Smile Politely

Martinelli’s Market, the downtown deli Champaign deserves 

An overhead photo of the author's dinner at Martinelli's Market in Champaign, Illinois. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

After attempting to visit on a Monday (is it my first day in Champaign?) with a group of friends, my partner and I finally visited Martinelli’s Market on a Tuesday evening. Located at the north end of Downtown Champaign across the street from PACA next to Stango Cuisine and Wood N’ Hog, Martinelli’s offers ample parking and great outdoor seating. 

A large counter filled with different desserts. Behind it is a white wall with black-and-white photos of a building, sandwiches, and a man. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

When I walked in, I was greeted by a bright space with plenty of indoor seating, retail shelves filled with goodies, and two separate counters: a deli counter and a bread counter. The shelves were loaded with an assortment of jams, crackers, oils, and many other items that were delightful to peruse. I purchased a jar of fudge topping from a Michigan dairy. 

Diners order food from the deli counter where a vast assortment of baked goods are displayed in a large, well-lit case that also displays the cold side options and many different meats and cheese.  The cashier was lovely, and he brought us our food when our order was ready. 

A side view of a sandwich on a tray. Toasted bread with turkey, sauce, and coleslaw spilling out. The tray also has a fork, a deli container, and a pickle. In the background, out of focus, there are other trays of food at Martinelli's Market. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

I was very excited to see the turkey reuben ($18.95) on the menu. Served toasted on house-made rye bread with a hefty amount of sliced turkey, coleslaw, a creamy Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese, this large sandwich was delicious and served with a pickle spear if your heart desires. The bread was toasted perfectly with plenty of butter, and all the flavors melded together extremely well. The crunch from the coleslaw held strong and gave the sandwich nice depth. It was not at all spicy — which is ideal for some — but is my only complaint. I love horseradish on a turkey reuben, and I bet they’d put some on there if asked.

Food items sit on two metal trays covered in brown paper. On the left tray is a toasted sandwich cut in half with meat and sauce spilling out. The tray also contains a fork and an unopened plastic container with a cucumber salad. At the top of the right tray is an open Italian beef sandwich with papers, cheese, and beef visible as well as a cup of dipping au jus sauce. At the bottom is a Chicago-style hot dog covered in pepper and onions. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

I ordered the cucumber and onion salad ($2.95) to go with my reuben. It has, as the name states, cucumber and red onion in a delicious Greek yogurt sauce. It was perfectly seasoned, especially refreshing on a hot day, and a perfect pair to a heavy sandwich.

A close-up of an Italian beef sandwich on a baguette. Peppers, cheese, and beef are all visible. On the tray is a small plastic cup of au jus dipping sauce at Martinelli's Market in Champaign, Illinois. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

As a Chicago-native’s son, my partner loves a good Italian beef, and we’re always on the hunt for a great one. Martinelli’s Italian beef ($16.95) has made the list. Built on a baguette with provolone rather than the traditional mozzarella, the sandwich had thinly sliced beef, hot giardiniera, and a side of au jus. The baguette was delicious as was the rest of the sandwich, and it held together well. The giardiniera was spicy without overwhelming the sandwich. It was the perfect size, but would be great along with a bag of Great Lakes potato chips ($2.95). 

close-up of a loaded hot dog on grilled bun with poppyseeds, covered with tomatoes, minced onions, mustard, pickle and sport peppers. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

My partner believes that hot dogs are considered a side, so along with his Italian beef, he also ordered the Chicago deli dog ($6.95). It was served up on a brioche split top poppyseed bun with minced onions, sweet relish, tomato, onions, pickle, sport peppers, and yellow mustard. All that famous Chicago dog flavor had the added bonus of a buttery, toasted bun, which was flavor I did not know was missing from a Chicago dog. The bun-to-dog ratio was perfect, and I will be back all summer long to order this hot dog.

Along with my sandwich and side, I bought a kombucha. I was very excited to see that they carried Cloud Mountain Kombucha (located inside the Lincoln Square Mall). You can also return empty bottles to Martinelli’s which is extremely convenient for us Champaign folks. 

A grilled white bread sandwich with tuna salad and melted cheese on a tray. A pickle spear is also on the tray. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

I went back to Martinelli’s after work one day and ordered a tuna melt ($12.45) and a canned Italian lemon soda. I sat outside under the covered patio and despite it being extremely hot outside, the patio was comfortable. The tuna melt was a simple yet delicious mayo-based tuna salad on toasted white bread with white cheddar cheese. Served with a pickle spear, it was the perfect size for one meal. The sandwich was not overloaded with tuna salad, so it was not a big mess which I greatly appreciated. The joy this sandwich gave me while enjoying the hot summer day was worth the money. Treat yourself to a tuna melt this summer, and thank me later. 

Martinelli’s offers a handful of other cold deli sides, as well as full salads for lunch and dinner. You can also build your own sandwiches, and the deli offers three different smash burgers available after 4 p.m. 

I’ll be going back for a morning visit to get a better view of their fresh bread as well as their limited breakfast menu.

Martinelli’s Market 
500C North Market St
T-Sa 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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