By Isaac Lorton
A sandwich is a beautiful thing — versatility, variety, deliciousness. Yet, White River Junction has been lacking a dedicated sandwich shop. Until now.
Childhood friends Kevin Halligan and Dee Sonthikoumanne are remedying that void with Funkalicious Market and Deli.
“Who doesn’t love a good sandwich?” Kevin asks with a smile. “Sandwiches are an everywhere thing,” he adds in his gentle, gravelly voice.
When you walk into Funkalicious, you are greeted by a palette of vibrancy. Bright colors splash the walls (in some places it is literally splattered) and quirky decorations catch your eye. There is a section dedicated to flamingos, one to air balloons and kites. A painted chicken sits on the window table, its legs dangling, and another smokes a cigarette above an image of Elvis. A sign that reads “Welcome to our beautiful chaos” is nestled between two sombreros and surrounded by a rainbow of splotches and little farm animal keepsakes. Kevin — wearing tie-dye patterned crocs — stands behind the glass cases where fresh seafood sits on ice, and dry-aged steaks and house-made sausages call out to home cooks and grill masters. Kevin says the decorations are a collection of “anything that caught my eye,” and hopes that the food will be that way too.
“We want to have fun with it,” he adds. “We want it to be comfortable but non-apologetic about this is who we are and this is what we do. Funky.”
And their food is just as vibrant, just as vivacious as the whirlwind of decorations.
The chicken curry sandwich is warm and sweet, tasting of coconut and their blend of spices. Along with crispy candied bacon, greens, and pickled veggies, it is wrapped up cozily in their house-made naan, which they make daily. Hopes are to make all of the bread in house, eventually.
The Cubano sandwich is smoky, rich, and sharp — tender smoked pork, pickled green tomatoes, gooey gruyere cheese, and mustard. For all of the sandwiches that have smoked meat, like the Cubano, it is smoked in house.
Their house tater tots are ginormous balls of shredded potato, deep fried and served with an “unctuous” XO sauce.
Kevin and Dee say they want to keep as many ingredients as fresh as possible. They have partnered with local farms for their veggies and meat, and get fresh seafood out of Boston. A friend provides turkeys and chickens, and Kevin currently raises his own Berkshire heritage pigs. They are hoping to eventually get their own land to grow and produce all of the food that people will eat at Funkalicious.
Kevin has maintained a farm-to-table ethos throughout his 30-plus-year career working in kitchens across the United States. A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, Kevin is influenced by his work in restaurants in places like Tampa Bay, Cape Cod, and South Carolina.
“I’m all over the board in terms of flavor and influence,” Kevin says. “Since I spent some time in South Carolina, I tend to gravitate towards low-country style cooking. But then Dee is Laotian — so the laap and fish sauce — it ends up getting really fun. Different flavors coming together.”
The chicken larb (laap) is a Laotian dish. The chicken is shredded with herbs and mild chili peppers, which leaves you with a splendid and slight peppery aftertaste. The chicken salad rests on a pillowy house-made steamed bun and is covered in pickled veggies and scallions.
The pork dumplings are stuffed to the brim, the wrappers crunchy, and the sweet and savory soy aioli compliments it well.
In Laconia, Kevin and Dee — who is constantly smiling with energetic and eager generosity — were able to reconnect, picking back up from their middle school days, where Dee’s mom would cook for them, and share Laotian food and recipes.
“His mom’s cooked for me since we were little, I guess it’s always inspired me,” Kevin says. “She’s a great great great cook. So I guess there’s some of her influence.”
Back in the Lakes Region, Kevin owned a specialty meat and seafood market, as well as a farm-to-table restaurant and bakery. He hopes to bring all of this to Funkalicious.
“We have already done this and killed it — in Laconia, of all places,” Kevin says. “The food tastes better anyway with fresh ingredients, and that’s the bottom line. I think that’s what drives it.”
After some life changes, Kevin started visiting the area and saw the need for a market and deli in the already thriving food scene, with White River Junction being the “food destination” in the Upper Valley. They purchased the space in the old Kibby Equipment building, next to Standard Company Tattoo. Kevin brought along Tom, the butcher, whom he had worked with in Laconia, and they began to set up shop.
The pandemic delayed their projected opening of February/March 2020, but with some friends’ help, they were able to pull it together and opened on November 10th. Funkalicious offers sandwiches, soups, salads, and sides, as well as daily specials and meats. For now, it will be mostly takeout, Kevin said. After the pandemic, who knows?
When the juice bar next door was unable to get off the ground, Kevin and Dee swooped in to acquire the space. They had wanted to create a more upscale place, as well, and being able to use the same kitchen for both was ideal. The Chef and Butcher will be a small fine-dining restaurant, where the menu will change daily depending on that day’s ingredients. The opening date has not been determined yet.
From the humble sandwich to the classy supper with cocktails, and everything in between, Kevin and Dee will keep it funky and delicious.
Isaac Lorton is thrilled to be writing, editing, and photographing in the Twin State region. Simply, Isaac is happy to be here in this place at this moment with this group of people.