I harbor a deep, unabashed love of delis.
A passion born in the formative years (ages 17-21) I spent in New York City — a hub for delis and my other love, diners — a deli sandwich is the quickest way to perk up my day.
Feeling down in the dumps? Egg salad.
Looking for a lunch that won't leave you too stuffed? Cold veggie hoagie.
Wanting to indulge? Whatever sandwich has the most cheese — with an added helping of cheese, of course.
So, when I moved to Des Moines, I searched for a deli reminiscent of the ones that helped me through hangovers, heartbreaks and those dreaded midterms.
I found that in Hagar's Manhattan Deli (the "Manhattan" in the name is just a coincidence).
Like all the best delis, Hagar's is sparsely decorated. The New York City posters peppering the restaurant's white walls and the handful of colorful, vinyl-like benches are where the shop's ornamentation begins and ends.
But, that's fine because the showstopper at Hagar's is the diverse sandwich menu.
From the Brooklyn B (turkey and hard salami) to the Manhattan (corned beef, ham, salami, coleslaw and Swiss) to the mama mia (capicola, Italian beef, pepperoni, cheese and peppers), Hagar's has basically any meat combination a sandwich-lover could want.
And they're not light on toppings. Their sandwiches are so packed, each bite results not only in a mouthful, but a few morsels dripping from the stuffed sandwich. (No matter: Force those nibbles back between the bread and bite again. The best sandwiches are always messy.)
A welcome surprise was Hagar's multiple vegetarian options. In addition to the deliciously rich egg salad (made in house), Hagar's has a tangy veggie reuben that perfectly combines salty sauerkraut with cheese, pickles and a sweet Thousand Island dressing. The menu also lists a cheese supreme, a warm sandwich replete with gooey cheese.
My favorite vegetarian selection is the plain old veggie. Made with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, green peppers and topped with mild fried peppers and crunchy coleslaw, the heft, texture and layered flavors of this sandwich rival any of Hagar's more famous meat options.
No deli trip is complete without dessert, and Hagar's doesn't disappoint. Even if your sandwich filled you up, make room and grab a 7-layer bar. It'll be worth the extra gym time, I promise.
Hagar's Manhattan Deli
Find it: 3705 Ingersoll Ave.
Hours: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Saturday