LEAVENWORTH — They can smell the fried chicken. But can they find the fried chicken?
Summer visitors streaming past Dan’s Food Market here can spot all the signs of something yummy nearby — tourists enjoying hefty roast beef sandwiches, families picnicking on freshly fried drumsticks and macaroni salad.
But the source of that tantalizing fare? Not so obvious.
Dan’s deli is one of a handful of out-of-the-way Wenatchee Valley eateries — a Mexican grill, hospital bistro, airport cafe and others — tucked inside larger establishments. While many local residents are privy to these hideaways’ locations and specialties, out-of-towners sometimes have to search.
“All summer long, tourists find us by following their noses,” said Kim Spry, manager of the market’s popular deli. It’s situated inside the locally-owned grocery, all the way down Aisle 1 and around the corner of a wide entryway.
“We’ve learned to time the frying to when people are hungry,” she laughed. “You know — right before noon, right before dinner time, right after big events when people are walking back to their cars.”
Served piping hot, Dan’s fried chicken is known far and wide for its juiciness and just-right crust, said Spry. The deli uses only fresh, Washington-grown chickens, dips the pieces in homemade batter and keeps the fryer going all day as customers line up at the counter.
“In peak vacation times, we go through a lot of chickens,” said Spry.
But the deli serves up more than fried chicken. Its second-most-popular items are handmade sandwiches bulging with meats, veggies, cheeses and condiments, all on breads made 20 feet away by Homefires Bakery, which shares the space.
“We don’t eat here all the time, but we do eat here three-quarters of the time,” joked Gary Mailloux, a Leavenworth resident and a frequent deli customer.
“The sandwich ingredients and flavors are amazing. Great meats, great breads and …” — he looked over at Spry and smiled — “ … great service. I think the service is part of what makes this place so popular.”
Eric Worthen, co-owner of Dan’s Market with wife Lisa, said the attention given by the deli’s three-person staff to food and service brings customers back again and again. “I’ve no doubt that it’s Kim and her staff that set our deli apart.”
Spry demurred. “Truthfully, the sandwiches are pretty basic,” she said. “But we use the best ingredients we can find, never skimp on portions and sell them at a price that makes people smile.” A sandwich, bag of chips and cookie sell for $4.99.
Spry, 54, joined Dan’s Market in 1987 and has managed the deli for the last 10 years. Over the course of a summer tourist season, she’ll fry up thousands of chicken pieces and personally make hundreds of sandwiches. During fire season, special orders from fire crews can have the deli staff making 300 sandwiches at a time.
“We stay pretty busy here,” chuckled Spry, as local customers arrived last week for mid-afternoon chicken and sandwich snacks. “People get a taste of what we offer and, well, they come back for more.”
Deli at Dan’s Food Market
Where: Inside Dan’s Market, 1329 Highway 2, Leavenworth
On the Menu: Fried chicken, deli sandwiches, pizzas and salads.
What looks good? Pepper turkey sandwich with provolone on 9-grain bread or marble rye.
Details: Open daily 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Phone: 548-5611.
Pablo’s Mexican Grill
Where: Inside the Latino Market Place, 730 Grant Road, East Wenatchee.
On the menu: Mexican favorites with a few flavor-enhancing twists from South Mexico
that include high-quality meats (Latino Market Place is a popular carniceria), a wide range of spices and a careful use of interesting cheeses. Tacos, burritos, tamales, enchiladas, quesadillas, carne asada all have a zesty edge — lime? fruit? — and low heat. Increased spiciness comes from the extensive salsa bar, which features more than a dozen offerings of various heats — mild cabbage slaw to medium pico de gallo to “ay caramba!” chipotle sauce.
What looks good? The huge California Burrito combines tender carne asada (or chicken) with herbed rice, refried beans and spicy guacamole, wrapped up and covered in a cream-tomato red sauce. Pork tamales are chock-full of spiced meat in a thin casing of white cornmeal.
Details: The decor’s not fancy, and doesn’t need to be. The food is the star. Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tuesday through Sunday. Phone: 881-2600.
The Cafe at the Airport
Where: Inside Pangborn Memorial Airport, 1 Pangborn Drive, East Wenatchee.
On the menu:Tasty and inexpensive grab-and-go items for travelers highlight daily fare, including muffins, bagels, cookies, espresso drinks and sandwiches. On Thursdays, the menu
expands with a lunch special, such as chicken salad wraps or French dip sandwiches. And don’t forget pies. Thursday is also Pie Day. Owner Ruth Piccirillo brings in a couple of homemade pies — sour cream pear, chocolate cream, apple or cherry — and they sell out fast. Friday is hamburger day (cheeseburgers, double-meat burgers), which airport employees and local residents anticipate each week.
What looks good? One crowd-pleaser is the grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich, a hot offering popular on cold days. But the lasagna plate, served occasionally as a Thursday special, is likely the most favorite offering with lasagna, garlic bread and salad — all for $6. An unheard-of price for an airport.
Details: Scheduled flights dictate the cafe’s schedule. It’s open Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 6 a.m., from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2:15 to 4 p.m. Phone: 881-2575.
Mike Irwin: 665-1179