Sad news for Austin sandwich lovers but happy news for Kevin and Melinda Ennis … Melvin’s Deli Comfort closed for business yesterday.Ennis said he closed to spend time with his family, as he and his wife are preparing to welcome a baby girl into the world.“My wife and I are looking forward to it and we think it is the right thing to do while our daughter is young,” Ennis said in an email.The fire-engine red trailer at 53rd and Duval streets served some of the best pastrami in the city, and Ennis said he is considering coming back to the food world in 2017 or 2018, possibly with a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“We have truly reached our production capacity, even with my 12-14 hour days,” Ennis said. “The business is doing very well and the idea, as of now, is to relaunch in a larger, more permanent location.”
Here’s what I wrote about Melvin’s in 2013:
The best pastrami in Austin comes from a fire-engine-red trailer in the parking lot of a nondescript business in the North Loop neighborhood.
The bright red beacon for lovers of brined and smoked meats is called Melvin’s Deli Comfort. But there is no Melvin. The name derives from a portmanteau of husband-and-wife owners Kevin Ennis and Melinda Baggett-Ennis.
After years of working with charcuterie and barbecue “for sport” at home, Kevin decided to follow his long-time fascination with classic preservation techniques and tackle the world of pastrami. He spent time researching the greats of New York City and says that with his killer sandwiches, stacked high with more than a half-pound of meat, he’s “just trying to do justice” to his inspirations.
NYC would be proud. The monstrous Reuben ($9), which comes on grilled rye, almost overflows with pastrami as tender as some of the city’s top brisket, the fatty sinew a supple bridge between the ridges of meat. Draped with a tangy homemade Russian dressing, melted Swiss cheese and a tangle of crunch sauerkraut, the sandwich is a rewarding and jaw-jacking challenge. Between making his own condiments and frying the homemade potato chips, Ennis smokes as much brisket as he can (150 pounds a week), but the pastrami often runs out before the lunch hour ends.
Ennis, who worked for almost a decade as a buyer and production manager for a seafood company in Alaska before moving to Austin in 1997, also has a way with turkey ($7). He smokes the coriander-and pepper-rubbed bird over applewood; it comes out almost unbelievably supple with a mild spicy kick. Get it on grilled white bread with Ennis’s giardiniera, a pickled blend of peppers and veggies.
The sleeper hit of the menu that offers a dozen sandwiches? The croque monsieur, a sinfully rich sandwich with ham and mustard, topped with a creamy blast of béchamel pooled on crispy melted gruyere ($9).
In a town in serious need of more quality delis, does Ennis envision a brick-and-mortar restaurant? Sounds like a good idea. But for now, “I’m just along for the ride, really,” Ennis said.