It’s always exciting when a new restaurant opens near work. My co-workers and I grow weary of the same lunch destination choices week after week. So, when McAlister’s Deli opened in Rochester, NY, we were excited to check it out. With over 350 restaurants in 26 states, the McAlister’s brand previously had only one location in all of New York State (Niagara Falls, NY). McAlister’s Deli is so much more than your average deli – it’s a fast-casual restaurant.
It took me a while to finally make it over there, but after I did, I found myself eating at McAlister’s Deli several times over the span of a few weeks, including both lunch and dinner visits. Although I don’t often review chain restaurants, this one seemed worthy of a Food Mingle Blog Restaurant Review.
Located on the site of a former Applebee’s Grill and Bar, McAlister’s Deli has free and plentiful parking directly in front of the restaurant, as well as on both sides and in the back. The outside appears clean and inviting, often adorned with sparkling, ornamental lights at night.
It is located by a rather busy road though, so pay attention while you are driving. Admittedly, I was involved in a minor fender bender on my way there for my first visit, which was postponed as a result. Watch for the railroad train crossing just up the road, too.
I liken the atmosphere to that of other popular, chain family restaurants – bright and cheery. The walls are full of state-themed memorabilia from around the USA, as well as local touches. The dining area is clean and generally quite open (read: loud), other than one side which is separated from the rest by a full wall and doors.
After ordering at the front counter, be sure to stop by the condiment bar on your way to your table. Not only does it include a variety of condiments such as ketchup, mustard, and hot and sweet sauces, but it also includes my most favorite garnish of all time – dill pickle spears! Seeing that huge jar of dill pickle spears just made my day on each of my visits to McAlister’s Deli!
The McAlister’s Deli menu is full of favorites from around the USA. Although they are known for their Famous Sweet Tea and loaded potatoes (“Spuds”), they also offer salads, sandwiches (hot and cold) and a variety of sides, beverages and desserts. They have selections to accommodate options for vegetarians, and for those who are allergen-sensitive, gluten-sensitive, and calorie conscious. Shown below are a sampling of their varied menu options, which can be ordered to eat in or take out:
- Starters: nachos, soup, chili (bread bowl options)
- Entre Salads: Chopped Salad (Italian or Savannah), Grilled Chicken Salad, Chef Salad, Southwest Cobb Salad, Ceasar Salad, Taco Salad, Garden Salad
- Spuds (Potatoes): loaded with your choice of meats, vegetables, cheeses, gravy
- Sandwiches: (Hot, Grilled, Club) – Melts, muffulettas, reubens and roast beef options, chicken, ham and turkey options, clubs, wraps, BLTs, tuna and chicken salad
- Sides: Chips, Potato Salad, Fruit, Coleslaw, Applesauce, Steamed Vegetables, Mac and Cheese, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
- Beverages: Famous Sweet Tea or Lemonade (both in Peach and Wildberry flavors , fountain drinks, water, milk, coffee
- Desserts: cakes, cheesecake, brownies, cookies, bars
In addition to eating in, you can also order take out or call ahead and pick up your order. McAlister’s Deli offers catering services – fresh, made-to-order dishes including breakfast, snacks, spud bars, salads, sandwich trays, boxed lunches, desserts and beverages.
During this visit, I ordered the Cobb Club sandwich with a side of Steamed Vegetables ($7.89), along with their famous Sweet Tea ($1.99) and a Sugar Cookie ($1.55) for dessert. Of course, there were those (free) dill pickle spears as well.
My Cobb Club sandwich exceeded my expectations. The turkey was sliced thin and was very moist and tasty. Accompaniments included fresh lettuce, hearty apple-wood smoked bacon, sliced tomato, and a rich and creamy avocado spread. Soft, fresh ciabatta bread pierced with fancy toothpicks held it all together. Overall, a great lunch choice.
The steamed vegetable side dish was a disappointment. First, I was surprised by the super-small portion size. I was given only three baby carrots and 2 1/2 small broccoli florets. Second, they were overcooked and mushy. The seasoning was okay, but that couldn’t rescue this failing side dish. I wouldn’t recommend the steamed vegetable side dish. If you are looking for a healthy side dish, go with the cut up fresh fruit, which I had on a previous visit and found to be fresh and sweet.
The sweet tea, however, was chilled, refreshing and appropriately sweet. I was delighted that the staff provided free refills – that’s quite a value of which I took full advantage.
Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the gratis dill pickle spears and had to stop myself from going back to refill my plate at the condiment bar!
