Reading the Facebook exchanges between Art Romero and the folks at OPB&J, it's clear the peanut-butter-and-jelly wars have started.
In one October post, the P. B. & Jellies New York Deli owner touts how his restaurant makes its own butters (from peanuts supplied by Shamrock Foods); supports local business by offering jellies from Colorado Springs-based Beulah Bee's Best; and doesn't "email [his] competitor telling him to 'shut his f**ing mouth!'"
OPB&J responds by saying its organic peanut butters are in a completely different league. "It's kinda like Whole Foods versus McDonalds," reads an Oct. 13 post. "And everyone knows who we are in that comparison!"
Romero demurs when I ask whether there's been further communication between the downtown restaurants. But he assures me that his jellies, meats and breads are preservative-free, and I can assure you that the sandwiches at P. B. & Jellies are pretty good.
The Honey, I'm Pregnant ($6.49) brings your choice of butter and bread (from Aspen Baking Co. in Denver), melded with honey and the crunch of bread-and-butter pickles. You then pick and spread a jelly yourself, from a row of jars at the edge of the dining room. The cinnamon raisin peanut butter, and its gorgeous undercurrent of spice, tastes great with either the tart Very Berry, or the sweet and gelatinous strawberry. A straight-up PB-and-J ($4.49), using a great pad Thai peanut butter, is also nice with either the mild cherry jalapeño or blackberry ginger.
The "deli" part comes into play with Boar's Head brand meat, provided in half- ($9.99) and whole-pound ($12.99) sandwiches, and sliced by the third-pound for carry-out from the deli case next to an old piano. (In what used to be Dick's Dogs and Diner, Jellies has settled in with a country-kitchen feel, Sinatra emanating from an iPod mini on an antique-looking bookcase.)
My favorites were a simple bagel and lox ($5.99), and the East Meets West ($8.99). The former tops a chewy everything bagel with smoky salmon, cream cheese, chopped red onions and just the lightest burst of caper; the latter takes a knish and soaks it with a great homemade green chili. Made by Romero's sister Valerie, the chili features fat tomato quarters, New Mexican green chilies and golf-ball-sized chunks of moist pork.
Deli sandwiches are slightly problematic: Not only are they fairly expensive, the full pound of meat notwithstanding, but ours arrived whole. When an attempt was made to halve the Reuben, shaved pastrami scattered, and the lightly toasted rye bread could hardly contain the attempted re-stacking.
Still, Boar's Head's meat proves as tasty as ever, especially in the turkey bacon club, with homemade coleslaw, turkey and bacon as the default. (Avocado, lettuce, tomato and cheese can be added.)
A word about the two boiled Sabrett hot dogs ($6.49): After adding the New York company's tangy onion and tomato sauce for an additional 99 cents, my post-tax total was $8.03. Romero says the dogs, a staple of the Big Apple and famous for their "snap," are hard to get and thus costly; I say the guy outside the downtown bus station sells a pretty good grilled hot dog for a buck fifty.
But we won't pick a fight, since P.B. & Jellies and OPB&J are already busting each other's nuts.
"We're different," Romero says. "If you like bean sprouts and cucumbers in your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they're a great place to go."