Port Washington businessman Cliff Kahan has bitten off a major undertaking: eating his way through all 64 items on the sandwich menu at Harbor Deli. If Kahan succeeds, he'll be the first to successfully complete the Harbor Deli Challenge.
"Cliff is the perfect contender. The only two things he won't eat for lunch are breakfast and dinner," said Seth Cirker, Kahan's employer at Port Washington-based SituCon, a nationwide provider of high-tech security cameras. Cirker may officially be Kahan's boss, but he's also taken on a supporting role in the sandwich eating endeavor: cheerleader-in-chief.
Cirker invited this reporter along as Kahan recently took on sandwich Number 10, the Bayliner, a plus-sized concoction of flounder, melted Muenster, pickles, tomatoes, onions and tartar sauce on a skateboard-sized roll.
"I don't want to spoil it with chips and soda," Kahan said. It was unclear if he was referring to the sandwich or his appetite as he faced the massive meal.
The Harbor Deli is a Main Street mainstay offering everything from breakfast specials to burgers, salads, thin crust pizzas and catering platters. And of course there are sandwiches, 64 of them to be exact. On any given day the deli bustles with a busy lunch crowd. Kahan and his crew arrived early to beat the rush.
Harbor Deli manager Chris DeFeo, whose family owns the deli, welcomed the men as they arrived, proudly brandishing the Bayliner's roll, which DeFeo personally handpicked for Kahan that morning from one of the seven bakeries where the deli orders its breads.
Kahan and Cirker, along with colleague Jeff Stumpf, are Harbor Deli regulars, drawn to the deli by the fresh ingredients and everybody-knows-your-name customer service. The trio eats lunch at the deli several times a week. They claim all the sandwiches are good, but the ones with bacon are the best.
"Every sandwich is better with bacon," said Cirker as his colleagues nodded their solemn assent.
The men all eagerly awaited the arrival of the bacon-less Bayliner; when it arrived tableside, it could easily have fed all three. "Some said he'd be toast," said Stumpf, as he settled in with his own, much smaller, sandwich. "But he's on a roll and will be everyone's hero when he wraps it up."
With tongues planted so firmly in cheek, it's a wonder the men could make it through the meal at all but Kahan took on the Bayliner with gusto, pronouncing it "excellent."
Still, when the last drop of tartar sauce had been wiped away, sandwich Number Four, the Thomsons Special, remained Kahan's favorite to date, winning raves for combining that most desirable of deli ingredients—bacon—with hot turkey, Swiss cheese, cole slaw and Russian dressing.
The DeFeo family is both amused by and appreciative of the SituCon's staff's enthusiasm for the Harbor Deli Challenge. Chris DeFeo has personally made each of Kahan's sandwiches and moves the Challenge marker on the menu display board that tracks Kahan's progress. He's pulling for Kahan and noted, "I have a strong feeling he'll succeed." If Kahan does make it through the Challenge, he'll win a $100 gift card...to Harbor Deli.
"It makes me happy to have a customer take such an interest in this," added Harry DeFeo, the deli's owner. "We know everybody's name, we know what they like to eat, we watch their kids grow up; and to have customers take such an interest in your business, it's so important."
Kahan and his support team declined to guess how many weeks it would take for him to complete the Challenge, citing concerns that potential sandwich-eating rivals might co-opt their strategy. They also declined to discuss said strategy. From this reporter's observation, it seemed to primarily involve a lot of chewing and swallowing.
Ask Chris DeFeo about his favorite menu item, and more than likely he'll point to his signature sandwich, the Chrisdanwich. The first in the Challenge, the Chrisdanwich is a substantial creation in its own right, with ham, turkey, Genoa salami and melted mozzarella and American cheese on a hero.
No bacon, but delicious nonetheless.