PICTURED: Doin’ the dip with Roxsbury Deli’s roast beef dip sandwich and homemade au jus. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer 

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Roxsbury Deli and Grill
443 W. Channel Islands Blvd., Port Hueneme

Classics become classic for a reason: Expectations are met to a tee with uncompromising quality. And when it comes to a classic diner, customers expect simple but well-prepared American cuisine (generally of the midcentury variety), vinyl booths, a long counter and an efficient, no-nonsense staff that keeps the coffee pouring.

Roxsbury Deli and Grill is all this and more. From the vintage posters on the wall to the groovy tiger-stripe chairs at the counter to the menu filled with old-fashioned standards like pigs in a blanket, meatloaf, Reuben sandwiches and liver and onions (my mother’s favorite diner order), Roxsbury deli exudes nostalgia.

Having food delivered (thanks, Grubhub) means foregoing the restaurant’s aesthetic charms. But with Omicron surging, it seemed the safest option — and the extensive menu is still waiting to be explored, no matter how you order. Which is how I ended up putting dessert first, placing carrot cake, coconut lemon cake and a milkshake in my cart before anything else. Don’t judge.

And while the long list of breakfast items were tempting, I was in the mood for dinner proper. Thus, our order included the triple-decker with roast turkey and pastrami and a roast beef dip — Roxsbury is famous for its sandwiches — plus some fettuccine Alfredo and, because it was there and I love it, a gyro sandwich. Sides included French fries and onion rings.

Roxsbury Deli’s triple-decker sandwich with rye, roast turkey and pastrami. Onion rings on the side. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

First thing of note: ENORMOUS portions. One half of the roast beef sandwich would have been plenty to satisfy a single person. The triple-decker turkey and pastrami seemed endless . . . which I guess isn’t a surprise; the size is right in the name. Ditto with the pasta; the gyro is a little more reasonable. I dig leftovers, so no complaints here, but keep appetite and fridge space in mind when you go to Roxsbury.

We didn’t consume everything in one night but were mostly pleased with what Roxsbury served up. The gyro was fabulous; tender and perfectly seasoned beef-lamb mixture served with chopped tomatoes and lettuce on a pillow-soft pita. It was a bit overloaded with tzatziki, if I’m honest, and maybe a little more meat would have been desirable, but very much appreciated all the same . . . and the only item that was consumed en totale.

Roxsbury’s pastrami is glorious — moist, meaty, peppery, sliced thin and charred on the edges; so good (and tasty paired with roast turkey). Next time, I’ll get it “sky high” so I can indulge in all of that pastrami goodness. Because the triple decker, while impressive, is a lot of bread. It’s good bread; a lovely grilled rye. But I felt like the starch overwhelmed the meats and made the overall sandwich rather dry.

The roast beef was fantastic, though. Rich and tender, lots of thinly sliced beef, and an au jus that was pure heaven. My husband’s take: Plenty of restaurants serve an au jus that seems artificial; more like warmed-up bouillon. Roxsbury’s au jus appeared to be the real deal, “just like something my Mom would make.” Highly recommended.

Now that’s what I call cake! Roxsbury Deli’s enormous, three-layer coconut lemon cake. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

The pasta — respectable. Plenty of Alfredos tend to be overly creamy or over-sauced. This was neither — the perfect ratio of sauce to fettuccine, with just the right amount of salt and pepper. Nothing earth-shattering; just simple, hearty, well-made Alfredo. 

Finally, it was time for dessert. And what desserts these were! Okay…the chocolate milkshake was a little humdrum (not terrible, but we’ve all had better). But those cakes— wow. The kind of cakes you’d expect to find in . . . well, a classic diner’s bakery case. Three layers each, with each layer well over an inch thick. The carrot cake was a tad dry, but beautifully spiced, dotted with raisins and finely chopped nuts (pecans, I think) and iced with a delectable cream cheese frosting. The coconut cake was exceptional. Beautifully baked vanilla sponges (a perfect crumb) were sandwiched with lemon curd and then generously coated with a coconut frosting. Yum!

Roxsbury Deli and Grill follows in the footsteps of the great diners of yesteryear. The food is familiar, traditionally prepared and served in ample portions. The decor is throwback chic at its best. And even the desserts are a (sizable) slice of delicious nostalgia. A true classic, top to bottom . . . and that will never go out of style.