A native of New Jersey, Cawolsky, 70, lived in Temecula, California, for 14 years.
It was there that he started collecting coffee-related signage, other trinkets and antiques that line the deli’s walls and fixtures.
After moving back East, he thought of opening a shop in North Jersey, but after a visit to Barrett Township, he had his answer.
“I looking for a small town that I could open up a store as I did, kind of (the look of) an old general store and that’s why I have it decorated the way I do with all the old coffee cans on the shelves and the fireplace,” Cawolsky said.
In the spacious dining area, complete with a fireplace and homey feel, some of Cawolsky’s repeat clientele include ladies who lunch, construction crews, policemen, families, tourists and those who want to show off the pleasantries of the town.
“Yesterday, I had probably about group of eight women eat here ....They were here for a couple hours, and we get a lot of people that come for meetings,” he said. “Realtors’ come in if they have a house to show, they bring people in for lunch, and we do a lot of takeout also and then I have a couple that come up from Bangor every week.”
And yeah, while it is a deli by trade, Cawolsky has one mantra: The more homemade it is, the better it will taste.
“One of our most popular sandwiches is the grilled Reuben on rye. I actually fry the sauerkraut in butter until it’s brown just like my mother used to do, and it takes the sourness of it,” he said. “We make our own roast beef, and we roast our own turkey breast.”
Another top seller: the Smokey and the Bacon sandwich (mesquite smoked turkey, melted cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mesquite mayo) named after his favorite movie, “Smokey and the Bandit.”
And then there’s dishes he created that would make his No. 1 gal proud.
“Yesterday, I made homemade Cajun meatloaf. I melt American cheese and I make a chipotle ketchup or you can have Cajun mayo on a kaiser roll,” Cawolsky said. “My mom used to make meatloaf because my father died when I was young, and she would make a meatloaf for my brother. Of course, we didn’t have microwaves back then so you had to fry in it a frying pan, which comes out really good because it gets a little crispy on the outside.”
The meatloaf he serves, of course, has to be served with a side of mac and cheese.
“Me and brother would heat up the macaroni and cheese, I remember those days eating from a pot.” he said.
“Last week, I made homemade beef stew and people said, ‘this is the best beef stew I ever had,’ and it’s basic beef stew, there’s no wine, there’s nothing fancy about it. It’s exactly the way my mother used to make it — just carrots, celery, potatoes, stew meat, in a thick gravy,”
Not that he’s not a fan of fancy eats, Cawolsky, who has worked in restaurants and took cooking classes back in California, prefers to tweak recipes and play around with ingredients that are already on hand.
“I get (the magazine) Bon Appétit and there’s nothing in there that I want to cook because I couldn’t find most of the ingredients. Like how do I make that?”
And lucky for his patrons, Cawolsky says he still has a lot of recipes brewing behind the scenes.
“People always tell me, you can’t leave. This is an icon to the town. It’s a great compliment. I’ve made it here for 26 years,” he said. “And I have my employees and all the people that come into the store, they are my family.”
This dish: If you’re a fan of the Italian hoagie, order up. It is stacked with flavor and you’ll be coming back for seconds. Vegetarians: there are seven meatless sandwiches to choose from, including the black bean burger (melted pepper jack, shredded lettuce, tomato and salsa mayo) and the white bean burger (sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, lettuce, tomato and pesto mayo, provolone cheese). Daily specials include a soup and half-sandwich for $7.50. Three soups served daily started at $2.95. Breakfast sandwiches and homemade croissants, bagels, cookies and other sweets are also for sale. Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Cash only. ATM on premises.
If you go: Route 390 and Laurel Pine Road, Mountainhome, 570-595-3839, Facebook.comMountainhomedeli