By Kathy Cutforth, Correspondent
My husband Dave and I frequently say to each other, “It’s a CT’s Deli sort of day!”
This means that we want to get out of the house for a bit and order something we both like: an old favorite for him and lots of flavor for me.
It was a CT’s sort of day last week … twice over. First, we ate there after a hike. Later that evening we ordered from their food truck at Project North, a music, art and sustainability festival that was being held in downtown Rhinelander. All our meals were great. They were well-seasoned and provided hearty portions.
The daily menu has soups, salads, sandwiches, sides, daily and seasonal specials and a huge variety of bottled beverages. They also offer an ever-expanding variety of take-home options, such as smoked meat by the pound, ribs, gyros kits, deli meats, cheeses, condiments, as well as artisanal vinegars and olive oils.
The original CT’s opened in 2015 by business partners Rhonda Jicinsky and “Chef Tom” Jordens in a narrow building that formerly housed the Elbo Room bar.
It still retains the original pressed tin ceiling and Art Deco crescent-shaped bar, with an added tiny open kitchen in the front and a pet-friendly patio in the back.
As the bar/restaurant evolved, part of the patio was roofed over to form a three-season atrium warmed by heaters in the cooler months. In 2020, CT’s tripled its size and doubled its menu when it expanded into the adjoining building.
Looking back on seven years in business, Rhonda said, “It’s an ever-evolving downtown destination for sure — that was our goal since we started.”
Orders are taken at the registers, located at the back of the bar or by the dessert case, and completed orders are called out by name at the counter. It was a bit crowded when we visited, so we opted to eat in the atrium. The roof is transparent, so it feels like the outdoors.
Dave ordered his favorite, the Italian Beef. It was as good as always – piled high with thinly sliced beef on a soft hoagie roll, with optional provolone cheese and topped with hot or mild giardiniera relish that adds some spice.
Normally I stick to my favorites, the Pulled Pork Sandwich with slaw, pickle and pickled onions or the Thai Chicken Salad with extra pickled ginger. However, on this day, I ordered their Poke (pronounced poh-KAY) Rice Bowl, a rather new menu item. The dish featured a layer of seasoned short-grain rice covered with a choice of veggies and meat. Originating in Hawaii, CT’s version of Poke varies by season and availability of ingredients. I opted to pile on the greens from the salad bar and topped that with four kinds of marinated veggies and the Korean BBQ shredded beef.
I think I have found my new favorite dish, full of fresh crispy veggies and flavor. The marinated veggies were flavorful but comparatively mild – even the kimchi wasn’t too hot or garlicky. The meat was a rich BBQ-intense flavor, slightly sweet and pleasantly hearty.
Without the meat, a Poke Bowl could satisfy a vegan, or be customized to fit the needs of those with allergies or special dietary preferences. Gluten-free bread is also available on request.
We were too full for dessert, but for those who want to satisfy their sweet tooth, co-owner “Chef Dustin” Chronister owns an independent onsite business called the Butcher Shop Bake Company. He makes a variety of cakes, cheesecakes and his own style of cookie, which is a large scoop of cookie dough baked just enough to make the outside slightly crunchy and the center creamy. All desserts are big enough to be shared and the cookies can be ordered online.
Hours later, between concerts at Project North, hunger struck again. Chef Dustin was manning the CT’s Deli food truck, and it was too tempting to pass up. He doled out the Fall Chicken Salad with apples, cranberries and pecans on a croissant and covered it with lots of lettuce – just the way I like it. He asked if I wanted a fork.
“Yes!” I answered and when I commented on how large it was, he smiled and said, “When people eat my food, I don’t want them to go away hungry!”
That rarely happens at CT’s.
17 and 25 North Brown Street, Rhinelander
Monday to Friday – 11:00 am to 6:00 pm
Saturday – 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
Served salad and poke bowl bar open: Monday to Friday, 10:00 am to 3:45 pm
Full-service bar and pre-made deli case open: Monday to Friday, 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, Saturdays 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
Follow CT’s Deli on Facebook for latest food specials.
See their Daily Menu.
Order online from their website.