Best of NEPA: Best Deli Category

The Times-Leader, The Weekender,
The Abington Journal - July 19, 2009

By Kristie Grier Ceruti

- #1 -
Circles on the Square
Delicatessen and Emporium

Although emporium might be an accurate description of this downtown Wilkes-Barre mainstay, with its eclectic array of kitsch and classic for sale, at the crux is unforgettable flavor.

It’s tough to tear yourself away from the witty collection of magnets, wind chimes or gongs, but with a wall menu of 80 Circles creations, it might be wiser to make a selection at the counter and then shop while you wait the few minutes for the sandwich-making magic to occur.

According to staff, popular choices include the No. 9 Low Fat Lu Lu: Peppermill smoked turkey, champagne mustard, tomato, fat free mayo and alfalfa sprouts on multi-grain loaf and No. 47 D’s Berry Best: Sausalito turkey, American cheese, champagne cranberry preserves, alfalfa sprouts and mayo on rye.

No matter your selection, there is guaranteed to be one “fancy foodstuff” or specialty ingredient that will make the taste unique. Like No. 25, The Kirby Wallbanger ($5.05) – a dollop of Clancy’s Fancy Hot Sauce, a slather of Honeycup mustard, a dash of balsamic vinegar and alfalfa sprouts turns a meatless smorgasbord of cucumber slices, fresh pepper rings, fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and American, Swiss and provolone cheese on pumpernickel into a memorable meal.

Owner Phil Rudy and the friendly staff make foodie happiness happen daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. – and while the sandwiches must take top billing, a lunch purchase is not complete without original recipe chocolate chip walnut cookies, made-from-scratch soups and macaroni and cheese or even a homemade butter croissant for a late afternoon snack.


Feast - Running 'Circles' around lunch

By Mystery Mouth | Special to the Weekender
The Weekender - Wed 10/10/07 v14 issue 47

It might be a safe assumption that anyone who works or lives in downtown Wilkes-Barre has ventured to a certain Public Square staple for lunch at least once.

Not only does it have a colossal array of sandwiches and a slew of daily specials, but the delicatessen is also an emporium of sorts. Magnets, postcards, chimes, t-shirts and more can be found at Circles on the Square, but today, it’s not the tchotchke we are here to talk about.

It’s the food. Circles literally has something for everyone.

Ham, roast beef, corned beef, turkey, salami, bologna, prosciutto, soppressatta, tuna, eggs, seafood salad, chicken, pastrami and vegetarian fare is all represented on the menu. They offer a slew of breads (rye with or without seeds, white, wheat, pumpernickel, rolls and bagels), cheeses, mustards and spreads like mayo, relishes, horsey and hot sauce and sauerkraut.

Many sandwiches have flavor combinations that are guaranteed to not be found anywhere else. Mustard with mayo, peanut butter and French Chambord preserves and buffalo chicken with applewood smoked cheddar and BBQ sauce to name just a few.

With such a selection, it’s no surprise that my coworkers and I decided to get lunch from Circles one recent afternoon. It’s also one of just a few places we all can agree on, so we consulted our dog-eared office menu, called in an order and were told it would be 20 minutes.

(Note to readers and especially for big orders like ours: Order by number if the sandwiches have one, not by name. It makes it much easier on the person at the other end of the line, especially since many sandwiches have funny names like The Kirby Wallbanger or Fowler’s Dikken-Walker.)

We sent two staffers to make the few-block trek, and soon they were back, laden with white bags full of Circles goodies. Like vultures, everyone descended upon them clawing for their lunch, and here’s the skinny:

• Low-Fat Freddie (#54), $4.75: mesquite wood-smoked turkey breast with fat-free mayo, Grey Poupon, cucumber thins and tomato on wheat, which the eater substituted for the normal pumpernickel. “It would have been perfect toasted with cheese,” she suggested. (Though the Mouth thinks that probably wouldn’t constitute Freddie being low fat anymore …)

• Low-Fat LuLu (#9), $5.35: peppermill smoked turkey, champagne mustard, tomato, fat-free mayo and alfalfa sprouts on multigrain loaf. This luncher also made a substitution, cucumber slices for the sprouts, and she raved about the turkey. “It’s so flavorful,” she said.

• Turkey Club (no number), $6.95: roast turkey on three slices of wheat with Swiss, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and Russian dressing. This was without a doubt the largest club any of us have ever seen. The eater, who struggled to take a bite, called it “ginormous.”



• Our Fair City Chicken (#42), $5.35: hand-made breast meat chicken salad with fresh cucumber slices, Champagne mustard and alfalfa sprouts on multigrain loaf. This is the first time this eater had sprouts and he very much liked them. Though he liked the moist chicken, he didn’t care for the spread of mustard atop his heap of chicken salad.

• Letter to the Editor (#3), $6.05: turkey breast, Monterey Jack, Vidalia onion relish with Russian dressing on French loaf. This eater finds his sandwich to be one of the more “normal” on Circles’ menu and thought the sauce to be tangy and sweet without being overpowering on the good, hard loaf.

• Macaroni & cheese (no number), $3.77: imported pasta and aged Vermont sharp cheddar. This was white cheese, not the usual yellow fake-looking variety, and you could see it was homemade (and taste, when I snagged a bite). It was buttery and more like a baked mac and cheese.

