Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review: McAlister's Deli in Cypress

Oxford, Mississippi is an odd little town. Home of Ole Miss (aka The University of Mississippi), one time residence of Southern Writer William Faulkner, site of many historical events good and bad, so heavily Greek that Independents are in the minority, bane of LSU fans forever and this year UT fans as well.  Also the place where McAlister's Deli was founded.  What's interesting to note is that they were originally started in a converted gas station that had been the set of a fake drive-in eatery called Victory Grill for the movie "Heart of Dixie" starring Ally Sheedy.  Their theme since they opened in 1989 has centered around fresh food, served at a good pace, in a friendly environment, but no food that is fried or greasy.  They were initially quite successful, had huge response and they gradually made their way up to Memphis and things just kind of took off from there via franchising.  They are known for making a very good version of Sweet Tea that uses pure cane sugar--no artificial flavours, no instant powder or syrup, brewed fresh all day, every day.  And I had the pleasure of a couple of colleagues taking me there for lunch during Finals week.

Their Menu is an interesting mix to say the least.  You can get melted cheese or cheese and chili nachos, hot home made soups served in a bread bowl, a good variety of salads--small and large--big ol' baked potatoes (they call them spuds) served with a variety of toppings, and a great variety of sandwiches (hot, cold, grilled, club, muffulettas).  The interior is a mix of some kind of Bennigan's with all the brass handles everywhere, with a local malt shop (checkered tiles on the floor) and a local grille (the decor reflected the local high school's with pennants and other memorabilia).  Of note: every location has a garage style door somewhere as a hat tip to their original location being a converted service station.  You place your order at the counter and pay up front, take a number and they deliver it to your table within a reasonable time.

The Spud Max at McAlister's Deli
One of their better options so you can try different items to see what you like is the Choose Two deal--you can choose either a cup of soup (smaller than a bowl) with any half sized salad, half sandwich, spud, or starter; or you can choose a half sized portion of any starter, salad, spud or sandwich for $6.99 plus tax, $7.99 plus tax if you go with a Premium Sandwich.  I went with the latter and after studying the menu for a bit, I went with the Spud Max (topped with Black Forest ham, Butterball™ smoked turkey, applewood smoked bacon, cheddar-jack cheese, green onions and black olives with sour cream on the side) and the Big Nasty™ Sandwich (A pile of Black Angus roast beef served open-face on a toasted baguette with gravy and cheddar-jack cheese.)  That Big Nasty sandwich sounded like a Poutine Sandwich sans French Fries so my eye just gravitated towards it.  And a loaded baked potato with everything is always satisfying.  Both of these seemed like just the thing to heat your innards on this cold, grey day.

The half spud was thoroughly baked--soft inside yet well contained within the potato skin.  The amount of cheese could have been a bit morebut the meat and other toppings were more than sufficient.  I liked that the sour cream was served on the side--not everyone likes their baked potato overloaded with it.  I like a medium amount.  The veggie toppings were reasonably fresh as was the meat.  Not bad at all!  The Big Nasty sandwich was as described.  Loaded with roast beef and gravy, and had a fair amount of melted cheese on a properly toasted baguette.  The gravy was nice and hot, with plenty of flecks of meat in it.  This sandwich had to be eaten with a knife and fork.  Any other way would have been a gosh-awful yet tasty mess.  A full size Big Nasty would have been lunch and supper for a moderately sized person or a nice satisfying dinner (large meal in this case, regardless of time of day eaten) for a big guy.

Their "Famous" Sweet Tea--pretty good
McAlister's Deli is an interesting concept.  It's not fast food, it is sandwiches, but not Subway or Quizno's either.  It is self-described as Fast-Casual, but does not fit the usual mold of Chili's, TGI Friday's or Applebee's.  About the closest analog I can think of is Jason's Deli.  And like Jason's Deli, they do catering and they do have desserts as well (I had a sugar cookie that was Texas sized and a pretty good cookie at that--sorry but I ate it too fast and didn't take a photo!).  Haute Cuisine, it is not.  However, if you're looking for a fast casual alternative to the usual reheated from frozen fare served at the usual fast casual places found in Generica, I'd recommend them.

I also remind you dear readers:  McAlister's is a franchise, and as such, quality will vary depending upon the management and operations.  My experience at the Cypress location may not match yours at the U of H location.  Just the same if the other locations are run as well as the Cypress location, I'd say good food and good service are a reasonable expectation.

Report Card for McAlister's Deli in Cypress:
Dessert Case at McAlister's Deli
Food & Beverage:
     Sweet Tea: A
     Max Spud: B+ 
     Big Nasty Sandwich: A
     Speed: B+
     Friendliness: A
     Dining Area: A
     Kitchen: A
     Men's Room: B
Atmosphere (Themed Deli with local accents): B

Overall Grade: B+

McAlister's Deli has 7 Houston Area Locations
Other than the U of H location, they're located along the periphery of Houston.
We went to the one at:
McAlister's Deli 25672 NW Freeway, Suite A
Cypress, TX 77429

Hours of Operation
Mon - Thu: 10:30am - 9:30pm
Fri - Sat: 10:30am - 10:00pm
Sun: 10:30am - 9:30pm

Eat Happy, Y'all!!!

McAlister's on Urbanspoon

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