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Tasty tributes 

Psych-a-Deli gives sandwiches a good name

Mama Cass did not choke on a ham sandwich. Truth be told, she died from a heart attack, her heart weakened by prolonged obesity and several crash diets. But the ham sandwich story still lingers in the minds of many. The ethos of two pieces of bread wrapped around a bundle of meat truly affects our consciousness. Maybe that's why the Psych-a-Deli restaurant in Marietta has a tribute to her in the form of a sandwich. The "Mamma" Cass ($7) is a thick slice of homemade meatloaf between sourdough bread, served with a deli pickle and your choice of chips. No ham in sight, but enough meat to stop your heart.

That isn't the only tribute the place serves up. Parry Cuda's '60s- and '70s-themed deli is his loving ode to a time gone by with retro-titled sandwiches and salads served with small-town comfort and style. With its large, open space with plenty of seats, it feels more like a diner than a deli.

A quick jaunt from the Marietta Square and adjacent to the McLaren Mill Lofts, the McLaren Mill Office Park is a low-lying brick building that's been renovated to house businesses and this single eatery. The exposed brick and antique ceiling fans belie the trippy concert posters and advertisements for JFK. With the kitsch running high and the gimmick so forced, you might think that the quality of a Voodoo Child (blackened chicken topped with blue cheese on a homemade roll, $7) or a Brown-eyed Girl (pumpernickel bread piled very "high" with hot pastrami and topped with maple mustard, $7) would suffer. But it doesn't.

The Go Ask Alice ($7) is a great example. Served warm, the grilled, boneless pork chop is thin and juicy. The meat is topped with wilted spinach, grilled red onions and melted smoked cheddar. The combination of the onion and a bit of honey Dijon create a sweet flavor that suits the bitterness of the spinach. The homemade roll is soft, light and topped with poppy seeds. It's cooked on-site daily, as are most of the breads used in the shop. Get a good grip because when the spinach, cheese and Dijon combine, the stuffings try to slide out the back every time you take a bite. There's so much sandwich, you won't even want to stop for the gourmet Zapp's potato chips that come on the side.

The Elvis Tribute ($5) is a take on a Memphis fave. Grilled white bread smothered in peanut butter is topped with banana, honey-peppered bacon and honey. It may sound a bit strange, but if it was good enough for the king ...

Kids at the next table seemed to enjoy the Crosstown Traffic -- two hot dogs any way you want 'em ($5). The tykes kept it simple with just ketchup and mustard, but the deli will prepare them with sauerkraut, chili, onions or even lettuce and tomato. If two dogs are more than you can handle, cut the order in half and pay $1 less (true for all sandwiches). The thick beef franks, shipped up from a deli in Midtown, quickly were wolfed down by the toddlers, however, so if I were you I'd go with a double-dog order.

One patron raved about the Karma salad. "I come here at least once a week to get it," he confessed. Made up of grilled chicken, fresh tomatoes, slivered red onions, cucumber and cheddar cheese, it appears pretty passé until you realize that you get a choice of seasoned fries or sweet potato fries added to the mix. Not a weight-watcher's snack, the thick, seasoned steak fries add more substance to the meal, and you might even end up taking half of it home.

The romaine and green leaf lettuce is fresh and crisp, a cool compliment to the warm, crunchy fries. But don't wait too long or they become soggy from the dressing. Dressings include a homemade herbed vinaigrette, sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, light ranch, honey Dijon, esperenza, blue cheese or Thousand Island. Despite the tempting vinaigrettes, with this salad the creamier dressings seem a better complement. I found the honey Dijon to be a great mix with the fries, with just enough sweet twang to perk up the salad even more.

The collection of six salads include versions of a Cobb: Crimson & Clover ($6) with egg salad, smoked turkey, bacon, roasted red peppers, cucumbers and shredded cheese; as well as the Tune in-Drop Out ($6), baby mixed greens with ham, turkey, bacon and cheese.

If you want something to take home, meats and cheeses are all sold by the pound. You also can get sides like the chili in a bag ($3), which is the deli's homemade chili in a big bag of Fritos.

The Psych-a-Deli is a family-owned and operated business. You might see Cuda's sister or another relative behind the counter helping out, taking orders or busy in the kitchen. The charm and thoughtfulness are clear, and Cuda's aim to please has kept him from skimping on quality and quantity in his servings. This keeps regulars -- both mamas and papas -- coming back for groovy, gourmet sandwiches.

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