Coming from a place whose diversity in food offerings is as wide as can possibly be, I found Orlando’s dining scene to be a terrible disappointment. Of course, there is always someone who raves about how “you just have to try pizza at such and such a place, it’s just like New York style pizza”, but I stopped getting my hopes up. No, there is no New York style pizza here in Orlando. The Italian food all seems to revolve around canned tomato paste. And don’t even get me started on French cuisine. I can’t tell you what I wouldn’t give for a croissant that wasn’t purchased in bulk at Sam’s Club and then passed off as homemade. Thankfully, there are a few places worthy of a repeat visit. One of those places I discovered on the last day of 2009 was Toojay’s Deli.
I believe in giving credit where credit is due and let me tell you, Toojays earned my utmost respect last Thursday. My husband and I had an afternoon to spend without children, so we decided to stop in for lunch. The atmosphere was nothing fancy. Each wall was lined with decent sized booths and a row of tables was arranged in the middle of the floor. We were seated at a table by a waitress I later found out was from Long Island. I opened up the menu and was impressed by the selections, but was hesitant that this establishment could deliver on the promises it made in the descriptions of each dish. I was in the mood for something sandwich-y, so I ordered a bagel with lox and cream cheese. I figured there was no way to screw up something as simple as lox. My husband was intrigued by a sandwich known as the Jay-normous, which boasted one and a half pounds of corned beef and pastrami. I snickered to myself when he actually placed the order for it, knowing we would end up bringing home something to feed to the birds. The manager came over and paid his respects to the man brave enough to attempt consumption of the largest sandwich they made. He was friendly, asking if we were from New York. Apparently my order gave me away.
My bagel arrived the way it would from a true deli: lightly toasted with red onion, tomato, and lettuce on the side, accompanied by a fresh fruit salad. I began to let my guard down a bit. The last time I had lox was at a Jewish deli in Buffalo. My Toojays bagel unexpectedly gave it a run for its money. When the server placed my husband’s plate in front of him, the gasps around the room were audible. This monster of a sandwich truly did contain the meat that the menu promised it would. The corned beef and pastrami were layered neatly between two hand-cut slices of rye bread. Each half was held together by a steak knife, for surely no toothpick was up to the task. Hubby licked his lips as he prepared for the epic battle of man versus food. He offered me a slice of pastrami before he got started. I closed my eyes and could imagine myself at Buffalo’s Golden Corner, the last place I enjoyed a slice of deli meat so intensely. Much to my surprise, my husband finished the sandwich along with its accompaniments of coleslaw and steak fries in 10 minutes. He never even bothered to ask for mayo, it was just that flavorful. He was disappointed to find that there was no free t-shirt or bumper sticker for his victory, but raved about the sandwich to the manager, who offered to buy our dessert. My banana cake arrived on a chilled plate garnished with swirls of chocolate and caramel sauce. The cake was filled with layers of banana cream and topped with a ganache frosting. Hubby’s Killer Chocolate arrived in a similar manner, topped with freshly homemade whipped cream. I was so head over heals in love at this point, that I would have been willing to sign a contract promising never to visit another deli in the city.
We gratefully paid our bill and left a generous tip for the server, vowing to come back as soon as possible. For the hour that I sat in Toojays, I forgot that I was in Orlando. I underestimated their ability to deliver culinary greatness, and was proven wrong a thousand times over. I am still on a quest for an edible plate of lasagna, but my search for a quality sandwich has ended.