POSTED ON MARCH 7, 2012:
Sandwich enthusiast crafts a hoagie that's far from hokey
Oh, the glorious sandwich. It is both perfect in form and function. Our affair with the sandwich may have begun with those PB&Js in our childhood lunchboxes, created with love with the crusts cut off. There is just something special about a sandwich made by someone who cares. Now there is a new place that's sure to make you feel warm and fuzzy with its signature sandwiches. Jay's Original Hoagies may be tucked away in a sleepy strip mall around 91st and Sheridan, but inside serious sandwiches are made.
There are so many sandwich styles -- from the basic bologna and cheese to pretentious paninis -- they are ubiquitous. With sandwich places aplenty, everyone has their version. But in Tulsa no one does it quite like Jay. Jay Cundy is the heart and soul of Jay's Original Hoagies, and he knows that making a hoagie isn't just slapping some meat between some bread.
Jay personally made my sandwich as he does often for his lucky customers. A south Florida expat, he's been in Tulsa for quite sometime raising his family. He's been making his special hoagies for his family for years, and had the opportunity to choose a dream job. He decided hoagies would be his hallmark. He flirted with the idea of opening a hoagie place of his own in his early days, but the trappings of adult life took him elsewhere. Luckily for us, he's had all that time to hone his hoagie. And you'll notice immediately that Jay's isn't like any other place in Tulsa.
First, Jay's slices the meat when you order with a professional deli meat slicer. That's right, the first order of business is to grab a huge hunk of fresh meat from the refrigerator and slice it before your eyes. And it's the good stuff -- capicola, Genoa salami, roast beef, turkey, ham.
When luncheon meat is sliced ahead of time it becomes a vulnerable piece of lonely meat, attacked on all sides by the ugliness of the outside world, compromising taste, texture and moisture. Maybe it takes a little longer to get the finished product, but I like my meat handled with care. You don't lose the delicate taste of turkey or the zing of the salami.
Secondly, the bread is picked up fresh every day. For a hoagie, the bread is almost as important as what goes inside it. Jay's may not bake their bread in-house, but they've chosen a perfect bread that is picked up fresh each morning. No day-old bread in Jay's joint.
So, you got your bread, you got your meat, but it's the final visit to the garden that makes a hoagie authentic. Sure, you can have your lettuce, tomato and onions. But a true Philly-style hoagie raises the ante with the addition of oil, vinegar, oregano, pickles and hot or sweet peppers. Though the menu was straight-forward -- six inch hoagies ($4.95), 12 inch hoagies ($7.95) and contain various selections of sandwich staples -- I was still drooling before I even placed my order.
My idea of a perfect Italian-style sandwich should have the attitude of a Gambino and be an opera of flavors. Jay's serves up their Italian with ham, capicola, genoa salami and provolone. And you gotta have it dressed Philly style, with the vinegar, oil, oregano, and those sweet and spicy peppers should join the gang. I ordered a six inch Italian hoagie ($4.95) and I must say, six inches has never looked so big. The healthy walls of bread enclosed brawny layers of freshly sliced meats, shredded lettuce, onion, pickles, ruby-red tomato, with a healthy sprinkle of oregano. One decorative slice of meat is on top like a crown atop a king of a sandwich. The only regret I had was that my mouth might be too small to take on this meaty mammoth of a sandwich. Somehow I powered through like a champ. (Cue Rocky music.)
I grew up ordering sandwiches as 'extra sloppy,' taking great joy in seeing shreds of lettuce and pickles jumping ship and getting sprinkled by all the luscious juices of the sandwich. Jay's hoagie held its own and didn't lose its shape as I nibbled and chomped my way to messy sandwich bliss. The meats remained distinct, the provolone cheese added familiar tang, and the holy hoagie trinity of dressings made for a fresh, one-of-a-kind flavor.
The Italian had me charmed, but a roast beef sandwich is my long-time love. Again, I was overwhelmed by the most impressive six inches of sandwich I'd ever seen. The roast was of good quality -- not watered down or sinewy -- and again, super fresh from being newly sliced. Jay recommended Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo as the perfect pairing for my roast beef. This guy knows how to put together a sandwich and the result was spot on.
Another point of pride for Jay's Hoagies is their homemade chicken salad. Many restaurants try to upgrade or enhance chicken salad with frou-frou accouterments like walnuts, grapes or apples. Call me bourgeois, but you can keep your fruit and nuts. I ordered the chicken salad as a deli sandwich ($3.95), which is a bit smaller, but the bread is still similar. The chicken salad was a perfect blend of moist chicken, mayonnaise, oregano with a nice black pepper punch. With a little lettuce, tomato and onion, it was divine as a sandwich, but would also be equally enjoyable outside the bun as a salad platter ($5.95).
To sum up such a mouthful of a sandwich in one word, I'd say "craveable." I see myself trekking to south Tulsa for one of Jay's handcrafted hoagies because nothing else will compare. Jay is proud of his hoagies and rightfully so. Supporting small businesses that are doing something with such passion and attention gives you a certain satisfaction, too. So when you go to a place like Jay's Original Hoagies, you know what you're eating is made with love. And isn't that really the most important ingredient of any great sandwich?
8988 S. Sheridan | 918-488-8866
MONDAY-FRIDAY, 10:30AM-7PM; SATURDAY, 10:30AM-5PM
Atmosphere *** Food **** Service *****
(Based on a Scale of 5 Stars)
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