Miller grew up in Sugarcreek and worked in the food service industry in multiple states before being drawn back to Ohio.
“I felt that downtown Canton needed a place where people can spend time with the people that matter to them and also receive high-quality food,” Miller said.
While the fact sheet on Deli Ohio is readily available via its deliohio.com website, we chatted it up with Miller to get some inside information on his experiences since opening the restaurant in 2013 as well some personal stories from his time working in food service.
Q. Have you had any strange food requests?
A. “I had a person one time come in and get the vegetarian sandwich, and they basically took everything off of it with the exception of the spinach. So it was just spinach on bread. I thought that was pretty interesting. Nothing about it sounded too special to me, and they seemed to enjoy it. Maybe they just needed their greens or something.”
Q. What has been one of the more unique events Deli Ohio has cooked or catered for?
A. “Last summer, we catered an entire wedding on-site. This couple loved our foods, and they were just kind of overwhelmed with the idea. Usually, it’s a buffet style where it’s the same old, same old of what everyone has. We did sandwiches, soups and salads and sides and brought some of our eclectic sodas. It was great. People were stoked to have something different than lumpy mashed potatoes and cold gravy.”
Q. Is there a particular food you can’t stand?
A. “Black olives. I used to work at a pizza shop, and there was a special for a two-topping pizza. People would call and order a pizza with mushrooms and black olives. I can do a little bit of mushrooms, but that pizza made me lose respect for people. It kind of makes my stomach hurt to even think about.”
Q. What’s Canton’s favorite sandwich?
A. “The Turkey Bacon Avocado. I can’t stop selling them.”
Q. Who is the most noteworthy person you’ve ever served at Deli Ohio or elsewhere?
A. “At Deli Ohio, Mayor Healy. But I imagine he’s kind of around. Unfortunately, I haven’t had any of the Hall of Famers yet. I used to work in Nashville and see celebrities all the time. I delivered a lot of food to famous songwriters. A common one was Ben Swank, who works for Third Man Records, which is Jack White’s music label. I’d see him like once a week.”
Q. Any experience with picky or unruly customers?
A. “Definitely. You’re in the hospitality industry, and sometimes people don’t know where to draw the line and maybe don’t treat you with the respect you’d request of them. It’s not often, but that’s bound to happen.”
Q. How do you decide what music to play on a day-to-day basis in the restaurant?
A. “It’s more just a random assortment that goes on and off when we open and close. We get that question a lot. Sometimes we actually forget to turn it on.”
Q. What’s the biggest compliment Deli Ohio ever has received?
A. “Last year, we were really active in pursuing the Akron-Canton Hot List, in which we won Favorite Sandwich Shop in the Akron/Canton area. To me, there’s no shortage of good sandwich shops when you consider places like the Lockview and Mr. Zub’s up in Akron. People kind of went out of their way to really compliment us. They didn’t just click ‘Vote For Us,’ they actually left a comment trying to get the word out about us because we were still new. That really meant a lot.”
Q. Have you ever run out of an ingredient at a particularly busy time?
A. “Because of the way we source a lot of our products, it’s not completely uncommon to happen. The most common thing we run out of is the corned beef, but that’s because we do it all in-house from scratch. We get the raw brisket, and we cook it and brine it, and it sits in that brine for five days. We just don’t want to compromise anything.”
Q. What in your opinion is the most underrated or underused ingredient?
A. “There’s a few. For one, grilled onions. It always makes me sad when someone will take grilled onions off a sandwich. They just add such a wonderful flavor and texture. But one of my favorite things to eat in the whole world is green chili from New Mexico. The pepper itself is so versatile and has a great flavor. It’s not just a spicy pepper.”
Q. What’s the most rewarding thing about being a chef at Deli Ohio?
A. “Hands down, just the level we get to participate in the community is awesome. We’ve been able to kind of witness different people tell us, ‘Thank you so much for being here in Canton doing what you’re doing and trying to support as much local product as possible.’ That means a lot to everyone. You don’t think about that, but if you bought a sandwich and a coffee here, you’re potentially supporting 11 Ohio companies. To some people, that just blows their mind, because that’s not something people think about when they go into a chain restaurant.”