I really drove out of my way to find Ray’s Deli & More (https://www.raysdeliandmore.com/), which is the closest thing I’ve ever found in Orlando to the bodega-delis of New York City. It is located at 6101 South Orange Avenue in Orlando’s Pinecastle neighborhood, south of downtown (and south of the SoDo district). Once Orange Avenue splits apart into one-way southbound and northbound streets, you’ll find Ray’s in the middle. It doesn’t look like much from the outside — just a generic convenience store with an outdoor table and a lot of signs in the window — but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by all the fresh, made-to-order sandwiches you can order there.
The menu is on the website, but I also took photos of the menu board above the counter. You can right-click these photos and open them in a new tab for larger images.
Here is the deli case with plenty of high-quality Boar’s Head meats and cheeses you can buy by the pound. (The prices are also on the menu board above.) The top shelf also includes sides of potato salad, pasta salad, egg salad, and some slices of cheesecake and red velvet cake, among other things.
The main reason I sought out Ray’s Deli & More was to try the legendary chopped cheese sandwich ($10.99), a New York bodega classic, referred to in so many hip hop lyrics. They aren’t popular outside the five boroughs, but I recently learned that two different convenience store sandwich counters in Orlando offer the chopped cheese. I recently tried the one that is closer to me, but that was after five separate attempts to catch them open for business. Ray’s is across town, but it was totally worth the 45-minute schlep to the Pinecastle neighborhood south of downtown Orlando, because they were open for business during the hours they advertised, cooking up a storm, and the food turned out to be awesome.Imagine a cheeseburger and a Philly cheesesteak hooked up after a crazy night at the club, and the chopped cheese is their beautiful, greasy, cheesy love child. It is two angus burgers chopped up on the flattop grill with onions and peppers, then placed on a sub roll with American cheese, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and mayo, and then pressed on a panini press until the cheese melts. It was still warm by the time I got it home, and it was awesome. So satisfying! I always love a good burger, but I find Philly cheesesteaks often disappoint (except for the one at Cavo’s Bar & Kitchen, which is the best one I’ve ever had in Florida, and it made my Top Twelve Tastes of 2021). This chopped cheese sandwich lived up to all the hip hop hype and combined the best of both worlds. I loved it!
This was the very substantial Italian combo sub ($11.99), stuffed with Boar’s Head genoa salami, prosciutto, capocollo, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, and raw onion. I stuck it in the fridge as soon as I got home and enjoyed half that evening and the other half the next day, once it was chilled. I liked it a lot, especially once I got home and added some peppers and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette dressing to it. The sub roll was very soft, almost like a large hot dog bun. I don’t like rolls that are too crusty, but a slightly crustier roll might help bring this sub over the top. No regrets, though. I’m always happy to order an Italian sub anywhere, and I definitely recommend it!
Both sandwiches (and I assume all the others) came with a wee bag of chips (I chose Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch Doritos for both, since I haven’t tried that odd flavor combo before) and a canned soda. The convenience store has a huge selection of bottled and canned drinks, but the freebie choices were pretty basic: Coke, Coke Zero, Pepsi, Mountain Dew. Still, free is free! I used to drink Mountain Dew A LOT, back in school, and a few sips from this can reminded me why I don’t drink much soda at all anymore.
Longtime readers, my stalwart Saboscrivnerinos, know that whenever onion rings are available, I WILL order them. These onion rings ($3.99) were just okay. They reminded me of the ones at Burger King, but you get a huge portion of them. They were limp and lukewarm by the time I got them home, but heating them up in the toaster oven the next day helped them get crispier and more satisfying. Essentially, these were condiment delivery devices. But still, RING THE ALARM!
Anyway, Ray’s Deli & More has this huge sandwich selection, plus prepared foods like several Italian pasta dishes, another case with some fried empanadas and other goodies, and they said they also serve breakfast sandwiches all day. This could be another source for New York transplants to track down their classic bodega bacon egg and cheese sandwiches, among other things. It’s a full convenience store with groceries, snacks, sodas, beer, wine, and all the accessories you might want to find at a smoke shop, too. It has a lot more character than a Wawa or 7-Eleven, and it was busy enough that plenty of people already know how good it is. I drove all the way across town to Ray’s for a chopped cheese, an Italian sub, and onion rings, and I didn’t leave empty-handed or disappointed. The only thing this bodega was missing was a great cat, ideally one who takes a pet like no problem!