Sandwich Café and Deli readies for new location at Liberty Center

Melissa Portillo stands in front of the storefront where her restaurant, Sandwich Cafe and Deli, will be located at Liberty Center. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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Melissa Portillo stands in front of the storefront where her restaurant, Sandwich Cafe and Deli, will be located at Liberty Center. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Specializing in fresh, made-to-order sandwiches, panini’s and wraps, Sandwich Café and Deli is gearing up to open its new location in Liberty Center. The restaurant’s projected opening date is May 28.

Family owned and operated by Melissa Portillo, and her four kids, Hannah, 24, Haylee, 18, Hayden, 14 and Harlin, 9, the space will offer expanded indoor dining and an increased menu.

The family has owned and operated two former locations — One, early-on, near Butler Tech in Fairfield Twp. and its most recent Fairfield location at 690 Nilles Road, Suite B. The Fairfield location opened in August of 2020, and closed in January of this year, so the family could prepare for the opening of its new location at Liberty Center.

In addition to owning and operating Sandwich Café and Deli, Portillo, a single mom, is also a home-healthcare nurse.

“In 2017, working as a nurse, I wanted to do something different. So, I wanted something other than just nursing. So, when we opened the first shop, which was out by Butler Tech, in the township. It was open and doing well, but I had put so much into it just to get it open, I knew I couldn’t carry it without working as a nurse, too, especially in the winter months. In that area, it was doing well, it just wasn’t what it needed to be to sustain itself,” said Melissa Portillo, owner of Sandwich Café and Deli.

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Melissa Portillo, owner of Sandwich Cafe and Deli, shows off a turkey club panini, the restaurant's most popular sandwich. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

Melissa Portillo, owner of Sandwich Cafe and Deli, shows off a turkey club panini, the restaurant's most popular sandwich. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

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Melissa Portillo, owner of Sandwich Cafe and Deli, shows off a turkey club panini, the restaurant's most popular sandwich. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

So, Portillo closed that location, and opened the Sandwich Café and Deli in Fairfield, shortly after the start of the pandemic.

“Our food is lunchtime food, so I wanted to be near businesses and offices to bring in a lunch crowd,” she said. “When the pandemic hit, I was working three jobs. As a CPR instructor, a contract assistant health manager through the Fairfield and Lakota school systems, and as a home care nurse. I didn’t know what was going to happen with COVID, but everybody has to eat, so I thought this was the perfect time to try open a sandwich shop again,” Portillo said.

She continued, “It was right when the pandemic hit. We secured the spot in Fairfield, and we opened. The City of Fairfield was gracious in helping us. They were very happy we were opening there, so we did phenomenal, and our lunch business was great there. We did a lot of activities for the schools, and other fund raisers like ‘Dine to Donate,’” Portillo said.

The restaurant was able to make lunch boxes, and package the food items separately, so no one had to share food, or eat off the same trays. They had a lot of orders from the schools, companies, and other non-profit organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters. Sandwich Café and Deli was also able to offer discounted rates to nonprofits and the schools.

Portillo said the business continued to grow, and the lunch business was amazing in Fairfield. They also had a lot of regular customers they knew by name, including former Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller, who would come in and eat a grilled cheese sandwich, faithfully, every week.

“We will miss all our customers, and a lot of people have messaged me, saying how much they loved the food. We have a lot of people who would stop in and eat every day. My kids knew what they ate, and they knew their names. We’ll miss that, because if it weren’t for our customers, we would have never grown,” Portillo explained. “But I’m excited about Liberty, because I wanted to expand. That’s what business is about.”

In Fairfield, she said, there wasn’t a lot of business during breakfast and dinner. So, when the lease was up, Portillo and her family closed the Fairfield location, and they began preparing the Liberty Center location.

“I came to Liberty Center, because I wanted to find something where I could offer breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Portillo said.

The entire family has been involved in making Sandwich Café and Deli a success. Portillo’s oldest two daughters have been instrumental in helping to run the eatery. The younger two children often pitch in, too.

“When we decided to do this, I knew my kids would be part of it. One of my daughters has helped with the online ordering, and my son would sweep at night, so he was able to help with that. I also let my kids help design the menu and pick the name of the restaurant. And, at the old shop, they did a whole painting on a wall. So, we are going to try to something special like that here,” Portillo said.

We bring something that’s more of a quick serve food. If you go to some of the other places, it’s an hour or two-hour wait for a table, she said.

“People who are here shopping, or going to a movie, they can grab it and go,” Portillo said.

Sandwich Café and Deli offers fresh-cut deli meats and cheeses, including fresh panini’s, wraps and bagel sandwiches. The “Cuban Panini” features ham, pulled pork, pickles, mustard and cheese. The most popular bagel sandwich is the “Everything Bagel,” which comes with ham, turkey and bacon, along with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. The “Turkey Chipotle” wrap is the most-ordered wrap. Customers that prefer grilled wraps can request them to be grilled.

Cold-cut sandwiches on Texas toast are also on the menu with “The Club” being most in-demand. “Loaded Mac and Cheese” often sells out by the end of the day. The “Walking Taco Box,” is popular, too. There are veggie, low-carb options and lettuce wraps featured on the menu as well.

“Being at Liberty Center, we will be able to expand our menu, and hire more people, so we are excited about that. This one is going to be designed a little differently, too,” Portillo said. “With this one, we wanted it to be a little hipper, kind of like the Miami, Florida vibe. I love Florida, so why not bring a little bit of that here?”


MORE INFO

Visit Sandwich Café and Deli online at sandwichcafefairfield.com

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