Atmosphere: Neighborhood wine and cheese shop.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price range: Sandwiches are $1.39 to $3.39.
Special facilities: Accessible to patrons in wheelchairs. Take out meats and salads; special orders and pastries; gourmet grocery store.
Reservations: Can be arranged.
Credit cards: Mastercharge and Visa/BankAmericard for Purchases over $10.
In the midst of our Saturday errands, my husband, son and I stopped off at Ilija's on MacArthur Boulevard to pick up some delicatessen meats and salads for lunch at home. The small round tables nestled in the big picture windows at the front of the store, the pots of geraniums and begonias and the rows on endless rows of wine bottles stacked against the wall were so attractive we decided to taste the meats and salad there by buying lunch rather than groceries.
Ilija's is a gourmet grocery store, wine and cheese shop, deli counter and place to eat - all rolled into one. There are four tables set in the front windows.
On the Saturday we were there, the sun was streaming in the window, making Ilija's an even more attractive place to have lunch.
We squeezed into a table for four in a window alcove and got out bearings. Lunch service was part self-help, part waitress. Sandwich and salad orders are placed at a counter in the back, where customers also can order pastrami, Polish ham or Greek salad to take home.
There was no menu at the table o we walked to the back and studied the list posted behind the counter.
Sandwiches ranged from pepperoni at $1.39 to an Ilija special combination (five kinds of meat) for $3.39. In between were roast beef, ham or corned beef sandwiches for $1.79, smoked salmon for $2.95 and various combination sandwiches. The salads were priced by the pound: Greek salad for $1.79, cole slaw for 79 cents, vegetable salad for $1.69 and bean salad for $1.49.
We also had our choice of breads for the sandwiches. My husband chose a ham sandwich on French bread. My son, 11, liked the idea of a combination and ordered roast beef and ham, $2.59, on French bread.
I saw a sign behind the counter advertising hot Pastrami with sauerkraut, $1.99 so I ordered that on rye with Muenster cheese.
We were told our sandwiches would be delivered to our table. While we waited we chose our beverages from the display cases along side the meat counter. Although wine and beer are sold at Ilija's, neither can be consumed on the premises. Instead, we bought a can of root beer, 35 cents, and ordered two milks, 50 cents each. We also saw several other sodas and fruit juices as well as small bottles of Perrier Water for 49 cents.
Our son became restless during the wait for our sandwiches. He wandered around the store exploring the wooden tubs of coffee beans, packages of snails cooked in champagne, wine openers, French canned goods and other delicacies. He was intrigued with his findings and passed the 10-minute or so wait busily.
Our sandwiches arrived wrapped in thin paper. They were delicious. The bread was fresh and crisp and the meats were light and tasty. Our son found his sandwich twice as big as he could eat. My husband and I managed to finish our sandwiches by stuffing ourselves.
Before we left, we picked up some of the homemade pastries that sit under huge glass bubbles on the order counter. We couldn't resist homemade apple streudel at 89 cents a piece or the homemade butter cookies at $5 a pound. We took two streudels and one-quarter pound of cookies and saved them for later.
While we were paying the check, which came to $11.91 for everything, we saw we could have had homemade soup at 79 cents a serving or hot coffee at 40 cents or 50 cents a cup (depending on the size).
It wasn't the most elegant lunch we've ever had or the fastest, but Ilija's turned out to be a nice place to grab a bite in the middle of a busy day.