Downtown has its fair share of standard sandwich shops invented for office workers with little on their minds at lunchtime except wolfing something down and getting back to their cubes.
When New York NY Fresh Deli (225 E. Fifth St., Downtown, 513-721-3354) took its place among the horde, its presence didn't raise many eyebrows, but it certainly deserves an arch or two. The restaurant is an upscale version of the Subway concept, offering a variety of gourmet salads and sandwiches, including Panini, New York-style subs (6, 12 and 24 inches) and wraps.
Since the subs are named for glamorous Gotham landmarks such as Soho (turkey salami and provolone cheese; $5.50) and the Statue of Liberty (the Lady Liberty sub with chicken breast, bacon and havarti cheese; $6.25), I decided to sneak in a native New Yorker to see how the lunchmeat stacked up.
"You can't get away with poor quality cold cuts in New York," she challenged as she eyed the pastrami and corned beef on a 6-inch Bronx Bomber ($6.25) that had just inched its way through a conveyor oven and was served to her on a pizza pan.
Luckily, New York, NY wasn't trying to pass off substandard cold cuts and her well-honed taste buds were soothed. The thick, chewy wheat bread also met her standards, as did the Village Salad ($4.75), composed of mixed greens, feta, dried cranberries, pine nuts and red onion.
For me, all sandwiches pale in the presence of the Cuban. While common in Florida restaurants, it doesn't appear often enough in this climate for my taste, so I grabbed my chance. The deli's Cuban Panini ($6.50) is made with layers of roast pork, ham and pickles and served with provolone after being pressed and heated between slices of crusty white bread.
This version replaces the traditional mustard condiment with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato, which is often used in Key West.
New York NY is a well-oiled machine; we didn't wait more than five minutes for our order. The deli only offers counter service and the microphone announcing orders can be disrupting, once you get to your seat the staff creates an inviting dining experience by bussing the dishes and cleaning tables as soon as they open up. I almost fell off my chair when one employee stopped by to ask how everything was. That just ain't done at a sandwich shop. And real silverware instead of plastic? What are they thinking?! Grade: A
CONTACT LORA ARDUSER: letters (at) citybeat.com