With its song-themed sandwiches, Costa Mesa deli strikes a chord
At a good deli, you can usually count on a few things. High-quality meat and bread. Maybe a signature condiment or sauce. But what about a soundtrack? Good Eats With Laura — GEWL, for short — in Costa Mesa has all three.
“Sandwiches have always been something of a comfort for me, coming from the Midwest,” said GEWL founder, Laura Cahill.
GEWL serves fresh deli sandwiches made by sourcing the best ingredients, like Boar’s Head meats and bread from Los Angeles-based Rockenwagner Bakery. Cahill makes her White Rabbit jalapeño ranch in house and sells 8-ounce bottles for $12.
As for the soundtrack, each sandwich on GEWL’s menu takes its name from a song or musician. Popular sandwiches, known as “The Headliners,” include Purple Haze, a vegan sandwich with roasted eggplant, roasted red bell pepper, cucumber, Kalamata olives and an almond romesco sauce, or California Love with turkey, bacon, swiss cheese, smashed avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion and GEWL’s signature dressing.
All sandwiches come with house-made potato chips Cahill calls “groupies.”
“Sometimes I think people are buying sandwiches just to get chips,” joked Cahill.
GEWL opened in early October, but Cahill’s journey began when she was furloughed from her marketing job at the start of the pandemic. She always shared food and recipes on her Instagram, under the handle Good Eats With Laura. One afternoon in April she decided to make and sell some sandwiches.
“People always said they would buy my food,” said Cahill. “I went to the grocery store, got enough stuff to make 10 sandwiches, photographed them, posted them on Instagram and said, ‘Hey, who’s hungry?’ and it kinda took off like wildfire.”
She sold her 10 sandwiches and had a waitlist for the next day. She began a schedule of selling sandwiches every other week, doing deliveries herself on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
“I was making them all in my home kitchen, getting in my car and delivering them and mapping out routes,” said Cahill.
She went from selling 10 sandwiches a week to nearly 80, driving as far north as Brentwood and as far south as San Clemente to deliver them.
Cahill charged a flat rate delivery fee of $5 if they lived within a certain distance and $10 if it was further.
“I found there was such a demand that I was able to open the store every week, in addition to hiring additional drivers to help with the volume,” said Cahill.
She also secured some corporate catering gigs too, with Live Nation, the Chargers and Whole Foods Market. When her marketing job called and invited her back, she realized her side hustle was more her jam.
“My real job called, and I was like, ‘No, this is kind of going further than I wanted it to and I want to keep going with this,’” Cahill said.
GEWL became a bona fide business in April 2021, and Cahill began using the Hood Kitchen in Costa Mesa, a commercial prep kitchen and event space available for rent to professional chefs and catering companies, instead of her home kitchen.
“I was able to get my business legally up and running through the health department, through permits,” said Cahill.
Shortly after, Hood Kitchen approached her with an opportunity to open a storefront inside of the commercial kitchen.
“To me, it seemed like a no brainer, even after searching for other opportunities throughout the city. Just to kind of test the restaurant concept without having the cost of a restaurant start up,” said Cahill. “We didn’t have to buy equipment, we were able to walk right in and decorate the space to our vibe and then start serving sandwiches.”
And the vibe is distinctly vintage record store, with vinyl records on the walls, amps stacked in the corner and GEWL staff wearing T-shirts that read “Roadie.”
“My home looks like this,” Cahill said. “I am such a concert kid and music junkie that I had to put those two loves together.”
Cahill said her hope is that either the music concept or the food will strike a chord with customers.
“When I can get them with both, then I win,” said Cahill.
Cahill always dreamed of working in the music industry and connecting with musicians, and GEWL has made that come true is more ways than one, she said.
“This month we are launching coffee on tap, and we are going have Legal Speed coffee from the band Bayside,” she said. “And we are actually naming a new sandwich with them as well.”
Punk band, Bayside, launched their coffee company in 2016, with beans roasted in Southern California.
The collaboration sandwich, “Interrobagel,” will be a kimchi grilled cheese you can add a fried egg and bacon to, served on a bagel from Dough Exchange, another local favorite.
“The guys from the band came by, two of them live locally and two of them live in Nashville, but they tried it and they loved it,” Cahill said of the new sandwich. “It made me proud.”
GEWL is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is available on all food delivery apps including DoorDash, Grub Hub and Uber Eats.
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