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Dayton’s oldest deli will give you a Wild Willy, other gigantic sandwiches

The place: Charlie's Deli & Catering, Dayton

Highlights: Dayton's oldest delicatessen, Charlie's has been open for 49 years, and next year owners Rod and Becky Vangas plan to sell some items at 1964 prices in honor of the deli's 50th anniversary.

The sandwiches alone are enough to make you keep coming back, but the homemade treats like the cabbage rolls and German potato salad are the stuff to rave about to your friends. Charlie’s is not just a place to grab lunch. It’s an institution, a neighborhood anchor for Old North Dayton. It’s a convenience store, a deli, a wine and beer store (there are craft beers from around the world), a specialty grocery store, a German magazine stand and a dining room all rolled up into one funky place with old school charm. If you’ve never experienced Charlie’s, you’re missing out.

We chatted with some other diners, including Bob Hamilton of Kettering. He’s been going to Charlie’s for 15 years. His favorite item on the menu is the Mariachi Steak. He also likes the potato soup. “It’s homemade,” he said. “And the people are friendly up front. I like the atmosphere and the mom-and-pop neighborhood setting.”

Jason Cummings of Dayton has been going to Charlie’s for the past two years. His favorite is the Double Decker. “That’s all I’ve ever eaten,” he said. “I’m a creature of habit.”

Trying Charlie’s for the first time was Jeff Lail of Farmersville. He opted for the Turkey & Ham Club. “It’s good,” he said. “I might come back again.”

What we had:

  • Wild Willy, $4.50: Here's a double-decker sandwich packed with baked ham, turkey, bacon, Swiss and American cheeses with just the right amount of thousand island dressing, lettuce, tomato. There's a lot of meat, and it's sliced while you're in line. The sandwich is served on your choice of toasted white, rye or wheat. Get it on German rye for an extra quarter. It's a huge sandwich, and Connie could only eat half so she saved the other half for dinner. It's enough for two people, really, unless one of those people is Paul Bunyan.
  • Double Decker, $6.75: Baked ham, turkey, bacon, mayo, lettuce, tomato on German rye. It's a lot of sandwich, but Steve was up for the challenge and ate it all. "I'm not going away hungry!" he said.
  • German Hot Potato Salad, $2.50: Made with vinegar and oil, it's delicious stick-to-your ribs goodness. You've got to try it!
  • Becky's Famous Cabbage Roll, $2.75: It's an old Lithuanian recipe and you get a lot and you can taste the love that goes into the making of it. If you're eating one there, order it hot. If you're taking it home to have later, order it cold to go.
  • Chocolate brownie, $1.75: A generous portion with icing and nuts, if there's any room left after you eat everything else!

The info: Charlie's Deli & Catering, 429 Troy St., Dayton; (937) 224-3767.

Hours: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Sundays.

Connie Post is one of Dayton Daily News’ Dining Divas, and Steve Bennish is a business reporter who has a nose for good eats. Think of them as your personal taste-testers. Where should they go next? Write them at Life@CoxInc.com.