• Wild Rice Barley Chicken Soup (no number), $3.11: this soup was chock full of barley, huge mushrooms, water chestnuts and chicken with a hearty spice.

• Angelo’s Honky Tonker (#49), $5.45: Genoa salami with smoked mozzarella, Dijon mustard, mayo and alfalfa sprouts on French loaf. I had an exorbitant amount of salami and almost an equal amount of cheese. There was just a tad too much mayo, but the mix of the mayo and mustard on either side was a virtual taste explosion that was deliciously contradictory to the salami. The bread was of the utmost freshness.

• Chicken soup with rice (no number), $2.12: Found to be just a basic chicken/rice soup by the eater, the soup was filled to the brim with chicken, celery, carrots and more rice than you’d ever get from a can.

• My Honey the Ham (#34), $5.75: maple honey-glazed ham on a butter croissant with Honeycup Mustard, coleslaw and alfalfa sprouts. “This croissant is slamming!” exclaimed the eater. She found the coleslaw to be creamy and, though not a fan of the condiment, she loved the mustard. “All the tastes are so different,” she commented.

We received an ample supply of pickles, and the pickle aficionado in me commandeered more than my share, finding they rivaled the best in their not-too-dilly or too garlicky crispness.

The two of us that got soup received two types of crackers — saltines and Melba toast, which tasted fantastic in my soup.

Despite all of our different choices, flavors and ingredients, there was one constant in our takeout from Circles: the sandwiches were HUGE.

Our bill came to just $52 for the lot of us, not too shabby for such big portions and such great food. Circles employees were friendly and easy to place the order with, plus, they are very accommodating to the substitutions.

And, as if all of the above wasn’t enough, our staffers who picked up the food got four homemade chocolate chip walnut cookies just for shopping downtown.

This Circle definitely owns the square.


Circles on the Square: a Longtime Downtown Wilkes-Barre, PA Favorite

By Donna Talarico - Published Jan 02, 2007

Huey Lewis told us it is hip to be square. However, there us a much hipper shape in town.

Back in my heyday as a Wilkes University freshman, I would often wander downtown to grab a bite to eat on Public Square. I was first lured in by the bright neon circles in the window, hence the name Circles on the Square. I was amazed at the vast menu and cool ingredients I never knew could be placed between two slices of bread. I tasted many a sandwich at Circles, but finally settled into a usual item.

Fast forward to now. I walked into Circles, many years after my regular status had faded, to see that the gourmet deli is still pretty much the same place I remembered it to be. (Only this time, I was being more critical and observant!)

The friendly man behind the counter greeted me with a smile, and actually recognized me from all those years ago. He asked what I was having, and as I glanced up at the menu of almost 60 different sandwiches, indecisive me went for the old stand-by. I said to the man, "Maybe I will just have what I used to always get." I still cannot believe his reply.

"Maple honey ham on a croissant with honey cup mustard and...."

I had to add that I like Muenster cheese. What service! He remembered my usual. He prepared my sandwich, wrapped it neatly in real deli paper, sliced it in half, and wrapped it again. Perfect packaging! Since Circles is take-out only, he placed it neatly in a paper sack with a container of thick deli pickle slices (years ago, they gave a while pickle), napkins and a straw for my Moxie cola (anyone remember that?).

I was so hungry; I barely made it back to Boscov's parking garage without...



...sinking my teeth into my lunch and devouring half. Then, I realized that I'd better save the other half until I made it over the Market Street Bridge to my apartment to fully examine the sandwich.

I arrived home and really looked at the baked-on-premise butter croissant. It was baked to a golden perfection, and was bubbly on top and even a little crispy...but just the right amount. It was soft and flaky inside. Perhaps the best I've ever had. The portion of the sweet maple honey ham was generous, and the honey cup mustard with the right amount of kick. Topped with the Muenster cheese, the blend of flavors was delicious. I am getting hungry again just writing about this mouth-watering sandwich.

Although I chose my own custom-made item, Circles has over 50 sandwiches to choose from off the sandwich board, many named after Downtown Wilkes-Barre things- many of them very clever: Genoa Good Lawyer, Kirby Show Stopper, Letter to the Editor, Someday Independent and more. The menu is really great fun to read.

Circles offers Boar's Heads meats, freshly baked bagels, croissants and desserts, handmade soups, fruits, a wide selection of beverages- some unique and hard-to-find- and a hearty take-out salad bar. And, if you thought mayo and mustard were the only selection of condiments for your sandwich, or lettuce and tomato the only veggies to top it off, you have to see the wide selection of spreads and greens offered by Circles, including Vidalia onion spread, sun-dried tomato spread, Champagne cranberry preserves, alfalfa sprouts, sunflower seed and more. Breakfast sandwiches, daily lunch specials and platters are also available, as is limited downtown delivery.

And, Circles is not just a take-out deli. They sell some pretty nifty things, such as coffees, incense, windchimes, stickers, nostalgic advertising reproductions, candles, books, magnets, gourmet candy and other grocery items and so much more. The gourmet-ness of the deli makes the sandwiches a bit pricer than say the Subway down the block-- but the gourmet-ness of sandwiches is what makes Circles worth it.

Grade: A+



9 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 18701 ~ STORE HOURS: Mon - Fri: 7:30am - 5:30pm, Sat: 10:30am - 3:30pm in season
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