Recently, the building that houses the Pinkus McBride Market & Deli caught fire (culprit -- rogue fireworks knocking over a hot grill on the roof) but the deli itself was back in business in no time, and apparently none the worse for wear. Don't be frightened! There aren't even any scorch marks anywhere.
Pinkus McBride's has no parking lot, so most business is walk-in from the area... which, even though the storefront is only two blocks off the Capitol Square at North Hamilton and East Johnson, leans to students more than office workers. It's a half-block from James Madison Park, so good for picnic pick-up or hurry-up takeout for Concerts on the Square.
The deli is more extensive than many convenience store offerings. Although made-to-order sandwiches are available only from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on weekdays, the pre-made sandwich case is full of a variety of fresh combos all day, from egg salad (on whole wheat) to Blazing Buffalo Chicken (on French bread). Most cost no more than $4, which officially qualifies as a good deal.
Warning: the pre-mades don't come with a dressing, so remember to grab a container of the special Pinkus sub sauce or some mustard or mayo packets. As I have come to learn from dissecting sandwiches from both Milio's and Mildred's, mayo is almost always a plus, even when the meats and cheeses are top-drawer Boar's Head brand, as they are here. The Pinkus Pride, for instance (turkey, ham, roast beef, Colby jack, lettuce and tomato) is good solo, but lacks oomph --okay, it'??s boring --- if you forget the dressing (speaking from experience).
If you are likely to forget condiments, try the excellent Italian Tomato Basil Wrap, which comes generously spread with pesto, as a base for a mix of parmesan, banana peppers, black olives, tomatoes and spinach on a tomato-basil tortilla. I'd recommend this one for any pesto lover. It's a really nice wrap, one of the best I've had since the old hummus/rice/spinach/banana pepper wraps at Michelangelo's (no longer on its menu) even though it is quite a bit smaller than that one, if memory serves.
Pinkus' also features a larger than usual selection of pasta salads (most $2) on a rotating basis. Entrees and other specials also rotate. These are packaged in plastic containers for microwaving, and the simpler the better-- the macaroni and cheese and turkey tetrazzini being more successful than the egg roll or Salisbury steak, I think. Most are also $4.
Convenient, inexpensive, and uses an adorable little dachshund as its mascot. Yes, I love the dog logo. Hey Pinkus, how about a dog-friendly sidewalk cafe?
Other food news: The ill-fated site of a series of Mexican restaurants on Stoughton Road near East Washington Avenue -- most recently home to Pacifico's -- has a sign announcing the arrival of an Italian ristorante. Will it do better? Stay tuned. Say, has it never occurred to anyone that it's weird to have a restaurant in the same building with a medical center? Just a thought.