The Cherney family can now say they opened not one but two restaurants in Solvang during the pandemic. The couple behind Peasants Feast — which opened inside a refurbished greenhouse back in April 2020 — is now running Peasants Deli & Market across the street in the former home of The Bread Shop. Their intent is to provide “something that’s been really missing” from the Danish-themed, tourist-crawling city: a selection of gourmet goods from around the world.
So what sets Deli apart from Feast? The latter is not about the sliced meat — Feast’s bag is more burgers, tacos, fried chicken, and salads. Deli, however, is the Cherneys’ chance to go hard on, well, deli-style sandwiches.
“On our days off, I would just go and try to find a really great sandwich,” said Michael Cherney, who created the Peasants brand alongside his wife, Sarah Cherney. “And I couldn’t find one, not around here at least. So I figured, why not try to make our own?”
That’s not the only thing they’ve made their own. The marquee item on the all-new menu is the Godfather, a sweet-and-spicy spin on the classic Italian sandwich. The stack of ingredients has all the staples of the Maine-invented sub, but Deli’s version is set off by the relish that took cues from the piquant flavors of Domingo’s Italian Deli in Encino.
Right off the bat, the Godfather hits you with an olfactory experience that is very vinegar-centric. But your taste buds will undergo several layers of flavors before the acidity of “the works” lingers on your tongue after your last bite. Be prepared for a pool of oils to drip onto the packaging — that’s how you know the seasonings are generous. Luckily, the sesame bun — sourced from Bob’s Well Bread Bakery in Los Alamos — has the structural integrity to contain the wetness of the sandwich. (And Bob’s buns are critical, as the Deli won’t serve more sandwiches once they run out of bread.)
The Cherneys put their own stamp on the Italian by sourcing high-quality ingredients from family-owned businesses in the area. “We have three different meats that come from Paso Robles. It’s a small Italian family. They make everything by hand,” Michael explained, referring to Alle-Pia Fine Cured Meats. “It’s a little more expensive, but it’s totally worth it. The coppa that’s in there is the best I’ve ever tasted.”
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You could say the Peasants mini-empire is all about family. “Peasants Feast is kind of like the history of both of our families combined, but heavily on Sarah and her family,” Michael said. “Almost all the decor in there is Sarah’s mom, who actually passed away while we were in the process of opening up that restaurant. And then further down the line, her sister passed away. And her sister is the one who introduced us together.”
The Deli’s backstory, on the other hand, is centered on Michael and his dad. “We used to go eat at hole-in-the-wall delis all over L.A.,” the store owner said. “He picked me up on Saturday mornings, and we’d be the first people in line. He’d order two sandwiches, I’d order one, and we’d just sit on the curb and eat it.” He added that “both of our dads passed away when we were kids,” nudging toward Sarah, who worked at the counter throughout our interview. In that sense, it’s like the two locations are married, kind of like the owners.
The name of the Godfather itself has a touch of sentimental value — mixed with a few humiliating memories. “I got into high school in ’04, and Fast & Furious was very prominent,” said Cherney, whose friends, naturally, started a car crew called Godfather, Inc. He hesitates to admit that he was driving a Honda Civic complete with a giant decal that alternated between uppercase and lowercase every letter. “So yeah, very embarrassing,” he added as Sarah cracked up in the background. “I’m still friends with all those people, and they’ve come to the restaurant. So this is my way of nodding to them.”
But that’s not the only reason behind the name. Michael grew up in Santa Monica, and “a really famous deli called Bay Cities” was right around the corner from his school. They have a sandwich called the Godmother, and Deli’s version is the Cherneys’ play on it.
That sort of nostalgic inspiration best describes the Deli itself. “It’s a combination of my childhood memories and my adult memories and going to these other places,” said Cherney.
Open Thursday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 473 Atterdag Rd. #104, Solvang; (805) 691-9649; peasantsdeli.com