Littlejohn’s New York Deli is still one of the best options on the Corner

Even after 42 years, the favorite sandwich shop draws a crowd

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The atmosphere inside is busy and warm, very much like a real New York deli. Lindsay Smith | Cavalier Daily

In 1976, John Crafaik Jr. saw a gap in the Charlottesville food community. There was no one offering easy, deli-style food to University students, so “Little John” decided to open his Delicatessen, which has since become one of the most reliably delicious spots on the Corner.

Accessibility

Sandwiched right between Finch and CVS, Littlejohn’s is easily accessible on foot for all University students — although Charlottesville locals don’t seem to have forgotten the road to such quality sandwiches either. A parking lot with a low hourly rate right near the Deli means visiting parents and townspeople alike can easily enjoy the restaurant.

It is important to note that while they are no longer a 24/7 operation, Littlejohn’s still caters to student hours. Doors open at 8 a.m. every day and don’t close until 3 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday, making it a favorite for both late-night drunk food and morning on-the-go sandwiches. The restaurant closes at 10 p.m. other days of the week. All types of students can benefit from the restaurant’s choice of operating hours.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere inside is busy and warm, very much like a real New York deli. The chairs and tables are a little too close together for comfort — their cramped placement sometimes makes it hard to maneuver around other customers — but they provide plenty of seating for anyone interested in resting their feet. The order-and-seat-yourself style is on the whole very laid back, and the wall decor really makes you feel like you are grubbing in a big city sandwich shop.

Affordability

Perhaps the most delicious aspect of Littlejohn’s success is its pricing. The subs, flatbreads and sandwiches are super affordable, ranging between $3.75 and $8.50 (with most larger sandwiches costing around $7). Their servings are relatively large for the price, although for all those long-standing Littlejohn’s consumers like me who have been patronizing the store since before it was featured in a Cav Daily article, it is important to note that they no longer serve chips on the side.

Appeal

As for the food itself, there is nowhere better to get a hearty sub on the Corner — or really anywhere throughout the Shenandoah Valley. Littlejohn’s offers originals, basics, interesting flavor mixes and even a kiddie menu, so no matter what mood you are in they have a ‘wich to match it. But while each and every item stands out for its own reasons, I will recommend my three favorite sandwiches.

The Meatball Sub is perfect for cheat day — which for me may or may not be every day — because the bread is soft but still crisp on the outside, and the cheese is perfectly melted and gooey. I will say that the presentation makes it more difficult to eat; the meatballs are not sliced, making me worry with every bite that I’ll lose part of the sub to gravity. My stance at this point in time is definitely against spilled sandwiches, so I always catch any spillage by eating the sub directly over the box it comes in. 

The flavor balance between the meat, sauce, cheese and bread is very good, although the bread does become a little soggy if the sandwich isn’t eaten soon after it is ordered. This sub is definitely on the heavy side, but more than worth it. I hate to pick favorites, but out of all the options on the board this one has proven itself to be consistently worthwhile.

The Reuben is also a classic, perfect for busy days when ordering a creative sandwich is just too stressful. I have been pleased to find that the dressing is tart but not overly sour — it’s sweeter than many of the other 1,000 island dressings I have tried — and is topped with so much meat it should be illegal. They definitely took a page from Arby’s to make this one.

The Wild Turkey is a little more out there than the first two choices, but is nonetheless a family favorite — in fact, it has been the number one choice in my own family since the early 1980s. This sandwich boasts understated bacon, a subtle herb mayo — which is just as classy as it sounds — and a mouthwatering flavor palate of turkey, tomato and muenster.

All in all, Littlejohn’s is easily accessible to students and offers the perfect sandwich for everyone. It has been one of my favorite places since well before I chose to attend the University, and I honestly believe it will remain one of my favorite places well after I am gone. In all honesty, I will probably be shipping their sandwiches across the country by air mail as soon as I move out of driving range.

Lindsay Smith is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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