Sunday, August 30, 2015

(Nearly) 35 years and counting: Too Jay's is Florida's go-to deli and bakery

TooJay's Original Gourmet Deli is celebrating 35 years in business next year, and I was invited to find out why they've become an institution in Orlando. TooJay's is known for its huge deli case full of meats, cheeses, cookies, cakes and other drool-worthy delights. But I'd say the restaurant is equally well known for its amazing catering spreads. If the boss at your current job has never sprung for a catered lunch from TooJay's, I suggest you pull out the want ads.

Founded by Jay Brown and Mark Jay Katzenberg, the two "Jays" opened the first TooJay's in Palm Beach, Florida. Today there are 26 restaurants across the state and six here in Central Florida.

I dined at the TooJay's in Lake Mary. It's been there for a while, tucked into the corner of an aging plaza that's recently seen a revival with the opening of Fresh Market and Academy Sports. I stopped in for an early dinner and there was just a scattering of customers. I was greeting with a friendly "Welcome to TooJay's," and sat promptly.

I started with the Stuffed Cabbage ($5.99) and the Mini Potato Pancakes ($5.99). I loved the meat and rice filled cabbage, but the potato pancakes were over-fried and very, very dark. I'm surprised the burnt pancakes made it out of the kitchen. One bite was enough.

With such a large menu, it was difficult to decide on a main course. The sandwiches all looked wonderful, and the salads sounded fantastic, but for dinner, I wanted a "meal." Liver and Onions? No. TooJay's Shepherd's Pie? I've had it before, and it was great, but no. Chicken Marsala? Not tonight. Turkey Dinner? It's August, but why not?

If you love gravy -- who doesn't? -- this is your dish. The Traditional Turkey Dinner ($11.49) featured oven-roasted turkey atop a mound of cornbread stuffing and smothered in giblet gravy. On the side was asparagus, a small dish of cranberry sauce and a giant pile of mashed potatoes -- covered with more gravy. Did I mention there was gravy? Gravy jokes aside, the dish was the best Thanksgiving dinner I've had since, well, last Thanksgiving.

At this point, I must mention the disgusting delicious beverage I enjoyed for the first time: Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Soda. Yep, a celery-flavored soda. I couldn't decide if I liked it or hated it. It was just that odd to me. I mean I didn't hate it, really. But I surely didn't love it, either. You'll have to try it and decide for yourself.

For dessert I sampled the Mini Black & White Cookies ($1.99) and the limited-time Orange Dream Cake ($4.69). The black and white cookies are a TooJay's staple and were as delicious as always. The Orange Dream Cake, however, was just as described -- a dream -- a very pleasant, don't-wake-me-up dream of a dessert. Loved it.

Here's thanking TooJay's for a wonderful 35 years, and best wishes for another 35 years (at least) of Delicious deli food.

4 Jays out of 5

Note: I dined compliments of TooJay's.

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