Outside a few mainstays like Snow City Cafe, breakfast options downtown are surprisingly limited. That means Sandwich Deck is strategically located to harness the summer tourists that fill the Hotel Captain Cook and surrounding hotels in droves.
But before I recognized the Sandwich Deck as a viable breakfast option, I invited my friend who works nearby to lunch.
The menu is a no-frills assortment of burgers, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, Alaska fare, omelets and a refreshingly honest "Deep Fried" section. A few items of interest, like the "oriental stir fry" ($8.95) and taco salad ($8.50), added a bit of variety.
My friend went straight for the avocado deluxe ($8.25) and I went with gusto for the halibut burger ($10.95). Also, just for kicks, we ordered the fried dumplings ($5.95). Like the menu, the service is also no-frills; orders are taken at the counter, drinks (except for coffees) are self-serve and guests settle into a booth to await their meal. Also, the bathroom is located in the same building but is accessed by a different door about half a block down the street.
If not for the smiling service and prompt counter attention, I would have felt like I was in a diner patterned after a 7-Eleven. The corner location is nice, and on this particular day, sunshine was streaming in through all of the windows. The Sandwich Deck is right up the street from Snow City, and people often backtrack here when the wait is too long.
The price is right, with sandwiches hovering around $7, and the most expensive thing on the menu is the king crab omelet at $15.95. I was surprised that a downtown location can offer such affordable prices, but the Sandwich Deck operates on simplicity. The dumplings were pre-made -- still tasty, but I had hoped for a personal touch since this item seemed to be an anomaly.
My friend's sandwich was solidly constructed with just-right ripe avocados, plenty of bacon, iceberg lettuce and tomatoes on workingman's wheat bread, served with crinkle-cut fries. It's honest diner food, designed to satisfy the Platonic ideal of a BLT and avocado, with no fancy brioche bun or secret sauce as distractions.
My halibut burger was a pre-formed patty, which I expected, with a utilitarian tartar sauce and a salad that consisted of iceberg chunks and one wedge of tomato. The first couple of bites were good, but then I found that it was too greasy for my taste. It did clue me in as to what I should order in the future.
I brought my dad on my next visit, my favorite dining partner for all manner of greasy spoons. We consider ourselves quite the experts on bacon and hash browns. He ordered the Breakfast No. 1, with sausage and toast ($8.50). I ordered the No. 3 with pancakes and bacon ($8.50). He discerningly asked for his hash browns to be fried on both sides (extra crispy!) and the friendly woman at the counter promised that it would be so; she also remembered me from my last visit and seemed pleased that I had returned -- always a nice touch.
On both visits, the Sandwich Deck was about halfway full. It's convenient and, if you avoid the Saturday brunch crowd, fairly quick. Our breakfast plates were generously portioned. Breakfast needs no frills, so this is where the Sandwich Deck shines. The hash browns got my dad's seal of approval and our eggs (over medium) were perfectly cooked.
Also, even though there is technically no serving staff, a woman came around to fill our coffee cups frequently. It was a satisfying meal -- simple but not Spartan.
The Sandwich Deck does not presume to rival Snow City; instead it occupies its own niche of providing fast, filling fare to folks eager to get out and explore.
By Riza Brown
Daily News correspondent