Weinberger's Deli sits in downtown Grapevine, flanked by places that give off that special "tourist trap" vibe. Fancy passenger buses drive by wrapped in splashy advertisements for the Gaylord Texas and the local wineries, their hot exhaust smelling like vacation funds.
So honestly, I went into Weinberger's Deli on Main Street with low expectations. I didn't read a single thing or get a recommendation from anyone. Just random.
First of all, the menu was intimidating. Lots of ingredients and combos coming together at once. There's even a sign that states they're not "rude," just "seasoned." Slightly flustered, I ordered two things they had written on a board at the counter, figuring top billing should do me well.
Then I slowed down to notice the people around me noshing away weren't tourists. They were all no-nonsense regulars, eating with their elbows out and a roll of paper towels guarding their sandwich baskets. Militaristic eating: always a good sign.
A few minutes later my lunch was ready. The "Wicked" sandwich had hot roast beef with lots of drippings, horseradish, mayo, thin slices of red onions, kosher dill slices on a toasted kummelweck ("wek") roll. And the "Debris" sandwich had post roast, spicy mustard, onions and pickles on a french bread.
The amount of meat on the Wicked was enough to feed two adults, but that hardly stopped me from eating the whole thing. Juices ran down to my hands. The bread was soaked but not soggy (because it was fresh). The horseradish was a nice gesture and didn't overwhelm the spicy beef. All the same can be said for the Debris -- ample portions, juicy, spicy, fresh bread. It was just missing that horseradish.
After I finished, I leaned over the front counter and asked anyone who might have been listening what a wek roll was. The owner, Dan Weinberger, glared at me. At first I thought he was irritated I had asked and feared I was about to get some of that "seasoning." But he was totally cool. He just looks fierce. He was actually happy I asked.
With the seriousness of explaining nuclear fusion, he talked for 10 minutes about his store, recipes, and the science of sandwiches, and he explained that a Wicked is actually a "beef on weck," which is originally out of Buffalo, New York and is served on roll made with kosher salt and caraway seeds.
Then he told me more about the sandwich his existence hinges on. What his deli is known for, it turns out, is the Italian beef.
"It's a real Italian beef," he said. "My parents opened their first deli (also Weinberger's) in Chicago in 1952, and I've been working in a deli since that time."
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The Italian beef is the pride and joy of his entire family. And (of course) I didn't order one. Quality investigating. Next time, I guess.
Weinberger told me that his bread is delivered daily from Constantin's Delicatessen and Bakery in Addison, and that in addition to the Italian beef offerings, there's a solid selection of meatloaf, hot pastrami, pork, turkey and ham sandwiches. They also encourage you to build your own sandwich.
The most intriguing part of Weinberger's menu is an entire section dedicated to Reubens. They also have sausages, cold subs and vegetarian sandwiches. The very last item on the menu is a cheesesteak, followed by some of Weinberger's comin'-straight-at'cha speak:
"No, it's not like Pat's nor Geno's. I would be a fool to claim that," he said. "But it is awesome goodness."