While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.
By Dan Smith
The spot: We took the challenge from a SacBee.com commenter and headed to Dave's Deli, AKA the Employment Development Department Cafeteria on the fourth floor of the building at 800 Capitol Mall, just a three-minute walk from the Capitol steps. Entry is a little more difficult than some state buildings -- you have to show ID, sign in with the guard in the lobby and be willing to wear a green "cafe/credit union" sticker during your visit. My lunch partners, loyal state employees and more-than-respectable cooks Fred and Guido, nonetheless pushed on. They were fascinated by the series of Montgomery Wards-era skinny escalators that carried us upward. Turned out the journey back in time was only beginning.
The grub: For lunch, Dave's features two daily specials and a relatively limited list of burgers, hot dogs, deli sandwiches, soups and melts. Salads and some sandwiches are pre-packaged. A tuna melt can be had for $4.59 and the daily special this Wednesday -- Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, corn and a roll -- was $5.29. Deli sandwiches are available for less than 5 bucks. Dave's is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., for breakfast and lunch.
On our plates: Guido went with the cheeseburger-fries-drink special ($4.69), I tried a grilled ham and cheese ($3.25) and a small lentil soup ($1.99). Fred, the adventurous one, went all in on the Salisbury steak special.
The bill: The tab for three lunches and drinks came to $17.79. One of many handmade signs along the food line said that drinks were no longer included with the daily special.
The good: Fred noted that the mashed potatoes actually included some potato chunks, the Salisbury sauce had "an OK amount of mushrooms (and) it's not overly salty, which is good." There are plenty of seats at long rectangular tables, in case you wanted to go with a big group. The dining area includes an outdoor balcony on two sides.
The bad: The ham and cheese was salty. We each had two spoonfuls of the lentil soup and declared it inedible mush. Though Fred had the most positive assessment, in the end he rated the Salisbury steak special as "nothing special." Guido said his cheeseburger was "pretty damn bland" and the fries crispy through and through, with no flavorful innards. "I had better food in my high school cafeteria," he muttered. It was a fitting close to our visit. Everything about Dave's Deli is old school -- old building, old dank cafeteria facility, old menu.
Have you been to Dave's Deli? Share your experiences in the comments field below.
Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try.
Send your picks to firstname.lastname@example.org and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.
PHOTO CREDITS: From top to bottom at Dave's Deli at the EDD building:
The Salisbury steak special.
The ham and cheese and lentil soup.
Guido, left, explains to Fred what makes an acceptable french fry.
Photos by Dan Smith, Bee Capitol Bureau.