Orlando’s Deli Desires Offers Great Takes On Deli Favorites
The Mills-50 District hotspot has earned rave reviews for its take on traditional deli favorites.
For a city that boasts a vibrant culinary scene, Orlando has been lacking in one major area: delicatessens. Delis are a staple for Jewish communities and sought after in many major cities for their quick service, made-to-order sandwiches and assorted take-away items. Deli is comfort food at its finest, a superb combination of crunchy, creamy, salty and smoky. It is no surprise that the word’s etymology is “delightful.”
An Orlando newcomer, Deli Desires is everything delightful. The restaurant is a joint effort of five local food industry masters: Hannah Jaffe and her husband Nathan Sloan, Elise Ciungan and her husband Cory Bennett, and Tyson Bodiford. They have a combined total of nearly 90 years spicing up local, national and international restaurants and bars.
When the pandemic closed the doors to the kitchens and bars they worked in, the quintet found their window. With all their time in Orlando’s food scene, they knew just what the city needed: Jewish deli comfort food. They began an underground sandwich shop accessible through Instagram; half the team cooked, and the other half delivered, Uber-eats style. Their popularity skyrocketed. In 2021, they opened a take-out-only shop in the Mills-50 District, quickly becoming a hotspot for both breakfast and lunch. Inside, the restaurant has bright pops of blue and yellow and shelves stocked with everything from ketchup chips and kosher salt to anchovies, maraschino cherries and tahini. These eclectic combinations mirror the menu, where every item is carefully constructed for both flavor and texture.
Jaffe and Sloan start making bialys—the stars of the menu—every day at 2:00 a.m. They are best toasted and slathered with one of the deli’s fabulous cream cheese spreads. From Friday to Sunday, the couple also bakes fresh challah. The deli is not kosher, which provides space for creativity as well as a perfect Bacon, Egg and Cream Cheese sandwich. Other breakfast sandwich favorites are the Scrapple (a nod to Jaffe’s upbringing in Pennsylvania), Gravlax (smoked salmon) and Latke. For lunch, try the Big Mac, an overflowing sandwich packed with house-made corned beef, crunchy pickles and gooey cheese, or the Smoked Whitefish, a tower of smoky, spicy and cheesy goodness. Make sure to ask about their daily selection of pickles and deli salads. The bright purple beet salad has ribbons of fennel and toasted walnuts, and the creamy potato salad is loaded with fresh dill. Thanks to Bennett’s background in beverages, the deli also serves excellent coffee as well as homemade mineral waters and sodas with innovative flavors like celery and mint.
The restaurant’s success is simple: The five owners are cooking and selling what they want to eat. “There are not a lot of easy, grab-and-go breakfast places here,” shares Ciungan, “so we really just wanted to do a fun concept with our combined love of delis, baking and the Orlando community.” Whatever it is you are desiring, be sure to check out the deli that has earned Orlando a well-deserved spot on the proverbial delicatessen map.
715 Fern Creek Avenue, Suite B