The back of a staffer’s t-shirt at Toojay’s – the only t-shirt that didn’t have “Oy Vey” on it – read, “Is this where Harry met Sally?”
The short answer is no, it isn’t.
That’s also the long answer.
But then there are few places like Katz’s Deli, the Lower East Side restaurant where a memorable scene from the 1989 movie “When Harry Met Sally…” was filmed. (And for the record, Harry and Sally did not meet at Katz’s, either, but let’s not get picky.)
I hadn’t been to Toojay’s for a long time, certainly not since the chain, which originated in South Florida, was acquired by Orlando-based Earl Enterprises. And because Central Florida has so few restaurants that even attempt to be Jewish delicatessens, I figured that a visit between Rosh Hashanah, which was Sept. 15 through 17, and Yom Kippur, which starts at sundown Sunday, would be appropriate.
I went to the Toojay’s in Colonial Plaza where a similar style restaurant, Ronnie’s, used to be. Ronnie’s was famous – or infamous – for its surly staff and strict rules (enter through the correct door or not at all; ask for another pat of butter at your own peril). By contrast, I was greeted warmly when I entered, first by the woman at the takeout counter, then by a man at the deli station and then by a host who showed me to a table in the dining room. That person also took the role of my server (with an Oy Vey t-shirt).
I started with a cup of the matzo ball soup, a generous portion with a large but light-textured matzo ball in a full but not unctuous chicken broth with chicken cubes, carrots and onions. With all the matzo, it didn’t really need the crackers that were offered in packets.
Chopped liver has always been one of my favorite things from Toojay’s. Delightfully fatty and with an earthy taste, the pate was served with the usual rye bread but also carrots, cucumber, black olive and cherry tomato, as if the vegetables might convince you it was a healthful choice.
For my entree I chose the beef brisket dinner, which had an ample amount of thinly sliced meat ladled with a mushroom demiglace. The meat was served atop thick potato pancakes, which the menu described as crispy. Perhaps they once were, but with the gravied meat on top they had ceased to be. Still, I liked the potatoes and meat combination. The accompanying broccoli was plain and flavorless.
I also got the hot pastrami sandwich, stacked slices of lean meat on fresh rye bread, served with coleslaw and a dill pickle (no half sours?).
The food was all good, though nothing Meg Ryan would have found orgiastic. (And again for the record, it wasn’t the pastrami sandwich that Sally was reacting to in the movie.)
On my way out, I was again thanked by all the people I passed. I wonder what would have happened if I’d asked for an extra pat of butter.