What does a first-time visit to Protzel’s Deli look like?

Dan Buffa

Walking into a deli hungry is no easy task. Whoever invented them chose to display at least 15-20 things on the menu. It’s like voting for the Oscars in less than five minutes. Choices have to be made and quick, because a lunch break waits for no one.

KSDK News reporter Justina Coronel had a decision of her own to make late last week, and she chose Protzel’s Delicatessen, a deli in Clayton known for giving folks on the move a great meal. Coronel, who states in her Twitter bio that she is “passionate about pizza,” went for the bagel sandwich and I had to do my Jewish Light duty and ask her what a first time visit to one of St. Louis’ best spots looked like.

Warning: Reading about bagel sandwich consumption can lead to extreme watering of the mouth and an immediate visit to Clayton (they open early, so you’re good there). While Coronel could have played it safe and gotten the popular corned beef or pastrami, or the tasty eye of the round rare roast beef, she went for surf over turf this time. 

Her ultimate choice? Lox and cream cheese layered over a poppy seed bagel. See for yourself. 

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Check out the capers living rent free inside the Lox, and the army of poppy seeds on the outside. It’s those little gems that need our help right now as the economy gets off the canvas and re-wraps their hands for the 2021 spring season. And while the neighborhood favorites usually reign supreme for returning customers, give next door a look before making your decision. That’s how Coronel found Protzel’s. 

“So I happen to go to the restaurant next door (Peno) frequently. I noticed Protzel’s next door and was curious,” she said. “I asked my St. Louis best friend (who is from the area) and he told me, I had to go! And the rest is history.”

Protzel’s Deli currently offers easy online ordering right here, via a website called Bring Me That. Coronel went inside and ordered, taking it to go, because a reporter never rests-or perhaps the sun was finally making a decision to come out after a week or two of hiding. 

Now, onto the important quick questions:

Will she recommend it to friends and family, and is there going to be a second visit? 

“I would 100% recommend it to friends and family,” Coronel said. “I am returning and to be honest, I am a huge bagel lover, so I may go back in a few days.”

There’s something special about trying out a new family-owned local restaurant. The moment you walk in, it’s as if you are stepping into a piece of history, or someone’s hard-earned life. If you don’t see old (some being very old) family or big family dinner pictures on the wall, something’s wrong. If you don’t feel that urge to eat more than you would at a chain restaurant, something is also off. 

It’s a signature experience, and one that Coronel never allows to waver when she looks for a new place to try. The personal touch at these small hole-in-the-wall places is the difference maker. Protzel’s Deli made her feel like family, even for just a few minutes. 

“I think the biggest thing I notice is how welcoming they are. You always feel like you can approach them about a certain item and they’d be honest with you. It’s like dealing with your own family. They’re honest and they look out for you.”

Now that I am done telling you about Protzel’s, I may have to call the folks there and inform them that this food-crazy Italian-Lebanese writer will be returning for a sandwich very soon. If Justina is there, it’ll only become a better lunch. 

Here’s their menu to do a little recon work before stepping inside.