(Florence, SC) Just the other day we posed a reader question to our Facebook Friendsregarding their choice of the best place to get a sub, hoagie, sandwich or po’ boy in the area. The feedback was varied and the enthusiasm for the individual restaurants strong. To follow-up that question, we thought it was about time to do a series on sandwich shops. This is the first in that series and is our Quick Bite review of GROUCHO’S DELI.
First, a little history of Groucho’s.
Founder, Harold “Groucho” Miller settled in South Carolina back in 1941. He loved food and used it as an inspiration, as a child raised in an orphanage in Philadelphia, PA. His philosophy was that “Quality is the most important ingredient in any sandwich” and he put that philosophy into practice for the public when he opened his first restaurant, Groucho’s Delicatessen in Columbia. Why Groucho’s, well his son, Ivan Miller, quoted in an interview in the Columbia Record in 1986 stated, “When Pop first opened this Store, Columbia was a small town, and everything had a label. Here he was this really crazy kind of guy. Always joking. Always had a big cigar. A mustache. He looked like Groucho Marx, he talked like Groucho Marx, and to Columbia, he WAS Groucho Marx.” So that’s how the name came about.” From reports, I’ve heard that it really smelled like an authentic delicattessan with hanging meats and cheeses on display. That must have been an experience for the senses that is not often duplicated today.
The official website Grouchos.com goes on to add the following: “In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960’s Groucho’s® Deli established its reputation by serving its high quality meats and cheeses (in sandwiches and for retail sale), famous sandwich dressings (Formula 45 Sauce™ was perfected in 1945), and Original Potato Salad and Cole Slaw. Seating was very limited. Groucho’s sold imported teas, coffees and exotic delicacies from its grocery/retail portion of the restaurant. Groucho’s began serving its innovative “Dipper”™ Style Subs with Original Sauces and Large Salads in the 1960s. The Apollo Dipper™ was named after the likeness of the Apollo space capsule (advertised as landing in a cup of 45 Sauce). The seating area became larger and the grocery/retail area was phased out in the 1980s. Groucho’s continued Philosophy of offering “Fast, Fresh, and Original” Trademark Subs and Large Salads, served with Groucho’s Famous® Dressings, spawned demand into new markets.”
Today, franchised Groucho’s Delis are located in three states (SC, NC and Delaware) and 21 locations, counting the three in Florence, SC on West Palmetto, inside McLeod Medical Plaza and inside McLeod Regional Medical Center. The franchiser is Groucho’s Franchise Systems, LLC. The Florence franchisee is Tripp Kelly, who also owns Little Ceasers and Moe’s Southwestern Grill locations locally.
So, what do our readers think of Groucho’s Deli?
Here are a few comments, both PRO and CON from PeeDeeFoodie.com readers. Add your own below; all are welcome.
BARRY is enthusiastic, stating: “Love it! Great chicken salad!”
HEATHER states: “I have been twice first time Monday second time today. I got my wife’s salad, while fresh not worth $. Today I got CLB chips and drink for 8.69. Again while good it was bacon bits sprinkled over cold chicken breast on a regular old hamburger bun.”
AMY tells us: “Eh, I’m not a big fan. I mean, it’s great that it’s a local restaurant and stuff, and those are usually the places I like to eat at. But one time they gave me a hard time when I ordered a veggie sub and the wait staff was less than friendly (it wasn’t Bree!). No problems with the prices, just with the staff members having an attitude. It’s been awhile since I’ve been so maybe they have cleaned it up, I dunno.”
BREE shares her insider’s opinions with the following: “I worked at Groucho’s for many years since it’s opening in 2006. The wait staff does an exceptional job, seeing as to sometimes you are the only waitress. It is a tough job to make sure everyone is happy and that is what all the Groucho’s in Florence strive for. To make customers happy. The cooks do their best to make the best food for you fresh and at a quick pace! Management is great and really works well with employees and making sure everything is run smoothly. The food is very fresh and well prepared. Everything on the menu is worth the money. You get great food in an amazing atmosphere. I commend Tripp Kelly for opening up a great restaurant in Florence for people to go and enjoy a great sandwich, hot or cold. Super fresh salads, that fill you up. And much more! Recommendations: STP, My Wife Salad, Chicken Chili, Chicken salad (made fresh daily), Reuben, or a Veggie sub! As Miss Florence, I always recommend it to any visitors coming to Florence who want a quick and delicious bite to eat! Thanks PeeDee Foodie!!” [You're welcome.]
DYAN sums up her thoughts by saying:“It has been a long time since I’ve eaten at the Groucho’s in Florence. However, the ones in Columbia are great. I love me some STP or a Turkey International. Oh, and some Formula 55 sauce…yummmm.”
Finally, AUDREY simply states: “Love STPs!!! And dipping chips on the leftover sauce! [We do that, too!]
Finally, what do we think of Groucho’s Deli?
In short, we like it. We like the food and we like the service. Over time, because it’s one of our favorite sandwich spots, I’d dare say we’ve tried just about every item on the menu. Sure wish they’d have had a frequent diner program! Favorites include those shown here, as well as the Reuben Variation, Mid East Special and (when feeling healthy) My Wife’s Salad Bowl. In our experience, the restaurant facilities are always clean, service typically includes a free smile and frequent visitors are recognized and thanked for their patronage. All are necessary and memorable alike. On our unique restaurant rating scale, we give it two gas pumps, meaning it’s “Worth Crossing Town”to get a bite at Groucho’s.
What would we change about Groucho’s Deli? The only thing we could come up with is the prices. While ballpark for made-to-order sandwiches in many delis we’ve experienced, the average tab is about $9.00-$10.00 per person. That’s more than than the national chains, so it may be a bit of a disadvantage among customers. A premium is always OK periodically, but it’s sometimes hard to justify $45.00-$50.00 a week for sandwich-based lunches in this economy.
Groucho’s Deli remains one of our favorite sanwich shops, but it’s more often a treat when the regular brown-bag plan goes awry. Maybe a coupon program or a frequent diner program would help in cases of price sensitivity. The quality is definitely there, so such an incentive-based program might be appropriate when the sandwich from the fridge goes up against the sandwich from the shop.
The extensive Groucho’s Deli menu is available in PDF format (we like that!) here online.
Category: Restaurant Reviews
About the AuthorKevin Barron is a husband, father, self-described geek, and enthusiastic founder of PeeDeeFoodie.com. He also hosts its companion podcast, the Pee Dee Food Show, which can be found on iTunes and the blog. Learn more about Kevin under the Contributors tab above.
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