The corner deli was many things. It was the neighborhood grocery where you’d take your weekly order and get it filled while you caught up on all the community gossip. Since it was right there on the block and, in many cases, always open, the deli was one of the first convenience stores. And when you needed coffee and a Danish for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, or to take home a gallon of soup for dinner, the deli would be your first, last, and all points in-between destination.

Though a German creation, the word delicatessen itself is from the French délicatesse, meaning “delicious things.” The shortened form—deli—didn’t make an appearance in the American lexicon until the mid- 1950s.

In Missouri, what we would today refer to as a deli actually had its start as a general store meat counter. Meats and cheeses were stacked high on homemade bread, partnered with a pickle and wrapped in butcher paper to keep it fresh. As supermarkets came along, they advanced the fresh deli counter until it’s virtually impossible to go into a grocery store today and not encounter the curved glass case full of prepared meats waiting to be sliced to order.

Like everyone, we appreciate the convenience of the in-store deli. But we’re also nostalgic for the way it used to be. That’s why we sent our epicurean archeologists to get the lowdown on some of the best old-time delis in the Show-Me State. Grab a bag of chips! And whatever you do, don’t forget the pickle.

Crane’s Country Store

Laron Hilke balances his wax-paper-wrapped sandwich on a bag of chips as if it were a well-practiced ritual. And to hear him tell it, it is.

Laron manages Hilke’s Ice Company, the Freeburg-based ice company that was founded by his father, John. Laron says he comes by Crane’s Country Store every time he’s in the neighborhood. “You can’t come to Williamsburg without stopping to get a sandwich,” he says.

The sandwich Laron refers to is Crane’s Country Store’s famous “one meat, one cheese, two dollars” special. “It used to be one meat, one cheese, one dollar,” explains David Crane, fourth-generation owner of the historic general store. “We started that in the ’50s but we just couldn’t keep doing it.”

Crane’s Country Store can trace its roots to 1899 when the Crane family bought into the Harrison Store in Mineola. After changing names for the succession of sons and brothers who operated it, the store moved to its present Williamsburg location on Old Highway 40 in 1926.

In addition to jeans, boots, pocketknives, and whatever odds and ends you’d expect to find in an old country store, locals and visitors still flock through the doors for a simple meat-and-cheese sandwich served on white bread with a choice of mustard or Miracle Whip.

On an average day, David estimates he and his staff make 100 to 200 sandwiches. “You can get a sandwich, bag of chips, and a soda for under five bucks,” he says.

Crane’s Country Store is open from 8 AM to 6 PM Monday through Saturday. “My uncle used to be open on Sunday but once I took over, my wife said we could stay open on Sunday if I didn’t want to be married anymore,” David says, laughing. “I’ve decided that I really like being married.”—Martin W. Schwartz

10675 Old US 40, Williamsburg • 573-254-3311 •

Kaitlynn’s Gyro, with grilled lamb, beef, lettuce, tomato, onions, and feta cheese on Greek pita with tzatziki sauce.

Kaitlynn’s Deli and Ice Cream Shop

Brunswick, Missouri’s self-proclaimed “Pecan Capital,” offers a lot more than delicious nuts; it also offers a unique chance to experience a “step back in time” at Kaitlynn’s Deli and Ice Cream Shop.

This locally beloved old-fashioned soda fountain and deli is run by Kaitlynn Reichert, a woman with dual passions: baking and her hometown. Kaitlynn began her legendary baking as a made-to-order business in 2006 at the age of 16, starting her own local storefront just five years later in downtown Brunswick.

Kaitlynn quickly decided that it would take more than great cheesecake to feed the town of nine hundred, so the idea of the sliced meats and cheeses came into play and the nostalgia of an old-fashioned deli was kept alive.

“We hit a niche with it,” says Kaitlynn.

One of the most popular items on the menu is the Bruns-on-Wick Sandwich (see the recipe on page 77), a play on Buffalo, New York’s famous Beef-on-Weck Sandwich. This classic is filled with roast beef, swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and sautéed mushrooms. The sandwich is grilled and topped with horseradish sauce. You can choose to have the sandwich on a toasted caraway seed bun, but the locals and Kaitlynn agree that the sandwich is at its highest potential on a freshly baked pretzel bun.

Kaitlyn’s Deli and Ice Cream Shop is open from 10 AM to 7 PM Tuesday through Saturday.—Danielle Breshears

121 East Broadway Street, Brunswick • 660-548-3600 •

In addition to being a deli, Turners Station Mercantile is also a full-service post office.

Turners Station Mercantile

One of Springfield’s favorite lunch stops can trace its roots to a small general store and post office built in 1889 just east of Springfield. Originally named Turnerville, the arrival of the Frisco Railroad would soon have everyone calling it Turners Station.

The railroad still runs right past the front door. The original Turners Store burned in 1923, but Jill Elsey Stoner, third-generation owner of Turners Station, says her grandparents rebuilt almost immediately. It’s that reconstructed building that welcomes a standing-room-only lunchtime crowd.

