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Thursday, Feb. 19, 2004 07:59 pm

Bring on the bread

Sarah and Jarred McCormick, with their son Jarred Jr., own McCormick’s Deli
Photo by Nick Steinkamp

At McCormick's Deli, it's all about the bread. Baked daily, it's the foundation on which a variety of meat, cheese and condiments are added. And as we all know, it's the secret to a good sandwich.

Bread makes McCormick's stand out from the crop of sandwich shops, not the atmosphere or service. Located in a strip mall on the city's west side, McCormick's is a simple place with dark green and burgundy walls, a few posters on the wall and green plastic tablecloths. It's self-serve: you order your food and then your name is called when it's ready to be picked up at the window.

The restaurant, owned by Jarred and Sarah McCormick, offers basic sandwiches like roast beef, meatball, and ham and cheese. Bread options for your sandwiches include french roll, stone ground whole wheat, onion roll and sliced marble rye. The bread, which can be ordered cold or oven-toasted, is topped with mayonnaise, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, house vinegar, and olive oil.

Then comes the hard part: making a decision. Sandwiches include corned beef and cheddar, turkey and Swiss, turkey, tuna, ham or chicken salad, meatball, BLT and veggie. There are combinations with manly names like The Big Daddy (shaved roast beef au jus with Swiss cheese, grilled green peppers, and onions) and The Sicilian (shaved ham, Genoa salami, pepperoni, and provolone).

Grinders are also available. The sandwiches are made with freshly baked Italian bread, which is loaded with ingredients like meatballs, peppers, onions, and cheese, then stone baked. They are large enough for two people to share. If you're really hungry, try the Gladiator: a stack of Genoa salami, pepperoni, ham and mozzarella cheese, on onions, green peppers, mushrooms, vinegar, and oil for $5.89.

On a recent visit, I ordered chicken salad and my mother ordered a reuben. My sandwich was a heaping scoop of a creamy blend of white meat chicken with specks of crunchy pickle, just the way I like it. It was layered in between two slices of Swiss and stuffed inside a hearty whole wheat roll. The reuben was piled with shaved corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss and served with Thousand Island sauce on the side.

While the sandwich was a success, the roasted marbled rye made it a real winner. In fact, my mother thought the sandwich was so flavorful she didn't even need to add the dressing.

We also ordered two cups of soup: chicken and rice and Southwestern vegetable, which was the soup offering of the day. The tomato-based broth was full of a flavorful mix of corn, black beans, and vegetables. We preferred it to the chicken and rice, which was creamy and full of mushrooms and chicken, but made with white rather than wild rice, which I think would have given it more flavor. We were disappointed that the soup was served lukewarm and apparently we weren't the only ones -- we overheard other customers commenting on the same thing. But when we asked that it be reheated, two steaming cups of soup were quickly returned to us.

Other menu items include a 9-inch pizza (toppings include salami, corned beef and sauerkraut), soups and salads. Daily lunch specials include steak and cheese on Thursday and walleye sandwiches on Fridays. A walleye dinner, which includes three pieces of walleye, potato and coleslaw for $4.99, is served only from 4-8 p.m. Friday. Of course, what self-respecting eatery in this town could have a menu without horseshoes? At McCormick's, it's the Wednesday special. I have tried the turkey version, which came with small pieces of shaved meat over toast and fries. The cheese sauce served on this traditional city specialty was good, but there wasn't enough of it, meaning by the time I got to the bottom piece of toast, it was completely dry. My opinion: stick with the sandwiches.

McCormick's is located at 2621 W. White Oaks Dr. Phone: 217-726-3418. Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Thu. and Sat.; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri. Catering and delivery is available.

Calling all outdoorsmen and women

If you're proud of that 10-point buck you bagged or big mouth bass you reeled in, Westwoods Lodge Pub and Grill wants to know.

The pub sponsors a yearly contest, which begins in February, that gives customers a chance to win prizes and brag about their conquests. During the next year, people can bring in pictures of themselves with their prize catch -- whether it's hunting, fishing or mushroom picking. Each picture submitted by an adult entitles them a chance to win 10 prizes, including collectors' knives or a black powder gun. Children are given prizes just for bringing in a picture.

The random drawing is held the first Saturday in February and you must be present to win. "It gets better every year," says owner Mick Wanless. Approximately 70 people attended this year's drawing and winners were chosen from 120 entries. Pictures entered for the drawing are added to a wall of fame posted in the restaurant.

The pub, which is popular for its horseshoes, pizza, fried catfish, walleye and carp, was purchased four years ago by Wanless and his wife, Carey. The restaurant is now decorated like a hunting lodge, with a fireplace.

Westwoods is located at 2406 W. Jefferson St. Phone: 217-698-9256. Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. seven days a week. Pizza is served until 11 p.m.

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