40 S. 7th St. (City Center), Mpls., 612-259-8214, www.thesaladbarmn.com. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Limited seating.
Allie’s Deli & Catering isn’t exactly a newcomer. Its roots date to 1998, when it was known as the Rand Deli, and owners and spouses Scott Robinson and Nicole Allie bought the place in 2005.
Yet it feels newish, because the cramped indie gained some valuable elbow room last year when the coffee chain next door evaporated.
“Who would have thought that a Caribou would close?” said Robinson with a laugh. “They usually just multiply.”
The impressively vast chalkboard menus didn’t grow with the additional real estate, but the extra space gives the noticeably cheery crew a more efficient work platform.
A dozen made-to-order sandwiches are the house specialty, and the creative, obviously fresh results reside in a league far above the sub shops that blanket the city’s second story.
Taking their cues from nearby Chipotle, portions are more than generous (half-sizes here are near-full sizes elsewhere), notable for tall stacks of thickly shaved beef, corned beef, roast turkey and ham and a riot of embellishments, made on breads from the New French Bakery — a wise choice — or a decent house-baked baguette.
On the salad front there’s a likable design-your-own component, but what’s better are the soups, seven homey, always-available varieties that stand out for their rich flavor, piping hot temperature and reasonable prices.
The basic, just-like-Mom’s desserts are presented shrink-wrapped, not for visual appeal but for maximum grab-and-go convenience.
Don’t miss their delightful version of the Salted Nut Roll, with its rich caramel and marshmallow creme-enhanced nougat. Ditto the gooey Rice Krispies bars. Scratch baking, on the skyway? Believe it.
Breakfast means egg sandwiches finished with a wide array of mix-and-match ingredients, always a winner. Oh, and did I mention the staff’s off-the-charts niceness level?
527 Marquette Av. S. (Rand Tower), Mpls., 612-333-6425, www.alliesdeliandcatering.com. Open 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri. Limited seating.
On weekdays, the Crave kitchen goes into major soup mode, pulling together seven varieties and hustling them over to Soup to Go, the restaurant’s nearby lunch-only counter.
Five occupy permanent menu slots, including a hearty and creamy chicken-wild rice, a velvety butternut squash and a deeply flavorful roasted tomato bisque.
Each day also brings two specials, starting with Monday’s fragrant chicken noodle and ending in Friday’s clam-packed chowder, all ladled into cups ($3.95), bowls ($4.95) and a great three-sampler flight ($6.95).
Another option: an enormous, oven-warmed bread bowl ($7.95). Successfully transporting a Mulligatawny-filled bread bowl back to the office was a skeptical prospect at best, but the vessel — a crusty sourdough boule — proved more durable (and delicious) than imagined.