Sunday, April 27, 2014

That Deli Review

Yes, you read my title correctly- the restaurant I'm about to review is really called "That Deli." As confusing as it may sound for a name, it's one that's hard to forget, which is probably a good thing. 

That Deli tops the list of Central Florida's best kept secrets in my opinion. A little off the beaten track, it's totally worth the drive for the real, fresh food you just can't get anywhere else. Though I'm proud to say I've been "in on the secret" for four years now, word on the street must be spreading because they have emerged as constant presence on the annual "best-of" lists that cover the city's best eats. Recently, Orlando Magazine's annual survey of the city's best restaurants named them #1 in Best Sandwich, Neighborhood Restaurant, and Best Take-Out and a still-impressive #2 in the Best Deli category for 2014. The numbers (or people) don't lie: That Deli is that good.

As great as these accolades are, and as much as I love and believe in That Deli, there is a controversy that surrounds this awesome restaurant that must be acknowledged. What's it about? Cross contamination and people's willingness to accept a certain degree of uncertainty when eating out. The scary truth of eating out is that we face invisible foes. You can't "see" gluten or dairy a mile away (in most cases). Each and every time we accept meals prepared outside our control, we have to trust that it's safe and will not poison us. No matter how comfortable we are with our staple eateries, nothing's safe unless it's prepackaged or prepared in an area completed free from a certain allergen. 


An sign posted addressing cross contamination.
What's caused such a stir with That Deli is the fine line between "made without gluten" and "gluten-free." While it's close impossible to make sure any product is 100% free from any speck of gluten, items made without glutenous ingredients, but in shared spaces exist in a sort-of grey area. For some, the tiniest bit of contamination will wreck havoc for days or weeks, and for others, the same small amount of cross contamination might not have any affect at all. It's all up to our bodies' individual tolerance levels. 

With that being said, here's the bottom line. That Deli's sub bread comes from DeLand Bakery, a local bakery which offers a gluten-free product line from a dedicated facility, but does not produce this millet-based bread in that facility (I have review DeLand Bakery's certified gluten-free bagels here). The bread is free from gluten containing ingredients, but is made on the same equipment as gluten containing products. Of course That Deli is also an establishment serving up gluten containing foods. When they get a gluten-free order, the do their best to change gloves, wipe off work areas, clean the panini press, and other precautions, but they cannot guarantee the finished product. As the notice posted in the restaurant (and posted above) shows, they cannot be held accountable, so those with severe allergies or celiac should probably steer clear.

Here's my take: I've eaten here many times over the past four years, and have never gotten sick. While I've had a few slip ups such as forgetting to remove the cheese from a sandwich, the staff are incredibly knowledgeable and willing to make it right for their customers. I like that they take the time to consider the needs of the gluten-free community and are up front with their limitations. 


The front case was low-stocked at the end of the day.
Now to the fun part, the review. That Deli's "gluten-free" menu consists of soups, salads, and sandwiches. Impressively, their soup knowledge base encompasses over 500 varieties, and they change on a daily basis. My best advice would be to keep an eye on their Facebook page and Twitter feed to get the daily specials. What's there today might be gone tomorrow, so if you see something of interest, definitely try to get it before it disappears. Their salads include entree and side salads as well as deli salads such as potato salad, fruit salad, and other cold creations. Sandwich-wise, they have a pretty extensive menu as well as a daily rotation of two specialty creations. The names of these sandwich creations are worth a read, even if you know what you want, or just want to "make your own" because they always make me smile with their wit. Who could resist a sandwich called "the Boursin Identity" or "the Greasy Floridian?"

My favorite sandwich has been taken off the main menu over the years, but when the ingredients are stocked they can still make it. Called the "Steve Martin," this addicting sandwich is chicken, tomato, lettuce, red onion, and jerk sauce (hold the cheddar!). Then it's pressed to perfection on the grill. The jerk sauce is what makes this sandwich so fabulous, which is the owner's custom creation. Just a warning- it's completely addictive. I can't leave there without buying a whole side order of the sauce to take home for fish, sandwiches, and more.


For my review, I decided to go with the "Steve Martin" but instead of chicken, I went with turkey. That Deli's meat are top-quality and their turkey is absolutely what deli turkey should be- thick sliced and roasted to perfection. Normally, sandwiches can either come in a whole portion with one side or a half portion with two sides. Gluten-free sandwiches only 
come in the whole size. For a side, I was torn between a daily soup special (chicken noodle without the noodles) and a deli salad special (baby dill carrot salad with a ginger-honey dressing). Fortunately for indecisive people like me, they offer free samples of the sides to help you decide. After sampling the carrots, which looked ridiculously good, in the front deli case, I opted for them, knowing that I can get chicken soup any time 
and that the dill-carrot salad was a limited time offer. A head's up when ordering, you'll end up with a lot of food. The sandwiches alone are 8 inches and the soups and salads come in an ample amount to be a side. At my hungriest, I can polish off a complete sandwich, but often eat each half for lunch and then the other half dinner. As always, my sandwich was fresh and tasty. The jerk sauce had it's usual kick, and the veggies were crisp and fresh. The warm millet bread becomes sponge-like when heated and soaks up all the delicious flavoring of the turkey, jerk sauce, and onion, which makes the sandwich truly great. Although I sampled a few carrots, I saved them for the following day because I couldn't take another bite. Besides, they're a treat for the next day. The dill really made them unique and I loved the diced red onion in the mix which complemented the sweet, tender carrots.

Final thoughts: I am a proud supporter of That Deli. They do it right by our community, even if it means that sometimes they can't serve all of us. I know that there will be people reading this who will never go into the deli due to the risk, and that there are some who would relish a chance to try it out. Each person's needs, exposure tolerance, and symptoms are unique, and it's up to each of us to know what is right for our bodies. Trust is key between restaurant and patron and when food sensitivities are involved, it's better for everyone to be on the same page- even if the end result means that you cannot eat there at all. 


The Basics:

Address: 3801 W. Lake Mary Blvd Suite 131, Lake Mary, FL 32746
Website: thatdelifl.com
Cuisine: Deli style sandwiches, salads, soups
Ideal For: Lunch, Dinner, Take-out
Accessibility: The restaurant is wheelchair accessible. The tables are at a standard level.
Special Features: Locals can order them through the delivery service Go Waiter.


Disclaimer: Restaurant  reviews are based upon the information I have at the time of the review and do not reflect changes in supplier or availability of items. Please contact the restaurant directly for up-to-date information and feel free to to contact me with any questions or comments. I was not compensated for this review and it is a reflection of my personal opinion.

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