Constance Moynahan developed a love for cooking while spending her high school summers working at bed and breakfasts in Grass Valley and Nevada City. Although she went on to study archeology and work at The Union newspaper, her real passion always came back around to cooking.
When a successful Nevada City deli came up for sale in 2007, Moynahan and her then-business partner, Anne Solik, decided to take the plunge.
“We just decided to go for it,” she said. “I just wanted to grab life by the horns.”
While Solik has since gone on to pursue other interests, Moynahan — now the sole owner of P.J.’s of Nevada City — says she has found her true niche. Although the 40-year-old business has enjoyed decades of loyal customers, Moynahan has made it her priority to research and seek out meats and other ingredients of the highest quality, while keeping prices from going through the roof.
Her efforts have paid off.
Not only is P.J.’s full every weekday at lunch time, but Moynahan’s catering business is in high demand, along with the food she makes daily for local businesses, such as Natural Valley Health Foods and Sierra Mountain Coffee Roasters.
Specialty sandwiches, made with Kretschmar lunch meats, include such favorites as The Gold Club, which is packed with turkey, bacon, avocado and tomato on three slices of toasted sourdough, and the The Malakoff — a classic Reuben with warm corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut on toasted marble rye.
“Constance made her first sandwich at age two,” said Kim Midboe, Moynahan’s mom, a copy editor at The Union who helps out at P.J.’s on Mondays. “It was peanut butter and mustard.”
Moynahan’s chili has built an impressive following among the lunch crowd, said Midboe. One customer confided that P.J.’s chili was superior to his wife’s. Moynahan was kind enough to tell him what ingredients she uses.
“A lot of my dishes come from my own personal cravings,” said Moynahan. “That’s where some of my best ideas have come from.”
All sandwiches are named after local gold mines and served in gold pans in keeping with local history.
In addition to a soup bar and salads, P.J.’s carries convenient frozen, restaurant-quality entrees — ready to take home, heat and eat. Examples include chile relleno, beef Wellington and chicken Cordon Bleu.
While catering dishes can range from barbecue to soup buffets to gyros to pasta, it’s the exotic meat selection at P.J.’s that sets it apart from other delis.
Meats include frozen elk, venison, quail, bison, rabbit, duck and more. But equally as popular are the holiday meats, such as corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day and cooked prime rib, ham and turkey for the holidays. Some customers come in solely for the mahogany double-smoked bacon from Meadow Farm Smokehouse in Bishop, Calif.
“It’s been so rewarding to see customers happy,” said Moynahan. “I’m very grateful for the regulars who continue to come back year after year. It gives me a real sense of pride. I’ve been in business for five years, and it feels good knowing I made the right decision.”
To contact staff writer Cory Fisher email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4203.