Funkalicious (White River Junction, VT)

While Covid-19 continues to tally up some casualties on the dining scene, I’m still thrilled when someone is able to reverse the trend with the occasional opening. In this case, over in White River Junction, VT, in an older storefront that last I knew held Kibby Equipment Company (purveyors of fine chainsaws), Kevin Halligan and Dee Sonthikoummane have opened Funkalicious Market and Deli. This wasn’t a sudden opening; I remember seeing an announcement in the Valley News almost a year ago that they were installing countertops and getting ready for opening a market and deli that was focusing on housemade meats and specialty sandwiches, with an opening in February or March. Well, we all know those sorts of plans turned out… but in late October 2020 Funkalicious was finally able to open their doors, primarily offering a butcher counter and a menu of interesting sandwiches showcasing their smoked meats and other prepared deli foods.

Before I get into the sandwiches we ordered, I did want to mention the meats. Just walking in from the parking lot to pick up an order, you can see one of the cornerstones of Funkalicious’s operation: they had a large offset smoker going out the side door, smoking a large seasoned and brined brisket to make some of their house pastrami. Inside, you can’t miss their meat case, featuring half a dozen different types of in-house made sausage (including seafood sausage, a rarity around here), pastrami and bacon. And it’s not just smoked or cured products either, with a good selection of well-marbled (and reasonably-priced) chops, Delmonicos, and strips. While on this trip we just picked up some pepperoni for snacking later, I’ll definitely come back at some point and get some decent steaks; this is one of the areas better butcher cases (up there with Brownsville Butcher and Pantry, which I also owe a writeup at some point).

The lunch menu at Funkalicious is focused on specialty sandwiches, and they’ve got quite a decent selection. On one end of the menu, they’ve got some classic offerings like their house-roasted beef with horseradish (which I hope to try on another occasion; I adore a properly-made rare roast beef sandwich with a good horseradish kick) or a pastrami grinder (on our visit, not available; we saw them making more pastrami on the way in, so that’s another item to look forward to). On the other end, they’ve got some inventive items, like an adzuki vegetarian hot dog, an Indian chicken curry sandwich, or even chicken larb, the Laotion-style heavily spiced meat salad. After looking at the menu a bit, I decided on the Chicken Larb, and Carol opted for the Curry sandwich. Carol and I try to minimize our social mixing these days, however, so aside from a quick peek at the butcher case, we got our sandwiches to go and took them over to a park in Lebanon for our actual meal.

The chicken larb sandwich was definitely a treat: served up on a nice flat steamed bun (almost like a wrap), a nice bed of pickled vegetables and cilantro, and a generous pile of spiced chicken larb. Being the Upper Valley, the spicing was a lot milder than much of the Larb I’ve had before (often, some of the best Larb I’ve had is “I can see through time” hot), but quite tasty, and there was a pleasant textural surprise: little bits of crispy chicken skin mixed in with the rest of the chicken, making for little crispy, fatty pops of flavor. Overall, a great little sandwich which I’d love to have again.

Carol’s chickken curry sandwich was quite enjoyable as well. Much like the larb, this was served up like a wrap, but using some house-made naan instead. The curry itself was a nice curry-spiced chicken salad: tender chicken shreds in a nice curry-spiced lighter mayo, served up with some greens, pickled onions, and some bits of crispy bacon. Like my larb sandwich, a pleasantly-flavorful sandwich with a lot of texture.

There’s some room for improvement here; service is a bit jumbled and disorganized, but reasonably I can write that up to some startup jitters. The food we had, including the pepperoni we took home for later, was top-notch and a welcome addition to the local dining scene; indeed, even during non-pandemic times a new lunchtime takeout option is welcome enough around here. Overall, I’ve got some high hopes here.

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