I walked in the door of Chompie's in Tempe the week I first arrived in Phoenix. I'd driven cross-country from New York in a giant moving van, and frankly after a week of eating greasy truck stop food and seeing nothing but dead grass and desert, I was homesick. Then I met Chompie's.
It was love at first sight. The mile-high sammies; the bakery cases crammed with rugalach and linzer tarts; Chompie's has everything that made a New York style Jewish deli great. Not much has changed since then. There are a few more Chompie's locations in the Valley now, and the Tempe branch is open later. The prices are a little higher than I remember, but the portions are still huge.
Many of the sandwiches clock in at more than ten bucks a piece, like the classic corned beef for $12.29 or the 5-Town Special Triple Decker with turkey, bacon, avocado and jack cheese for $13.79. The good news is that standard (non triple-decker) sandwiches come in half sizes -- and trust us, half is enough for most appetites.
Favorites include the half hot meatloaf sandwich ($7.49) and smoked whitefish ($8.29). Of course, you can always score an order of mini potato pancakes for less than seven bucks or a Jewish slider with lean brisket for $3.99. Most of the breakfast menu items also come in under budget; we're especially fond of the corned beef hash ($8.99) and the Arizona Benedict with eggs, honey turkey, tomato and avocado slices ($9.49).
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Chompie's isn't exactly upscale. The high-backed black metal chairs are straight out of the eighties, and the painted New York mural with its skyline, Statue of Liberty and Phantom of the Opera ad keep to the same era. Even the Twin Towers are present, softened by slightly differing sizes and comical depictions of the owners' relatives driving a taxicab and wearing a Statue of Liberty crown.
Enticed by the daily potato soup, we opted for a cup of the creamy chowder and a half egg salad sandwich with bacon. A good-sized hunk of sandwich arrived with a steaming bowl of creamy white soup topped with two bagel crisps. You can't have a New York deli without bagels showing up somewhere.
The soup was flavorful but lightly spiced, relying on the thick chunks of starchy potato for natural flavor. It hit the spot on a chilly day ("Arizona chilly," which means about 65. This former New Yorker should be ashamed). The egg salad was equally enjoyable, with chunks of egg white and well-balanced mayo portions. There was so much salad that it oozed out of the soft, fresh bread every time we bit in. Crisp bacon added a smoky flavor.
The hardest part about going to Chompie's is leaving empty-handed. Especially when there's a sign on every table advertising $5 off bakery orders over $25 with your receipt. While we couldn't justify two pounds of rugalach on our budget, we caved and bought two rainbow cookies sandwiched with layers of fruit jam for the spare change in our pockets.