Mustard-Stained Mess

Why the Oh Boy! Oberto outlet on Rainier is a sandwich-lover's paradise.

Oh Boy! Oberto, a family-owned Rainier Valley fixture for some 85 years, is best known for popularizing the salty meat snack known as beef jerky. Yet for much of the company's existence, Oberto has been more of a bulk butcher shop, producing meats as varied as salami, Italian sausage, Viennese loaf, rullepolse, potato sausage, and coppacola. From the exterior of Oberto's Rainier Avenue storefront, it's somewhat difficult to discern the full scope of the Oberto family's meaty legacy. A low-slung brick building with few windows, this Oberto store screams factory outlet—which it indeed is, evidenced by the racks upon racks of various meat snacks hung neatly on the walls within. But that's not the whole story, for the outlet store's relatively discreet deli counter remains tastily faithful to the Italian immigrant clan's multimeat arsenal. In fact, it rivals the best deli counters in town. While the Rainier store's staff is almost entirely Asian American, their craftsmanship at the counter would make their European predecessors proud. I recommend building your own sandwich: For a paltry $5.99, I got a whopper composed of Oberto salami, Oberto pepperoni, cheddar, provolone, mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish, lettuce, onion, and tomato (unfortunately, jerky is not on the menu). So stacked was this sandie that its sourdough bookends could not contain the force of the Herculean portions of meat piled within. Eating it was a mustard-stained mess—and worth every napkin. Two other signature items are top-notch: the house brand's sausage on a bun ($2.49) and chili ($2.59). Both were spicy, but not watery-eyed-'n'-wheezy spicy. Impressively, the small cup of chili sustained its freshly boiled heat well into my sitting, spent alone on a stool in the store's back room with smooth jazz blaring from a small ghetto blaster and inflatable hydroplanes (Oberto has long sponsored a race boat) dominating the decor. In fact, on my two visits, I was the only one to take my meal in-house during lunch rush—and not because the to-go action was brisk. In other words, the Oberto deli is one of the best-kept lunch secrets in town (well, maybe not anymore), and well worth seeking out.

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