I’m always eager to try a new bakery or deli. It may be hard to believe, but upscale dining can be a chore after a while (I’m sure you’re drying your tears for me with your copy of encore right now). Honestly, there’s nothing I love more than simple deli food and quality baked goods. So the allure of the two offered by Soho Bakery and Cafe became irresistible as I drove past the old gas station on Eastwood Road beside the kayak place.
Named for the famed New York City neighborhood (short for South of Houston Street), Soho boasts a deli-style menu with NYC-themed names for its specialty sandwiches. The interior gives off a genuinely Big Apple feel, with tables placed so closely and efficiently as to border on crowding. And the eclectic cushions attached to the booths are not just a fun stylistic choice; they actually make for the most comfortable booths in town.
Their “Midtown Mozzarella” makes for an excellent chicken sandwich. With moist breast meat, crisp lettuce, and a particularly biting red onion, its a high-quality product at a reasonable price. The fresh mozzarella dictates a real treat; not everyone loves the fresh stuff. We’ve been conditioned by years of eating pizza to think of processed cheese as the one true mozzarella. But give the fresh stuff a second look; I think you’ll like it.
The “Veggie Pannini,” also on ciabatta, makes for an excellent vegetarian option. Admittedly, the eggplant gets a little mushy in the grilling. But the vegetables maintain a nicely seasoned, vibrant flavor. Add to it a light application of Italian salad dressing, and the provision of a small hint of vinegar adds zest.
The “Little Italy” is, on its face, just another meatball sub. And the meatballs themselves taste fair, though not remarkable. Yet, the piping hot marinara, with substantial chunks of acidic tomatoes, breathes vitality into the classic. A hearty application of my beloved fresh mozzarella doesn’t hurt either.
I also got a taste of the “New York Classic,” or, as I like to think of it: a real honest-to-God Reuben. Thinly sliced pastrami mingles with spicy brown mustard to perfect harmony. Don’t talk to me about Thousand Island dressing. I’m not interested. The rich, fatty corned beef is best accented with mustard—always.
The real star of all Soho’s sandwiches comes from their bread. Ciabatta, Rye, hoagie … it doesn’t matter. Consistently and across the board, Soho produces the kind of quality bread one would hope for in any establishment dubbed a “bakery.” Diners can choose their own favorite Boar’s Head ingredients and rest assured the bread will be excellent.
On a side note, though: Soho does not carry ham. Or pepperoni. Or salami. Or prosciutto. At first I thought the deli appears more kosher than Italian. But bacon does appear on many sandwiches, and for breakfast they also serve sausage.
Baked goods come as a bit of a mixed bag. Three flavors of cupcakes—vanilla, chocolate, and cream cheese—come too cold and too dry. I couldn’t look past the flaws to say whether the taste hits the mark. The chocolate chip scone also has an equally unremarkable after-effect. A bit drier and blander than usual, it lacks the salty-sweetness I look for in scones.
The chocolate eclair has potential, but much like the cupcakes Soho serves it far too cold. The cream hardens and becomes unpleasant. Still, the chocolate stays rich and fulfilling; a few degrees of warmth could save it.
Highlights from the bakery come in their chocolate-chip cookie—as good as you’ll find in town. With a crispy outer rim and a chewy center, it combines the best elements of any cookie. In fact, Soho tends to run out of the cookies; I’m not surprised.
The pineapple upside down cake is equally worth a bite. It combines the best of sugary sweetness with the natural saccharine of the fruit. It’s delightful. Moist and tasty, it remains a text-book example of what pineapple upside down cake should be.
Soho is a worthwhile addition to the deli scene in Wilmington. And it’s situated in a neighborhood not known for great dining. I’ll be giving it another look, and you should, too.
Soho Bakery and Cafe
431 Eastwood Rd. • (910) 859-7714
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.