TooJay’s Original Gourmet Deli
2223 N West Shore Blvd # B207, Tampa, FL
(Plus Various Locations in Florida, see web site at http://www.toojays.com)
So I’m here in Tampa this week on business (with a little bit of vacation thrown in this weekend) and I arrive in town with a nasty flu-like virus. I’m under the weather, and I’m dying for some home made chicken soup, otherwise known as Jewish Penicillin, the cure-all to everything. Short of Rachel FedEx overnighting a quart or two of her home made matzo ball to me, I needed to find myself a hardcore Jewish deli, and fast — on the West Coast of Florida, its not like there’s an equivalent to Wolfie’s (long gone), Rascal House or Pumpernick’s (also extinct) like there had been in the Miami/Broward area.
However, I had heard of TooJays, a regional Florida-based Jewish-style deli chain, and various web searches on local newspaper sites reported that their Matzo Ball was quite good. Not having that many options in front of me, I headed to the sole Tampa location, which is in the food court of International Plaza, the mall located right next to Tampa International Airport.
TooJay’s is located on “Bay Street”, the open air food court section of the mall.
TooJay’s has sort of an Disney-esque appearance, as if it were the Jewish Deli pavilion in Epcot Center. Everything is perfectly arranged, made up to look like a ubiquitous classic delicatessen, although clearly everything is brand new, not decades old.
TooJay’s deli meats are supplied by National Deli, a Florida-based cold cuts purveyor. According to Wikipedia, National Deli was once the non-Kosher subsidiary of Hebrew National (now part of ConAgra foods) and was spun off by ConAgra as its own company in 2001. Despite the fact that the meats are not Kosher (and TooJays does not profess to be Kosher, they have quite a number of non kosher items) they are actually pretty good quality. I tried the pastrami, and while its certainly not Katz’s, as a commercially made pastrami its probably better than anything else you can get in Florida.
Main Dining Room
Matzo Ball Soup, the main event. The Matzo balls have a wonderful fluffy quality, and have an alternating farfel/matzo meal texture which gives them a nice home style mouthfeel. The chicken stock was soothing, with some nice root vegetables thrown in, along with both white meat and and dark meat chicken pieces. Very nice matzo ball soup indeed, and it made me happy.
Turkey Club, on thickly cut rye bread that is baked onsite. Freshly roasted turkey, thinly sliced, with bacon, lettuce and tomato. The presentation was nice and the lettuce greens and tomatoes were fresh and of good quality.
The bakery section, in front by the takeout area. I took a mixed box of rugelach home, and I have to say this is some of the best I’ve ever had. Don’t leave the restaurant without getting some of these.