ELIZABETHTON — After a day spent in driving through the spring-enrobed hills of East Tennessee, it was late afternoon when my dining partner, the Retiree and I arrived back in Elizabethton. All three of us were hungry, but it was too late for lunch and too early for supper. We were discussing our options when my dining partner said, “I know where we are eating,” and gestured at the Blue Circle Market and Poor Trav’s Deli.

First Impressions

The Blue Circle Market has been at the corner of Broad and Elk Avenue since the middle of the last century; it is surely one of the first “Convenience-style” stores in the area. It is still a convenience store with in-store shopping for the usual things that convenience stores have; chips, beef jerky, ice cream, beer, that sort of thing.

This particular Blue Circle Market is blessed with a particularly good delicatessen that is tagged with the moniker of “Poor Trav’s Deli.” Who “Trav” is or what he’s poor in (Spirit? Friendship? Which?) is not readily apparent. From the traffic his deli’s employees are handling, Trav is certainly not poor in the business sense. The deli department is in the back of the convenience store portion of the building, a low cashier and carry-out station demarcating the change from store to deli. Caleb is the counterman, while Trey does the assembly work in the prep area further back. Be advised that there is no customer seating to be had in the building; there is a table centrally located that you could stand at if dining in is your thing. Restrooms are nearby, but not readily apparent.

Pastrami Reuben sandwich

Having spent my formative years north of the Mason-Dixon Line, I know what a real delicatessen should be capable of. When I order a Reuben sandwich “my way,” ($5.15), I specify that I’d like pastrami rather than corned beef as the main ingredient. Pastrami is smoked not “corned,” it is leaner and has a much more involved flavor bouquet for my taste buds to enjoy. Not only did Caleb see that pastrami was used, but that Trey also loaded on some excellent spicy brown mustard to go with my dollop of Thousand Island dressing, finishing with shredded sauerkraut and some of their signature spicy onions, all on a pumpernickel sandwich hoagie bun. Absolutely superb and “durn close” to what my 40-year-old taste bud memory could recall from what an “up North” pastrami Reuben sandwich tasted like.

Roast beef and smoked cheddar cheese sandwich

My dining partner also decided on something cattle-sourced for her sandwich, being a stack of Poor Trav’s deli-sliced and lean top sirloin roast beef, partnered with some excellent smoked cheddar cheese together with onions, lettuce, tomato, light mayonnaise and some yellow mustard on a white hoagie bun. Though cut in half, handling of my dining partner’s roast beef and smoked cheddar sandwich still required two hands for proper “hand to mouth” delivery control. All in all, the Poor Trav’s roast beef with smoked cheddar cheese was very nice indeed.

Chef salad

Our friend the Retiree wanted something lighter than the usual sandwich, and ordered a Poor Trav’s Chef Salad ($6.29) of shredded lettuce, spicy onions, green pepper, slices of tomato and croutons. Our traveling friend was very pleased with the freshness of all the greens, the onions and green pepper slices, plus the fact that Trey didn’t scrimp on the quantity of croutons used in his preparation. The turkey was thin-sliced, delicately smoked and made a fitting accompaniment to her chef salad, especially with some creamy ranch dressing topping it off.

The bottom line

It is easy to see why the Blue Circle Market’s Poor Trav’s Deli received the Reader’s Choice Award for best carry-out in Elizabethton and Carter County. Though its inside appearance is a bit Spartan, the Blue Circle Market is well-stocked and easily shopped. Poor Trav’s Deli offers superb delicatessen service from the very friendly Caleb and the capable Trey, preparing scrumptious sandwiches and salads, and making sure you are satisfied with your purchase.

The three of us were. Stop by and see if you will be, too.