Phuket Lifestyle: The Yankees are coming!

PHUKET: Patong’s already wide selection of international cuisines just got a little larger, with the opening of its first New York-style delicatessen.

Big Bill’s Deli, which officially opened for business in early December, is run by Dokmai “Flower” Khamkheukong, long-time companion of one of Phuket’s one-of-a-kind expats: William Sawyer.

Better known as “Big Bill” or “Large William”, Mr Sawyer has lived in Patong for twenty years. He is perhaps best known to Phuket people as the “Wizard of Rock and Roll” from his many years as resident DJ and chef at the Rock Hard a-go-go on Bangla Road.

Big Bill’s passion for food goes back many years. A true survivor and “old hand”, over 20 years ago he was running the kitchen at Derby King diner on Patpong Road in Bangkok. His love of filling deli fare had not come without cost. As his many friends know, Big Bill has battled weight problems over the years. Fortunately, he recently managed to shed 50 kilograms and although he is largely confined to a wheelchair these days, he is looking good and still getting lots of help from Flower, who tirelessly does all the cooking after years of apprenticeship.

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Although Big Bill’s Deli offers a wide range of classic deli fare, the layout of the single shophouse eatery is more like that of a small restaurant. At the front, where most delis would have a display case, is a small bar with a large television monitor where patrons can enjoy a beer with their sandwich. All of the cooking is done out back by Flower.

One of the most popular selections on the menu is not a New York specialty at all. It’s the Philly cheese steak. Priced at 175 baht, this huge sandwich is made of thinly-sliced rib-eye steak grilled with American cheese (mercifully, not Cheese Whiz), all served with Bill’s homemade New York style deli pickles, lettuce and tomato. A wide range of toppings are also available, including real jalapeño peppers, at a small extra cost.

For those who can’t get enough of the pickles, these are available for takeaway purchase along with a number of other reasonably-priced deli classics like spicy brown mustard, Polish sauerkraut and homemade mushroom demi-glace sauce. The also carry a wide selection of frozen microwavable dinners, which can be found at Big Bill’s or The Deli Supermarket in Patong.

Other bestsellers on the menu include the 250-baht Reuben, made with homemade corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut and served on caraway rye bread with real butter.

On my visit I tried the Italian-American sausage hero sandwich. Served on a baguette and smothered with tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, this is one deliciously hearty sandwich — though it might be one to avoid if you have cholesterol problems.

For such a small venue, Big Bill’s has it all: smoked salmon, bagels and lox, hot pastrami, shrimp PoBoy and the Turkado Delight: roast turkey, avocado and Swiss Emmentaler cheese, plus Russian dressing if you desire, all served on a baguette (225 baht).

For a Boston fan like this reviewer, the only hard thing to stomach at Big Bill’s Deli is the profusion of New York sports team paraphernalia: Giants, Jets, Mets, Knicks and Rangers memorabilia, not to mention the dreaded New York Yankees insignia covering everything from kitchen plates to Flower’s apron. The only nod to the mighty teams from Red Sox Nation to the north is a blasphemous reference to the most iconic structure in all of baseball: the Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston.

Despite this, Big Bill’s Deli is well worth a visit. Regular business hours are 11am to 10pm daily, except Mondays.

Big Bill’s Deli is located at 162/11 Phang Muang Sai Kor Road, which runs behind the Jungceylon shopping complex. To get there from Jungceylon, travel south about one kilometer till you see the yellow sign on the left, then enter the residential estate where the deli is located. Parking is available and the restaurant is air-conditioned as needed.

— Stephen Fein

Thai Life

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