From Oct. 3, 2012
Moe wants to know if you believe in Jesus. Do you? He hopes so.
“I’ll see you in heaven,” Moe, working the cash register, tells a customer. “Hopefully I won’t be running the deli up there.”
Everyone who heard him laughs, because Moe’s already running the deli down here. Slyman’s, in northeast Cleveland. Known for sandwiches –- specifically corned beef –- this place is all about God and good karma, too. It’s not all in-your-face, but it’s there. I find it refreshing.
In the bathroom, laminated verses from the Book of Matthew recount Jesus’s sermon on the mount. Part of it reads:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink.”
Fair advice. But I did come here for the food. For that corned beef sandwich. To see what the hype was about.
The only place to sit was the low counter that faces all the Three Stooges memorabilia, wedged between three customers to my right and boxes of delivery and/or to-go orders stacked on my left. Why The Three Stooges? Larry…Curly…Moe. Get it?
Prayer pamphlets are stacked in front of the cash register.
“Take as many as you want!” Moe tells another customer as he works the machine. “God bless.”
Moe doesn’t look like he just come off of Mount Sinai. In fact, he looks like he spends more of his time in the kitchen than at the register. He’s heavyset, balding, if not bald, and wearing casual clothes. He doesn’t dress like a disciple. Nor does he dress like he owns the place. But preach, brother, because the corned beef sandwich on rye is delicious. Even better with a little mustard.
That must be why there’s a line out the door. Why the only seat I could find was at the counter. Why it took a whole minute to worm my way to the bathroom between the other customers and the hardworking women who served them. So this is what blue collar Ohio looks like. These are the humble folks just trying to make their way through the day.
I never liked Ohio much, even though I had never been outside the airport until this week, when I spent most of the time in the suburbs. But I had to make my way downtown, or at least in the city proper, and eat something authentic.
Slyman’s is authentic.
“How’s school goin’? Good?” Moe asks a boy in his late teens or early 20s. “I hope so.”
My check comes, and I go to pay at the register, just a few feet from where I ate. I go to pay Moe. He swipes my credit card and thanks me. I can’t sign for a tip? No. No need to sign the receipt.
I open my wallet, spot a $5 bill and a $20. My meal was only about $8. I need some $1s so I can tip. I can tell Moe’s too busy to break my $5, even though he probably would if I asked. Moe’s working hard. So is everyone else. They don’t deserve $1s for their tip. So I hand the $5 to Moe.
“Leave that on your table,” he says. “I didn’t do nothing for ya.”
I smile at Modest Moe. I walk back to my spot to lay the $5 down.
“You’re a good man,” he says.