COTTONWOOD - When lunchtime rolls around, the question always seems to be: "Do I want it fast, cheap or good?" With the opening of Hilltop Deli LLC, owner Steve Lucero is hoping to cover all three.
"I know you can get a $5 foot long in town, but our 6-inch sub will have just as much food and better quality," said Lucero. "Our food comes from local Arizona retailers chosen by the owner every week."
Located at the former Tropical Dreams Ice Cream shop at 109 S. Main St., the new restaurant is clean, hip and airy, with turquoise walls and black and chrome furnishings. As a nod to the former business, customers are still greeted by a glass display case of ice cream when placing their orders.
"We are pretty much the same as the Jerome store, except here we are offering floats, shakes and ice cream," Lucero said.
If the name Hilltop Deli sounds familiar, that's because the original store has been serving Jerome customers for years at 403 Clark St. inside the historic UVX building.
Here in Cottonwood, Lucero believes Hilltop Deli will be the lunch of choice for those needing fast service without sacrificing taste.
"We hand-pick and slice in-house our deli meats and cheeses. Our bread is all natural with no preservatives from the Village Baker in Flagstaff," said Lucero. "And we offer a spring mix salad option-no iceberg lettuce here."
Even with his attention to top-shelf quality, Lucero has kept prices at bargain-basement levels. Any of the 32 varieties of loaded 6-inch subs are $7, hot or cold.
"The Number 25 (hot pastrami, salami, pepperoni and provolone) is a really big seller, and so is the Number 17 (turkey, provolone, avocado and bacon)," Lucero said.
For those with unique tastes, the menu offers such alternatives as the Number 18 (a cold veggie sub stuffed with sprouts, cucumbers, cream cheese and avocado) and the Number 32 (a hot sriracha ranch chicken sub).
Sandwich prices include the choice of over a dozen toppings. Other sub sizes include an 8-inch version for $9 and a foot-long for $12.
Along with fresh subs, Lucero offers a breakfast sandwich (ham, bacon, egg and cheddar sandwich) and burrito of the day, as well as soup, salads (such as albacore tuna and grilled chicken, to name two), side dishes (such as pasta salad and potato salad) and a variety of unique beverages.
"We serve freshly-squeezed lemonade and freshly-brewed ice tea," said Lucero, pointing out two chilled decanters on the countertop. Also available are energy drinks and vintage sodas.
Customers can choose to carryout, dine-in or enjoy meals al fresco in the outdoor patio seating area.
It was Lucero's summer visits to his grandmother's candy store in Jerome that inspired his 10-year restaurant career-a career that may inspire other young adults to consider hospitality and restaurant management.
After paying his dues washing dishes and prepping food, Lucero worked his way up to management. By the age of 23, Lucero was training restaurant franchise owners in California. At age 25, with guidance from his grandmother Bertha Rabago, his aunt Artis Rogue and brother Victor Lucero, he had opened a family-owned restaurant. Now 28 years of age, Lucero is a multi-location restaurant owner, with five employees at the Cottonwood location alone.
"I like serving the people," Lucero said. "We are a fast, friendly and healthy option".
Lucero offers call-ahead pickup service and free delivery within a 25-mile radius on orders of $10 or more. Also, a catering menu is posted on his "HilltopDeliCottonwood" Facebook page.
Hilltop Deli is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
To order, call 928-634-9413 or view www.hilltopdelijeromeaz.com to learn more.