New Brothers Restaurant & Deli
31 Maple St., Danvers
Hours: 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Major credit cards accepted
Since 1999, New Brothers Restaurant & Deli has served as an oasis of calm in Danvers Square. Open seven days a week and serving breakfast and hot meals throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening hours, this 120-seat, self-serve deli harks back to a different dining experience. Those stories always revolve around a sense of happiness derived from tasty food, large portions, a friendly ownership, and a communal meal.
Once, delis and diners like New Brothers could be found in just about every large community. These days, it’s not uncommon to see people from all parts of the state at New Brothers, and nearly all are there for the same reason: It’s a place where they feel comfortable eating.
While Ted Kougianos and Kary Andrinopoulos may have grown up in Greece and never heard the word “deli’’ until they got to America, the co-owners understand the importance of a satisfied customer. “The customer is always right,’’ explained Andrinopoulos, who makes it a point to greet every guest and inquire about their meal.
Here, the sense of family is not just symbolic: Andrinopoulos and Kougianos are brothers-in-law; the men’s sons work behind the counter; Kougianos’ wife makes the Greek pastries, including the baklava; Andrinopoulos’s wife runs the cash register. There is little turnover with the rest of the loyal staff, which include pleasant men by the names of Peter, Anthony, George, Chris, and Costa. If they don’t know your name by the time you’ve ordered, they will remember it when you return.
It’s easy to understand the lure of the place. Grab a tray and utensils, and as the line moves along, train your eyes on the dozens of framed photos of local luminaries such as former governor Michael Dukakis and Salem’s current mayor, Kim Driscoll. Then, glance around the dining room and there’s a chance you may recognize someone. Bruins goalie Tim Thomas eats here; Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett is a regular, along with Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins. On the day we visited, we were informed that former Celtic Hank Finkel and ex-Bruin Ken Hodge had just had a meal.
There are dozens of choices on the menu, from a cheese omelet ($5) to prime rib ($15).
The food is consistently fresh; unlike some other mom and pop restaurants, the place is spotless and employs a full-time busboy. Here, the most popular dishes are oven-roasted turkey ($13), baked lamb ($13), and the corned beef sandwich ($7).
I brought along my wife, son, and mother-in-law for dinner and we were not disappointed. My mother-in-law, who is familiar with most of the diners in northern New Jersey, ordered a New York sirloin steak ($13 for a 12-ounce cut) that Andrinopoulos cooked on the grill. “It’s perfect. A little rare, exactly the way I like it,’’ she said in between bites.
The rest of us had the baked haddock ($14), served with french fries, onion rings, and cole slaw; the fish and chips ($14); and the garden salad ($5.30) with a scoop of tuna. The haddock was buttery and delicious; the fish and chips was also fresh, and too massive a plate to finish. The salad - mounds of iceberg lettuce nestled with chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, green peppers, and tuna - was filling, especially when combined with hot pita bread prepared on the grill.
It is easy to overeat here, and many people leave with next day’s lunch. I somehow found room to sample the tender and finely layered baklava ($3), and lightly sugared homemade rice pudding ($3.45).
As we were leaving, I was again reminded that this is a place where kindness rules. One of the countermen delivered a tray of food to an elderly man waiting at a table.
“Thank you,’’ the man said.
The counterman smiled, then patiently removed the plates of food from the tray and placed them before his guest. The two were still talking as we walked out the door.