Being a vegetarian is no easy feat, especially in the South, where barbecue and seafood reign supreme. Groucho’s Deli was no exception. For almost four decades, Groucho's Deli was synonymous with meat-centric offerings.
That was until 1980, when proprietor Ivan Miller decided to join a weight loss program with his son in which the program also made the parents partake in regular exercise and a healthy diet change in order to set an example for the children.
In eight months, Ivan lost 65 pounds. Even though the program had a strict regimen of exercise, he believed it was cutting down on meat consumption that led him to lose that weight. “It’s a heck of a thing for a deli proprietor to say,” he said. But, he did not become a crusader for vegetarianism. He did realize that there were a large number of people who were vegetarian in the Columbia area, and that there weren’t a lot of places offering vegetarian options. So, he decided to tweak the menu to offer more vegetarian options to the public.
It started with the Vegetable Pita Sandwich which was a pita sandwich with zucchini, brussel sprouts, carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, mushrooms, lupini beans, and cauliflower, all marinated in a Greek dressing for 24 hours. This quickly became a hit among not only vegetarians but anyone who came into Groucho’s Deli.
After the success of the Vegetable Pita, then came the egg cheese melt, which was exactly what it sounds like. A semi-dry egg salad served on a single slice of pumpernickel bread with a slice of muenster cheese and a thin slice of tomato, then toasted. This open-faced sandwich quickly became another favorite among 1980s Groucho’s Deli guests. Miller said, “The biggest problem is getting people to try it for the first time, but once they do, the general response is that they like it.”
For over 40 years, Groucho’s Deli has been proud to have a vegetarian section on our menu, allowing anyone, no matter what they want to eat, into our restaurants.