It was a sad day when the venerable Sub Palace closed almost two years ago in Leucadia but that feeling quickly gave way to cautious optimism when news that the Moto Deli would be taking its place.
Then I got word that the culinary team of Executive Chef Andrew Halvorsen and Alex Carballo along with owner Mario Warman was involved, and the anticipation grew almost manic. Based on past experience with Andy and Alex, these guys were going to do something special.
Then the two-year tease began.
But alas, they finally opened recently and it was worth the wait. Remember that ode to Cuban sandwich column I wrote recently? Well, it was a short mourning period as Moto Deli has a mighty fine one along with a menu full of original takes on classic sandwiches and more. Besides the menu, the space is very cool and a fine addition to the neighborhood.
Halvorsen sat down with me recently to fill me in on his background and what’s going on at Moto Deli.
Where are you from and what are some of your early culinary influences?
I’m originally from Buffalo, New York. I grew up near two amazing grandmothers who were excellent cook. My grandma on my dad’s side ran the kitchen a small restaurant called Bob and Ruth’s in upstate New York wine country and I remember being fascinated by the mess and noise and giant mixer in her kitchen.
What brought you to San Diego and where did you land here?
I moved to San Francisco to attend culinary school at California Culinary Academy, and after a few years in the city decided I was ready for something different. My girlfriend at the time had grown up down here and was ready to come back to the sunshine. Now that I’m here I can’t see myself leaving any time soon.
What restaurants and chefs along the way have shaped your style?
I try to find inspiration everywhere. Whether it’s a Michelin star chef half way around the world or a taco cart down the street, I find inspiration in everything…sometimes it’s not even food related stuff that helps me come up with a dish. I have had the privilege to work for and with a bunch of really great chefs with a variety of styles, so my cooking is pretty eclectic. Of all of the places that I’ve worked, AR Valentine, with chef Jeff Jackson and an excellent kitchen team, probably inspired me the most
How would you describe the menu at Moto Deli and the restaurant itself?
It’s a bohemian mix of European / Californian cuisine all presented on the humble sandwich. We didn’t want to be another pizza/burrito shop on 101 with a Hawaiian surf vibe. We set out to make awesome food presented in an approachable vessel, for the active lifestyle of Encinitas. We threw in some motorcycles because Mario has too many to keep at home, so he kind of designed the place as his man cave and a place to display his bikes…which are all for sale, for the purpose of purchasing… more bikes. Hopefully we’ll be able to start commissioning cool new bikes to display and sell.
The term “house made” can be exaggerated yet you actually do make a lot of what you serve in-house. Tell me more about that.
A sandwich is a pretty simple thing, so the elements that go into it have to be the best possible ingredients. The easiest way to insure that is to make them myself. We make as much stuff as we can and have plans to make more as we grow. Eventually I hope to be doing bacon and salami. Right now were baking about half of our bread here — the other half comes from O’Brien’s. All of our sauces and spreads, our very popular Habanero pickles have also led to a really spicy garlic habanero hot sauce. And then of course there’s the pork belly and Turketta.
Tell me about the process of making Turketta; it’s amazing by the way!
Inspired by Porchetta, Turketta starts with Deistel Farms Turkey breast with are brined for two day, deboned and butterflied and then seasoned and rolled up to be slow smoked over apple and hickory.
What are some of your favorites?
That is very difficult to answer. The turketta is definitely the crowd favorite. Aside from the Turketta, it has aged white cheddar, bacon avocado arugula, and what really makes it great is the Mostarda di Frutta, that we make. Inspired by the northern Italian condiment made with dried fruit and mustard oil, it adds a really unique sweetness to the sandwich.
Let’s end this on a music note. What was your first concert and where and what three bands would you book on one stage for a night?
My first concert was a Garth Brooks concert at the state fair that my parents took us to. The first one I actually wanted to go to was Weird Al, probably around the same time. The ultimate concert for me would start with the Who (obviously with the original members) I guess I’d have to throw in the Beatles too, then to shake things up I’d have the Beastie Boys, who I had tickets for years ago, but the tour was cancelled when one of them broke their leg or something ridiculous
Moto Deli is located at 810 N Coast Hwy 101. Call (760) 943-6686 for details or visit motodeli.com.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (858) 395-6905.