Setting the Table
The new Groucho's Deli across from Coastal Carolina University is a franchise; a 60-year-old South Carolina franchise with 26 locations in North Carolina and South Carolina. It's corporate deciders say they believe in slow growth.
The founder, Harold "Groucho" Miller, grew up in a Philadelphia orphanage and thought about food a lot. When he moved to Columbia in 1941, he opened Groucho's Deli; Miller was called Groucho because he looked and sounded like Groucho Marx, complete with a big stogie.
The layout is a simple strip mall rectangle with booths along the right-hand wall and tables in a row beside them, a couple more tables by the front window and some counter seating at one end of an exposition kitchen/execution area. Behind a partition is storage, and at the restaurant's rear is the cash register. The decor is black and white and red all over, and an oversize chalk board offers a big old welcome message, sandwich specials and an invitation to connect on Facebook to receive weekly dining specials.
Down the Hatch
The food is excellent, which is why Groucho's has packed in crowds since it opened on March 14. Even with school not in session, it was full at lunchtime on July 14.
Many of the recipes are as old as the franchise, such as Miller's potato salad, cole slaw and dressings. Groucho's signature trademarked Formula 45 Sauce (similar to Thousand Island with extra oomph) was developed in 1945. My friend had that sauce on the side with the STP Dipper, which is one of 16 Groucho's Specialty Sandwiches. She enjoyed the blend of roast beef, turkey melted Swiss cheese and bacon on a soft sub roll.
A few more specialties ($5.69-$7.09) are The Brown Moose with roast beef, provolone, lettuce and Formula 45 on a seeded roll; Roast Beef Marinate (think Arby's only better, made with top round); Pita Pocket with veggies, Cheddar and a choice of meats; and a Reuben variation served in Columbia since 1969 with so-called "extra lean" pastrami, Muenster cheese, sauerkraut and German mustard on a choice of breads (rye, pumpernickel, onion roll, white, wheat, soft seeded roll, wheat roll).
There's also Deli Sandwiches ($3.39-$6.39) including The Cheese Sandwich with Cheddar, Swiss, Muenster, American or Provolone; Corned Beef; Pastrami; and Salami. A trio of BLT Clubs ($5.89-$10.39) includes The Deli Club for Two, which is the original enormous club sandwich offered by Groucho Miller. Veggie lovers have three choices with the Veggie Italian Sub, Mushroom Cheese Melt and Tomato Cheese Melt.
Miller's three original founding sandwiches are also on the menu for $5.29-$6.19: Tuna Sandwich, Chicken Salad Sandwich and Tuna Cheese Melt Club.
A list of eight Low Fat Alternatives includes a Low Fat Roast Beef Marinate served with a side of grain mustard and pretzels; and the Low Fat Chicken Critter that's a grilled marinated chicken breast on a roll with herb slaw and pretzels on the side. Both of those have eight grams of fat.
I went even lower with three grams of fat in my Bean Salad with Turkey, which was outrageously wonderful on a hot muggy day. An almost icy-cold bed of crisp iceberg is topped with garbanzo and kidney beans tossed in Formula 95 sauce, which is like a thin honey mustard. There's also thinly shaved turkey breast, and large-dice cucumbers and tomatoes, plus extra Formula 95 on the side.
Fourteen more salad choices are $2.39-$6.79, including one topped with four ounces of feta cheese, a pasta salad with vegetables over salad greens, and My Wife's Salad Bowl with ham, turkey, bacon, diced cheese, lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
Children have three small sandwich choices for $3.69-$3.79, and available drinks are tea ($1.69), coffee, fountain soft drinks and several flavors of Dr. Brown's sodas.
When the weather gets cooler I want to go back and try the Chicken Chili for $3.79 that contains a "...tasty blend of vegetables, crushed tomatoes, select spices & crackers."
Groucho's Deli is at 201 Graduate Rd. in the University Commons strip mall across U.S. 501 from Coastal Carolina University. It's open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and until 4 p.m. Sundays, and the number is 349-4545. There's also an older Groucho's in Pawleys Island at 9380 Ocean Highway, and that number is 237-5807.
Becky Billingsley serves up fresh news daily at MyrtleBeachRestaurantNews.com.