By Jennifer Pund
When looking for a homemade breakfast or lunch in Estes Park without the hassle of making it at home—or parking downtown—head to Scratch Deli and Bakery. The sandwich-counter-type deli, which has been open less than a year, came about by combining the limitations of the location with Chef and Owner Cru Shantz’s love for creative, fresh food and a desire to have the best sandwich in town. He makes everything he can at Scratch in-house, and spent months perfecting the recipes that have been getting great reviews since he opened.
With no microwave or freezer in the building, you can guarantee everything is fresh, made that day and to order. The menu contains a wide range of options for breakfast and lunch, both savory and sweet to satisfy most everyone’s tastes. Situated close to the Beaver Meadows Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, Scratch is the perfect option for a easy grab-and-go meal to take on a day hike or picnic in the park.
The idea for Scratch was formed by Shantz with this particular location in mind. The building on Moraine Ave., where Marys Lake Road meets High Drive, used to be home to Domino’s Pizza. “The concept was partially created to suit the location. [It’s] close to the Park, very little in-house seating and a poor parking situation,” Shantz said. “I needed to do something that I could get folks in and out pretty quickly, so a sandwich counter seemed perfect. From there it just steadily grew based on being the best sandwich in town. No buying convenience products, all real, scratch made, house recipe foods.”
Once Shantz settled on the sandwich counter concept, he spent months perfecting the menu and recipes, including the deli meats, he serves. The whole idea at Scratch is everything is created from scratch. “This was something I knew from experience, no one else in town was attempting to do. Everything we can do in-house, we do in-house starting with high quality, unprocessed ingredients,” he said. “The process took months of menu design and recipe experimentation. I was brining briskets nine months before we opened,” he said. “Our briskets brine for almost a month, so tweaking the recipe was tricky. I’d change something a little bit and wait a month before I could try it, then repeat the process until I got the perfect recipe.”
Working in kitchens since he was 14 years old, Shantz received formal training at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona where he earned his degree. Although he grew up in Washington D.C., he and his family moved to Boulder right before he entered high school. “One day I wrote my resume and realized it was all I really knew, figured I’d embrace it and get the education to match the work experience,” he said. “I came to Estes in 2002 after finishing school in Arizona. I needed to do an internship, and had a friend that got me on at a local restaurant.” Shantz has worked in local kitchens at The Dunnraven and Hanger Restaurant, and was the food service director at the Highlands Presbyterian Camp and Retreat Center in Allenspark.
Back in Arizona, Shantz spent several years making wedding cakes and more for a catering company he owned. It made offering special-order cakes at Scratch a “no brainer.” If his handmade gingerbread version of the St. Malo Chapel on the Rocks he created for the holidays is any indication—its fully covered with chocolate covered raisins for rocks and melted gummies for the stained glass windows—he has the creativity to make something unique for any occasion.
There is no skimping on portions at Scratch either. Each sandwich has a half pound of in-house-made meats with generous amounts of cheese and veggies. “They are monsters,” Shantz said. “Few people leave without a bag in hand.”
All meats are cured and brined in house, including turkey breast, corned beef and pastrami. “I smoke turkey breast four days, the corned beef is just shy of brining for a month,” he said. “I supposed if I had to pick, I am most proud of our pastrami. By the time it goes on your sandwich there is well over a month of preparation into it.”
Breakfast burritos and sandwiches are made to order daily. “We don’t even have a microwave or freezer in the building,” he said. “We bake all our own bread and have cinnamon rolls and sticky buns every morning.”
If you don’t see something on the menu of specialty sandwiches—like the Italian with Genoa and Cotto salami, Copicola, provolone tapenade and house made Italian dressing served on home made focaccia bread or the Black and Blue with cajun blackened roast beef and blue cheese on french bread—order from the “Make Your Own” menu and pick the bread, meats, cheeses, toppings and spreads to have it just as you want it. Look for specials like the Caprese Sandwich, perfect for the veggie lover, which includes tomatoes, fresh basil, roasted garlic and provolone drizzled with balsamic served on fresh focaccia bread. Everyone loves a grilled cheese sandwich, and Shantz takes his to the next level with cheddar, pepper jack and cream cheese on french bread. Sides like coleslaw, Italian or pesto pasta salad, and classic or loaded potato salad are available for only a little more. Round out the meal to make a perfect picnic with any number of assorted pastries like lemon bars, carrot cake, German chocolate cake and, of course, chocolate chip cookies. Everything is baked fresh each day.
Shantz said he is pleased with his staff and is looking forward to working more with a new baker he recently brought on board. “I lucked out with my staff. All really good people, very friendly, nice and customer service oriented,” he said. “We also just brought on Jessica [to bake]. She’s been awesome and fits right in with the rest of the staff. We’ve only got rock stars.”
Stop in on your way to to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, or just to take back to work to home, either way, you will be able to taste the difference of food made by- and from – Scratch.
Scratch Deli & Bakery is located at 911 Moraine Ave. in Estes Park. Call 970-586-8383 or find them on Facebook at Scratch-Deli-Bakery.
Originally published in the May 2016 issue of the MMAC Monthly