Talking Local Ingredients with Laura McCormack of Urban Deli

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

Laura McCormack is the owner and founder of Urban Deli, a staple in historic Federal Hill which she has lived in for the past 15 years. When she first moved here, she noticed that there was an unmet demand for a restaurant that had healthy offerings with fresh ingredients and locally baked pastries. She knew that she had to open up Urban Deli. Originally opened at a different location on East Fort Avenue in south Baltimore, Urban Deli became so popular that she had to move it to its current location on Light Street.

Laura McCormack
Laura McCormack, Owner of Urban Deli

Urban Deli is a south Baltimore must-eat location that offers locally sourced breakfast and lunch items, salads, and smoothies - most of which are proudly prepared in-house. For example, Laura slow-roasts the pork used to prepare her delicious Cuban sandwiches for three days. She takes great pride in the preparation of her items and rightfully so. The Cuban sandwich is one of the best sandwiches on the menu, among many other great options, like the house-prepared oven roasted turkey sandwich. Laura buys her own bread from a local bakery in Rockville and bagels from THB (Towson Hot Bagels). Urban Deli also switches its menu seasonally to adjust for local product availability. Laura excitedly told me about the new menu that will be unveiled very soon, which includes new soups made from scratch for the Fall and Winter season (a cheesy broccoli soup, chili, and a hearty vegetable soup). Urban Deli even has options for health conscious Baltimoreans with its large selection of smoothies, including a Hawaiian inspired mango, banana, and Hanson yogurt shake.

Cuban Sandwich
BLT Bagel Sandwich

Once you walk into Urban Deli, you instantly notice the walls are covered in framed photos of dogs. Urban Deli is a very dog friendly establishment and it has become a local tradition for Laura to post photos of the local customers’ pets. One section of the wall is dedicated to puppies, another section of the wall is dedicated to older pet family members, and the third section is dedicated to those pets which are no longer with us, but are not forgotten. Laura pointed to a specific photo of a puppy named Willis and fondly told me that she remembered when the owners would bring him into the shop and he could fit snugly in her hands - Willis is a Great Dane and is now taller than most children. Laura joked that she remembers more dog names than human names, but it’s just another example of how connected Urban Deli is to the locals.

Laura is an indispensable member of the south Baltimore community. She lives within walking distance of Urban Deli and she’s well respected by her neighbors for her kindness and outgoing personality. This has turned into a benefit for anyone who wants delicious homemade baked goods. Laura’s neighbor, Margaret, personally bakes and wraps all of the cakes, pastries, and assorted baked goods that are offered. I can personally attest to the deliciousness of the pumpkin cheesecake muffin and carrot cake. Urban Deli is a community effort - Laura currently has five employees and they make an exceptional team.

Carrot Cake

As of the time of this article’s publication, the COVID-19 pandemic still looms large over the nation and has affected Urban Deli. Laura was fortunately able to keep Urban Deli open due to the outpouring of community support during these hard times. During the pandemic, Laura made it a priority to serve the frontline healthcare workers and National Guard service members deployed to help manage the crisis. Urban Deli works with Frontline Foods Baltimore, which is an organization that partners with local restaurants affected by the pandemic to help provide frontline healthcare workers with meals. During the height of the initial wave of COVID-19, Laura was running Urban Deli by herself and simultaneously providing hundreds of meals to the frontline workers and service members. Laura recalled that during this period, friends from all over the community - which included an eclectic mix of a local chef, a well-loved bartender and his girlfriend, and a marketing consultant - helped cook, prepare, and package these meals. Laura remembers that this was a pivotal moment for Urban Deli, as well as a pivotal moment for the south Baltimore community at large.

Laura and Baltimore First Responders

Laura and the Urban Deli team are also dedicated to supporting House of Ruth of Maryland, which is a non-profit that supports victims of domestic violence. Indeed, there is usually a donation box where you can donate clothing at Urban Deli. And, a percentage of Urban Deli’s profits are donated yearly to the House of Ruth. Laura views Urban Deli as a fusion of a business, a community gathering place, and a socially responsible organization.

If you haven’t been yet, please check out Urban Deli. The staff members are incredible, the food is delicious, and the owner, Laura, is one of a kind. Laura has seen local customers come and go, but Urban Deli has been a constant anchor in south Baltimore.

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