Jul 5, 2022 - Food and Drink

Richmond's best deli sandwiches

A savory turkey sandwich with fries
The Rachel at Perly's. Image courtesy of Perly's

This week's "Ask Axios" question is from self-described “loyal reader” Jay, who’s in search of the three places that serve the best deli sandwiches in town.

  • “Great sandwiches,” he says. “I mean really great sandwiches.”

And I have no doubt I’m about to wade into answering the most divisive “Ask Axios” question we’ll ever get.

The internet is all over the place when it comes to defining what makes a great sandwich. Some say the quality of the meat, while others say it's the delicate layering of the meat and other ingredients. And then there are whole corners of the internet that swear it comes down to the condiments.

But I say they’re all wrong: A great sandwich comes down to the most basic, but crucial, part — the bread. (OK, lots of other people say this, too).

So who has the best bread, aka best deli sandwich, in Richmond? I’m taking a deep breath and bracing myself for the replies:

Coppola’s Deli

Coppola’s has been making some of the best deli sandwiches in Richmond since 1982 — in large part thanks to the bread it gets daily from Buffa Italian Bakery in Petersburg.

  • But deli meat from Thumann’s in New Jersey certainly doesn't hurt — and with more than 20 sandwiches on the menu, you can’t go wrong.
A cheese sandwich with chips and a drink in a window.
The cheese colombo with eggplant and artichokes at Coppola’s. Image courtesy of Coppola’s Deli
Perly's Restaurant & Delicatessen

Perly’s has been a local sandwich staple since 1961, but for the Richmond sandwich scene, it was a game changer when Kevin Roberts (with business partner Johnny Giavos) took it over and reopened it with its reemphasized Jewish deli theme in 2014.

  • (Y’all do know that Roberts is the man behind Richmond’s beloved The Black Sheep, right?)
  • Whether it’s on challah, seeded rye, marbled rye, pumpernickel or a Kummelweck roll — you can’t make a bad sandwich choice here.
A huge, huge sandwich at Perly's.
It's called the goy vey for a reason. Image courtesy of Perly's
Union Market

I surprised you with this one, didn’t I? Bet you thought I was going to say New York Deli — inventor of the sailor sandwich — and it was close; it was super, super close. But there’s just something about Union Market's bread, from Lyon Bakery in Maryland, that makes my taste buds sing.

  • Plus, from time to time, they use Billy Bread. And I am a member of the cult of Richmond’s Billy Bread. As we all should be.
a delicious-looking, huge pastrami sandwich
The pastrami sandwich at Union Market. Image courtesy of Amba Swanson at Union Market

OK, I’m not going to leave it like this. I don’t get to make the final call on who has the best deli sandwiches in Richmond. This city and its amazing sandwiches belong to all of us — so you tell me what your faves are (email me at [email protected]), and I’ll share them in the coming days.

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