“We do made-to-order deli sandwiches six days a week,” Jill says. “We also have a brown-bag special that changes every day and a hot lunch soup at noon.”

The curved glass case is located near the back of the store and features a variety of meats, including ham, turkey, roast beef, pickle loaf, liver loaf, bologna, and chicken salad. Pile them on a choice of bread and cheeses such as American, pepper jack, Colby, swiss, sharp cheddar, and provolone. Chips, sodas, candy bars, and a variety of Missouri souvenirs are also available.

Turners Station is open 7 AM to 6 PM Monday through Friday and 8 AM to 3 PM Saturday.—Martin W. Schwartz

6484 East Farm Road 148, Springfield • 417-881-8777 • Facebook: Turners Station Mercantile

Courtesy of M&M Bakery and Deli

M&M Bakery and Deli

This small neighborhood business on East Thirty-First Street near US 71 in Kansas City’s inner city is a good example of things that change and somehow remain the same.

Though originally a kosher delicatessen in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, the deli has evolved along with the neighborhood. Today, the quality of M&M’s baked goods and deli sandwiches brings visitors from across the city, says owner Dorothy Williams.

“We’ve owned it for thirty-three years,” she says. “I think it was here for twenty-five years before that.”

Jewish immigrant Bronia Rosiawowski established M&M Bakery and Deli. Lifelong customer Robert Cahill says he remembers picking up  part-time work from Bronia when he was a boy. “When I was young, this was a kosher deli. They had a lot of meats and a couple of big pickle barrels right here,” he says, gesturing to a spot in front of the sandwich counter. “I remember it like it was yesterday. I’m sixty, and I’ve been coming here all my life.”

The specialty of M&M Bakery and Deli, aside from huge cinnamon rolls that look like they could feed four, is the Hook ’Em Up sandwich. The sandwich boasts pepper beef, turkey ham, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, hot and American cheese, salad dressing, and mustard served on an onion roll with a bag of chips on the side for just $6.50.

M&M Bakery and Delicatessen is open from 6:30 AM to 5 PM Tuesday through Friday, and 7 AM to 4 PM Saturday. It is closed Sunday and Monday.—Martin W. Schwartz

1721 East Thirty-First Street, Kansas City • 816-924-9172 • Facebook: MMBakeryDeli

Gioia’s Deli on The Hill in St. Louis was built with brick and wood recovered from the 1904 World’s Fair.

Gioia’s Deli

The food truck delights and the downtown location pleases, but to capture the full glory of Gioia’s Deli, head to the original site on The Hill in St. Louis. It is here that history, tradition, and food blend in a uniquely delicious manner—a fact recognized by the deli’s recent win of a coveted James Beard Foundation America’s Classic award. Gioia’s roots stretch to 1918 when Italian immigrant Charlie Gioi opened a butcher shop and sold homemade salam de testa (hot salami) by the pound and in sandwiches on Saturdays.

When Kathy Donley took over Gioia’s in 1980, she transformed the shop into a deli, serving the hot salami sandwich as well as other sandwiches, salads, and sides. Today, Kathy’s son Alex Donley runs Gioia’s and little has changed over the years.

Menu items are limited, but all made in-house. And Gioia’s remains the only place in the state, if not the world, to serve a hot salami sandwich (that’s hot as in temperature and popularity, not spice).

The deli is open from 10 AM to 4 PM Monday through Saturday.—Susan Katzman

1934 Macklind Avenue, St. Louis • 314-776-9410 •

At the Dutch Bakery Bulk Food Store in Tipton, you can choose from a variety of meats and cheeses to take home or have made into a sandwich.

Dutch Bakery and Bulk Food Store

When you’re in the mood for a big, fresh deli sandwich, an Amish bulk food store might not be the first destination to pop into your mind, but it should.

After you get past the baking supplies, the candies, the nuts, and the produce, you’ll see the deli counter in the back of the store. Here, you can choose from just about any deli meat or cheese—including sweet bologna—and have it sliced and packaged to take home. Or you can opt for a sandwich made your way and put between two slices of homebaked bread.

“The Dutch Deluxe is our most popular,” says David Hoober, manager. “It’s smoked ham, smoked turkey, and roast beef with swiss cheese. It weighs about a pound and a quarter. It’s a big sandwich and it’s served on our homemade bread.” You can also add lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, jalapeño and banana peppers, and black olives. And it all costs just $5.99.

Dutch Bakery also sells unique soft drinks such as Sioux City Sarsaparilla. And be sure to check out the fresh-baked desserts. There’s a small picnic table in the store if you want to dine in.

Dutch Bakery and Bulk Food is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary on US 50 in Tipton. It’s easy to find, just east of the giant eight-ball water tower.

The store is open 7 AM to 6 PM Monday through Thursday, 7 AM to 7 PM Friday, and 7 AM to 5:30 PM Saturday.—Martin W. Schwartz

709 US 50 • 660-433-2865 • Facebook: Dutch Bakery and Bulk Food Store