After returning from our roadtrip, I was still thinking about the tri-tip from Firestone Grill. And though I didn't think I'd find anything even close here in San Diego (I mean really, the place would be more packed than Phil's), I did recall someone telling me about a place I once passed on my now all-too-infrequent drives around San Diego.
In the strip mall located at 7094 Miramar, I recall seeing...well squinting to see "Motor City Deli" right next to the Churchill's Cigar and Wine Bar. For some reason, this fascinated me, so I went home and checked out the menu....which didn't seem like a big deal. A couple of months later someone mentioned that this place mentioned that they smoked their own tri-tip and brisket for sandwiches. After Firestone Grill, I was here in an instant!
Walking in, I was very surprised at how large this place was. The small front area; it looked like it used to be, maybe a pizza or Italian joint, opened up to a fairly large dining area, with a back bar, several local beers on tap as well.
The prices seemed very inexpensive, the advertising for the deli meats were Boar's Head, decent, but nothing special. I noticed the back posters which featured the tri-tip and brisket. I asked the very nice young man behind the counter and he confirmed that they did indeed smoke their own tri-tip and brisket. So I ordered a tri-tip, on a roll, the young man recommended the mushrooms and onions and horseradish sauce.
It was a nice portion for $7.99, but there were several problems with the sandwich. First the meat was pre-cut then placed into a large steam table hotel pan in beef "broth/jus" which basically leached all the beef flavor out of the meat, leaving behind a somewhat artificial-saltiness. I really couldn't make out the smoked flavor and the meat was starting to seize. The onions and mushrooms along with the horseradish sauce actually saved the sandwich, so good call by the young man, as was the time spent placing the sandwich in the toaster oven.
You get one side with the sandwich and I chose the coleslaw....which was a mistake.
There seemed to be no seasoning, sauce, or anything on this....it tasted like eating coleslaw mix plain........
Don't get me wrong, other than the "faux-slaw", the sandwich wasn't bad, just that it wasn't elevated to the level it could be. I decided to return and this time get the brisket ($6.99).
Just by understanding the differences in smoking time for a tri-tip versus a brisket, I believed the smoke flavor of the brisket would be much more pronounced, which it was, though the brisket was much tougher, in terms of flavor it handled the "jus soak" much better. You could even see a mild smoke ring around the slices. I had the sandwiched dressed exactly as before by the very friendly woman working on this day.
After my coleslaw experience, I decided to let the friendly woman choose my side. She selected the pasta salad which was just made. This was a better choice, very by-the-book, but decent.
Overall, I liked the people here, very low keyed, but nice. This seems like a decent neighborhood sandwich place...I'd visit every so often if I worked or lived nearby. Heck, I'd even drop by for a beer and sandwich for dinner when the Missus is working. Is it worth an special trip to visit? Probably not.
I'm not sure what the "Motor City" in the name of the place is referring to....is it the owners? Or maybe our own Cathy who hails from the area might know?
One interesting note is that SuperNatural Sandwiches is opening a few doors down.
Motor City Deli
7094 Miramar Road Suite 114
San Diego, CA 92121
Mon-Sat 10am - 9pm