing every month, month after month, for three years, must have made a small impression on her after all. The real reason is probably closer to the fact that it’s just part of Lindi’s soft-spoken good nature to know her customers and make them feel welcome in her shop.
Paying Attention to What Matters
Lindi started cooking professionally when most of us were still playing with Star Wars action figures and Barbie dolls. She has been the chef at numerous restaurants and even opened her own place, “Lindi’s”, in the building currently occupied by Paula’s. She opened Deli 620 in 2001 with an emphasis on sandwiches, soups, and salads.
She genuinely cares about what her customers are eating, so she makes sure to use only the freshest ingredients she can find. Sandwiches are made to order and the soups, certain breads, and cookies are made from scratch. In addition to caring about her customers eating well, she also cares about what her customers have to pay. She knows she could buy even higher quality meats than what she currently serves, but she would rather not have to charge an arm and a leg for her sandwiches. She has come to regard so many of her customers as friends, she can’t stand the thought of over-charging them.
Old Favorites Are Still Favorites
Focused as she and her staff are on fairly priced, good quality food, it’s no surprise that the tuna salad I loved back then, is still a really good sandwich today. Completely free of pretension, it’s like something Mom might make as a thank you for mowing her yard on a hot summer day. Her recipe uses very little mayonnaise which allows the taste of the capers, celery, and the splash of lemon juice to shine through. Even the lettuce leaves are crisp green leaves, instead of limp tasteless afterthoughts.
Danielle was able to build herself a nice little salad from their expansive salad bar. Lindi and her crew are in by seven each morning to chop and slice a fresh batch of salad ingredients for that days lunch crowd. There is always a mix of exotic ingredients with the classics, which means customers can go as mild or wild as they like. Salad bars are a rarity in restaurants these days, let alone ones as nice as this.
Some Things Never Go Out of Style
Lunch options downtown are steadily getting more varied and better in quality. In the twelve years Deli 620 has been around, downtown has seen a steady rise in national chains, higher end local restaurants, and food trucks and carts. While some of them might be more hip, or more exotic, there is still something heartening about the homestyle atmosphere of Deli 620. Being able to grab a well-made, fairly-priced lunch and a warm greeting is a rare thing these day. Sometimes, having a friendly face make you a sandwich, or hand you a big chocolate chip cookie, can nourish the soul as much as the body. During a hectic work week, who couldn’t use a little more of that?
620 S. Calhoun St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Daily: 11:00am - 2:00pm