Let’s not forget dessert! My sugar cookie was a fresh, chewy and sweet satisfying end to this lunch.
My lunch companion on this visit ordered a Reuben Sandwich with a side of Mac and Cheese ($8.99), along with a Heath Crunch Cookie ($1.55). She made a few changes to the standard sandwich, as follows: she substituted pastrami for the corned beef, left off the sauerkraut, and included Swiss cheese. This hot sandwich was served on toasted marble rye bread with Thousand Island Dressing (make your own). It looked absolutely delicious to both of us (check out that melted cheese in the photo below!), but she commented that the pastrami had a strange chemical taste – not something you want in your lunch sandwich.
When she ordered Mac and Cheese for her side, the manager commented that it’s one of the hottest items on the menu. I believe it! I ordered it on a previous visit and found it to be hot (temperature, not spice), creamy and reminiscent of home-made mac and cheese. She said that it was delicious.
Although she saved her Heath cookie for later, I can say that it looked just as fresh as my Sugar cookie. Apparently, it included all the wonderful ingredients found in a Heath candy bar – chocolate, toffee, and almonds – you just can’t go wrong with that!
On previous visits to McAlister’s Deli, I have enjoyed a Roast Beef Melt ($7.69 – a bit soggy and smaller than expected), a plate of Ultimate Nachos ($7.59 – huge serving and quite tasty, although processed cheese is used), and a Harvest Chicken Salad Sandwich ($7.19 – a bit too much mayo for me, but still a great lunch choice). The sides during previous visits included Mac and Cheese (creamy and delicious – definitely try it) and cut up Fruit (sweet, refreshing and fresh). My dining companions on other visits ordered the loaded potatoes (spuds) and I can attest that they are truly loaded; you’ll probably have trouble finishing the whole thing.
In this fast-casual restaurant, customers place their orders at the front counter, choosing from menu items posted on an overhead menu. Beverages are dispensed by the McAlister’s Deli staff there as well. After accepting paying, the cashier gives each customer a number to display at their table while waiting for the staff to deliver their food. As mentioned previously, patrons stop at the condiments bar to stock up on dill pickle spears, peppers and various condiments and sauces.
Most beverages are eligible for free refills. The staff checks on tables periodically, and asks if anyone would like a refill. They do ask that customers remove their cup cover and straw – they will return your cup filled to the brim as many times as you like. I found all the staff to be polite, helpful and pleasant, although maybe too attentive? The dining room manager stopped by our table three times on one of my visits, to check on us.
I noticed that the take-out business was brisk and efficient. There is a separate entrance next to the take out register, where patrons conveniently stop in to pick up their to-go orders. It also included a small bench for those who were waiting for their orders to be ready.
Don’t forget to sign up for a McAlister’s Deli loyalty card, which can earn you free food if you are a often returning customer. Also, check your receipt for a free food offer (mine was for a cookie) in return for completing an online survey.
- 2015 and 2014 “Top 100 Movers and Shakers” – FastCasual.com
- 2014 top kid-friendly fast casual chain and in 2013 top fast casual chain for food and beverage – Technomic® Chain Restaurant Consumers’ Choice Awards
- 2014 “Top limited-service sandwich chain’– Restaurant News Consumer Picks Survey
- 2014 “Best Franchise Deals” and 2014 QSR Top 50 List – QSR Magazine
- 2014′s “Top Franchises” in Food and Beverage category – Franchise Business Review
I was pleased with the overall quality of the food and service at McAlister’s Deli. While not everything was a home run in all of my visits, most items were acceptable, if not above average. It is pricier than a fast-food drive through lunch and slightly more costly than similar sandwich stops. However, the dine-in experience is nice and the extra amenities (free refills at the table, condiment bar, loyalty card) make it worth spending that extra bit for lunch, or even dinner.
If you go:
3020 Winton Road South
Henrietta, NY 14623
Facebook: McAlister’s Deli Tea Freaks
Business Hours: Mon-Thr: 10:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat: 10:30am-9:30pm, Sun: 10:30am-9pm
Cuisine: Fast casual American cuisine – dine in, take out, catering
Meals Served: Lunch, Dinner
Children’s Menu: No
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Requires Reservations: No
Table Service: Yes
Take Out: Yes
Outdoor Seating: No
Parking: free in dedicated lot
Valet Service: No
Bar Seating: No
Coat Check: No
Founded: 1989 (this location 2014)
Date visited: 1-13-2014 lunch, 1-18-2014 dinner and various other lunch visits