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Sensi Magazine

Kicking it old school

Aug 21, 2019 01:18AM ● By Marketing SENSI MAG
A fancy word coined by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, habitus refers to the tastes and preferences one acquires from the social world. For example, Bourdieu would argue that your fondness for bluegrass music and habit of playing soccer for exercise is a product of nurture, not nature. (Imagine the research Bourdieu could have done with dating profiles!) But the theory of habitus is particularly apt when it comes to food. Do we order our sandwich with whole-grain mustard just because the little beads of vinegary taste are our thing? Or is that preference wholegrain over bright yellow French’s a reflection of our unique and complex backgrounds? This is not a conversation Joe Sandoval of Eureka shies away from. As the newest owner of Deo’s, an old-school sandwich shop tucked between a dive bar and a skate shop in Henderson Center, Sandoval is all about keeping it old-school with just a few new kicks.

“Same ingredients, different Deo’s,” explains Juliana Gilman, Sandoval’s mother and business partner. Standing at 4’9”, Gilman wears her short grey hair in stylish pixie cut accented by sparkly cat eye glasses and a pair of standard-issue Cal Fire yellow work pants (good for absorbing mustard stains). Like her only son, Gilman had a long career in the forest service; her commemorative retirement boot hangs next to the register, along with an assortment of Cal Fire helmets and memorabilia. When he worked for Cal Fire, Sandoval often cooked for his crew, learning how to keep an orderly kitchen, work ahead, and be just a little OCD just like his mom, he explains. Sandoval also spent a lot of time thinking about how to serve his community in an authentic and positive way. When Deo’s Sandwich Shop popped up for sale, Sandoval—who lives just two blocks away jumped at the chance to knit his various passions together. “Deo’s is all about community,” says Sandoval.

On any given weekday, Sandoval works the sandwich shop’s tiny kitchen, carefully toasting sliced bread and Dutch crunch rolls; heating piles of roast beef, pastrami, and mortadella; and layering the salty meats between slices of pink tomatoes, piles of shredded lettuce, and thick smears of yellow mustard and creamy mayo. He doesn’t pause to weigh out each portion the sandwiches are generous especially the BLT, which Gilman claims is her specialty as the “proprietary bacon fryer.” “Where else can you get an egg salad sandwich?” asks Gilman. “Or liverwurst?”

Regular customers having been coming to Deo’s for decades. Taking over, Sandoval made sure to preserve Deo’s original bones, but has slowly snuck in changes here and there. Bright abstract paintings by local artist Arta Marie Powers hang in the small dining area, and Sandoval’s menu options include gluten-free bread, tofu, and occasionally, vegan soup and raw cheesecake from Foodwise Kitchen in Arcata. He also keeps up with tradition, servicing the slider window to Dave’s Place, a local watering hole that shares a wall with Deo’s. During the day, the bartender often pops her head in through the window to chat while waiting for her turkey on rye. On occasional Friday nights (follow Deo’s on IG or look for the open window from the bar), Sandoval offers a late-night menu of corndogs, loaded tots, and grilled cheese for the crowd at Dave’s.

Deo’s Sandwich Shop opened in Henderson Center in the 1970s. The old-fashioned business district isn’t one you can find on Google; only locals know the retro collection of businesses as Henderson. Sandoval loves the diversity of the neighborhood. His favorite Mexican restaurant is a block away, the Little Japan Marketplace sells an array of hard-to-find staples just down the street, and the neighborhood pet store and toy shop go back generations. Taking over at Deo’s a Eureka legacy for many Sandoval says he was careful not to “kick the personality out of the place.” On the walls, a few photos hang: One is of Sandoval and his mother, maybe twenty years ago, and in another, the smiling faces of an elderly couple, longtime regulars. After the wife passed last year, Gilman says the husband still likes to come in and visit. “Sometimes he orders a sandwich, sometimes he doesn’t,” she adds.

“I love how Eureka is gentrification-proof,” explains Sandoval as he wraps up an Italian hoagie and passes it off to his mother. On the wrist of Sandoval’s sandwich slicing hand, a tattoo reads Juliana. On her forearm, one of her own illustrations an ode to her son is inked into her skin. “I can’t imagine working with anyone else,” says Sandoval. “We do things the same way.”

Whether your tastes run old-school or gourmet, everyone can appreciate a tidy kitchen, a generous sandwich, and smiling faces that feel like family.