The Yellow Deli feels far removed from the rest of Vista. The two-story house sits on a quiet, uncrowded stretch of East Broadway. Inside, almost everything—from the smooth, polished tables to the spiral staircase to the food elevator—is made of wood. For some, the wooden interior might recall Snow White's cottage or eighth-grade summer camp. For me, it's the waterfront log cabin that I mentally escape to every now and then.
In 2003, the deli's owners demolished a run-down, one-room building and began constructing a full-fledged structure from the ground up. The quasi-treehouse was born in 2010. A quick tour of the place (315 E. Broadway) reveals why it took seven years to build. To begin with, it's no pocket-sized Disney cottage. The spacious restaurant includes a wraparound balcony and a coffee bar with its own seating area. The coffee bar's cushy couches and free wi-fi lures slouching 20-somethings with all the intensity of a neodymium magnet—so if you can't stand 'em, stay away.
I recommend grabbing a table on the balcony. It's peaceful up there, and if you need a distraction from your date, there's a decent view. Plus, once the outdoor fire pit gets crackling, the smoke will fill the air and it will smell of high-school bonfires and nostalgia.
The Yellow Deli's easy-to-follow menu covers the basics: sandwiches, salads and soups. Juice-bar offerings and a short stack of breakfast options fill the back page. Much of the restaurant's produce comes from nearby farms, including Morning Star Ranch. The breads are home-baked, and you can tell. Still, the breads I tried often lacked textural complexity. I ordered the Deli Rose, a sandwich with an A-list cast: roast beef, corned beef, hot pepper jack cheese and provolone. The all-star ingredients meet the usual fixings on an onion roll.
Maybe this is my inner glutton speaking, but the onion roll that arrived minutes later looked so small. More importantly, it lacked the symphonic crackle that carby dreams are made of. The sammie's soft and juicy ingredients contributed to the bread's sogginess. Still, a great sandwich relies only somewhat on a rich range of textures. What matters more is flavor.
The hot pepper jack cheese saves the Deli Rose, lending its sharp tang to an otherwise mildly flavored sandwich. I suggest ditching the tomato slices—they don't elevate the taste, but they do make the sandwich slippery. Instead, pack in a few potato chips, which should arrive on your plate. The chips will add some much-desired crunch and saltiness.
A cheesy jalapeño roll was the highlight of my Deli meal. The chubby slab reminded me that sometimes the carby stuff is better left unadorned. In fact, if The Yellow Deli ever considers getting a mascot, the jalapeño roll should be it. Why? Well, it's simple and savory and 100-percent homemade.