Rolly Wraps Are An Amazing Advancement in Midtown Deli Technology
I hate generic Midtown delis. Anybody who reads this site with any regularity knows this. In fact, that stupid deli at the bottom of your building, with its make your own salad bar, prepackaged sushi, and terrible sandwich counter is the reason I started this blog in the first place. Those choices exist solely because your co-workers are lazy losers; unwilling to walk an extra block or two to eat a worthwhile lunch.
Of course every once in awhile a Midtown deli innovation occurs, pushing the boundaries of gastronomic advancement; begging to be noticed, unwilling to following the standard formula. By the lb. buffets were one of the early innovations. The good ones are tough to resist (despite being a curse to us fatties.) Korean deli owners selling Korean food is a more recent example. The stations set up at Cafe Duke and Ambrosia elevate those delis to worthwhile status. Now, we have reached a new plateau… brought to my attention in this email:
Anyone tipped you off to this yet at the Old Bridge Deli? For about $6.50, you can get a fresh baked (i.e. made, then baked on the spot while you wait)… what is essentially an elongated calzone with a thinner crust with custom ingredients of your choosing (they call it a rolly wrap).
The fresh baked part is killer. So is the fresh chopping the guy does if you order chicken, or any cheese other than mozz. I’m a sucker for a little fresh cutting and baking on my lunch order, especially when it’s a FULL lunch and costs $6-7. Just wait in line, pile on pretty much as many ingredients as you like, and wait while it bakes. He’ll even give you a sour cream or hot sauce on the side if you ask nicely.
I usually roll with a choice of cheddar and/or mozz (sometimes rotate in the jalapeno jack too) the breaded chicken (grilled if I’m going “healthy”), some pepperoni or bacon, rotate the vegetable (onion, mushroom, broccoli, red peppers), then top it off with salsa and either sour cream or guac. Delicious.
Fresh baked? As many ingredients as you like? In a generic Midtown deli? Wait- ignore that last part and this kind of sounds amazing…
Old Bridge Deli has been seized for tax reasons multiple times in the past few months, but that didn’t stop me from trekking over on Monday to see what this rolly wrap thing was all about. As promised, the station had loads of toppings to choose from, and while there is a menu that hangs on the wall with set rolly wrap options, it quickly became clear that you could stuff this thing with whatever you wanted.
The thing starts out with a ball of dough, which a guy rolls out behind the counter. Then you tell him what you want inside. There are meats (meatballs, pepperoni, sausage, chicken, steak); cheeses (shredded mozzarella, swiss, munster); veggies (olives, grilled onions, mushrooms, spinach, roasted red peppers); and condiments (guacamole, sour cream, salsa, marinara). It’s a little daunting at first, and you’ll want to just order one of the choices off the menu- but resist the temptation. Choosing your own adventure is a lot more fun.
There are really only 3 directions you can go in. Standard (i.e. steak and cheese sub), Italian (meats + cheese + sauce) or Mexican. I got two:
The Italian route: meatballs, spinach, grilled onions, mushrooms, shredded cheese, and marinara.
And the Mexican route: grilled chicken, shredded cheese, guacamole, and salsa. Putting the guac into the rolly wrap before it was cooked may have been a classic rookie mistake. I found out later, the guy behind the counter will gladly give you two dipping sauces of your choice (guac, sour cream, salsa, etc.) for no extra charge.
After he wraps the whole thing up, it gets put into an electric pizza oven thingy and about 5 minutes later, voila! Fresh baked rolly wrap goodness.
Now you may be thinking, “Zach- what you just got was called a calzone. A crappy, deli version of a calzone!” NO dammit! I say it’s gastronomic deli advancement!!!
Ok, so I admit it’s not all fun and games. While the grilled chicken was perfectly good, the meatballs were made of some sort of weird gray matter (as one of my co-workers put it)… and the fact that the guy cuts them into thin slices before adding them to the wrap doesn’t help. The marinara sauce is watery, and fairly gross, and I didn’t try the sliced up steak, so I don’t know if it’s good or bad. The spinach and ricotta mixture thing was probably a mistake as well, and the mushrooms are definitely canned. The dough they use isn’t high quality either (big surprise), but for $5.79 the fact that it’s fresh baked, and you can put whatever you want into it, make the rolly wraps a good deal (and a nice change of pace from the boring old Midtown lunch.)
Surprisingly I didn’t try pushing the limits of the counter guy’s kindness (i.e. asking for chicken, steak, meatballs, pepperoni and sausage) but he seemed pretty nice, and I think you can do whatever you want, within reason. If you like cilantro, I would definitely recommend the Mexican route. The guac is perfectly good- and considering that at Chipotle you would get charged an extra $1.75, getting it for free almost makes the rolly wrap worth it for that alone.
Despite all this, I admit that Old Bridge Deli is still a dump. Their by the pound buffet looked decent at first glance, but upon further scrutiny I wasn’t tempted (never a good sign, since I’m almost always tempted). And I wouldn’t eat your lunch in the upstairs seating area- unless you feel like being eaten to death by mosquitoes. (Perhaps having a fountain/tree fixture in the middle of the room isn’t the best idea.)
In the end rolly wraps are enough to get Old Bridge Deli added to that list alongside Cafe Duke & Ambrosia as generic Midtown delis I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in. Just don’t order the meatballs, try your best to keep it simple, and when it doubt- go with the guac! For $6, and loaded with the low expectations that should always come with stepping food in a generic Midtown deli, it will be tough to be disappointed.
- How can you argue with “fresh baked” and “whatever you toppings you want” all for $5.79
- They have a lot of toppings
- If you like cilantro, you’ll love their guac and salsa
- The grilled chicken is really good (and appears to be actual meat, unlike some of the other choices)
- The guy behind the counter is very agreeable, and will pretty much do whatever you ask
- Two dipping sauces are included in the price. Chose between guac, sour cream, marinara, salsa and more
- It’s still a crappy generic Midtown deli
- Most of the meats are kind of strange (especially the meatballs, which are terrible)
- If you get too many things, it will taste gross
- The dough is not that great
- The upstairs seating area is gross. Take your food to go.
- They are fresh baked, so it will take at least 5-7 minutes for your lunch to be made- and although when I went it was empty, I can imagine it being a bad scene if any sort of line formed
- Uh… it’s still a crappy generic Midtown deli
Old Bridge Deli, 373 Lexington Ave (btw. 40+41st), 212-986-0500