Way back in December 2005, chef-owner Pom Moongauklang founded Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria (http://pompomsteahouse.com/), located in Orlando’s Milk District neighborhood, not too far from downtown Orlando. Pom studied as a pastry chef, and she cooked in several trendy and high-end New York City restaurants (including the famous Nobu and also an infamous BDSM-themed French restaurant that no longer exists, but sounds fascinating) before striking out on her own here in Orlando, serving up some of the city’s most creative sandwiches and eclectic tea drinks for over 15 years. That was about a year after I first moved to Orlando, and right when I was changing careers and going back to school. Things seemed really hopeful at the time, and all food tasted better to me. I remember Pom Pom’s being one of our first really hip and cool locally owned restaurants. For me, it was love at first sight… and first bite.
The restaurant is a hip, funky space, full of artwork by local artists that is rotated regularly. All the art is displayed on consignment, so if you fall in love with a piece of artwork, you can buy it. Pom Pom’s is open until 4 AM on Fridays and Saturdays, making it an oasis for hungry and restless partiers, back when it was safe to be out partying. In addition to the sandwiches, salads, and tea drinks, there is also a breakfast menu, only available Friday night through noon on Saturday, and then Saturday night through 4 PM on Sunday.
On a visit a while back, the special tea (heh, “specialty”) of the day was strawberry-kiwi, so I impulsively ordered an iced version for $3. I’m not a big tea drinker, although I sometimes appreciate a good, strong, sweet Southern-style iced tea. I am not into hot beverages at all, but you can order any of Pom Pom’s teas hot or iced. The strawberry-kiwi was sweet, but not overly sweet, and very refreshing. I was glad that it tasted like real fruit juice, not artificial or chemically. I’m not a big tea drinker in general, but I’ve had the chocolate cream tea there before, and that’s always really good.
One one particular visit, I ordered two sandwiches, just so I could write a more comprehensive review here. I’ve been going to Pom Pom’s since shortly after Pom opened the place, and I have my favorites, so I decided to choose an old favorite and try something new too. This was my old favorite, the Woody ($9.95), with hot pastrami, Swiss cheese, honey mustard, Thousand Island dressing, Southern slaw, and red onion on pressed pumpernickel bread. I always love pastrami, and the pumpernickel goes so well with it. (You can choose sourdough, whole wheat, or rye with caraway seeds as the other bread options.) All the sandwiches at Pom Pom’s are pressed, so they’re served hot. Especially with the Woody, you get the crispiness of the pressed bread and the melty, crunchy, meaty, creaminess of all the other ingredients, warm and sliding around.
This was the new sandwich I hadn’t tried before, the Billy Chang (also $9.95). It sounded a little weird, but just weird enough to work: sliced smoked beef brisket, blue cheese, red onion, and strawberry jelly, and I got it on pressed sourdough bread. This sandwich had everything: salty, smoky, pungent, sweet, funky, crispy.
I love savory and sweet flavors together, but I think the smoky brisket and sweet jelly would have worked together with something spicy uniting them, like a pepper jelly instead. I would have also preferred goat cheese or cream cheese to the crumbly and funky blue cheese, and it also would have made for a more cohesive sandwich that held together better. But those are my own personal hang-ups, not meant to take away from the sandwich at all. There was a lot going on, flavor-wise, and it was also the messiest sandwich I’ve ever eaten, on one of the very rare days I ate lunch in my office at work. It had already soaked through the paper wrapping by the time I got it back to my desk, and eating the half I tackled at work was a multiple-paper towel job. Would I get it again? I don’t think so, not that it was bad! There are just so many other sandwiches at Pom Pom’s I either like more, or that I still have yet to try.
On a more recent visit, I got my old favorite sandwich, the smoked salmon ($11.25), with thin-sliced nova salmon, bacon, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, arugula, tomato, and and lemon caper aioli. This is an intense rush of strong, smoky flavors, and I just love it. I ordered it on pumpernickel and it came on sourdough, but I couldn’t complain because it was still awesome.
On my previous visit, I tried the daily special sandwich, a spicy mac tuna melt. I grew up eating tuna salad sandwiches, but never buy canned tuna anymore, and rarely order it out anywhere. Pom’s regular melt includes capers, celery, red onions, lemon zest, and your choice of a domestic cheese, which sounds good on its own. But I loooooove the macaroni and cheese here (more on that shortly), and I figured adding it to any sandwich would take it to another level — like hipster tuna noodle casserole, only a thousand times better. I didn’t think the combination would disappoint, and it definitely did not.
Putting their delicious macaroni and cheese in a sandwich is a recurring theme at Pom Pom’s, because here is a special from this very weekend, the Chez G, with spicy crumbled chorizo sausage and mac and cheese on sourdough. I took this one home, so the bread wasn’t crispy anymore, but it was still really good.
Pom Pom’s offers a few sides, including my absolute #1 favorite macaroni and cheese in Orlando, the spicy turkey mac and cheese (on the right; $2.25), with cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, scallions, and that most overrated of hot sauces that nevertheless works so perfectly here, sriracha. There are always nice cubes of tender turkey in it too. When I make mac and cheese at home, this is the consistency I aim for — not a liquidy, cheesy soup, and not barely-melted cheese shreds that look like they came straight out of a bag. It’s the ideal “middle way.” Melty, not soupy, not greasy, not dry. I love it, and I would happily eat a much larger portion of it. On the left, you can see Pom Pom’s German potato salad ($2.25), which is different from most American-style potato salads, which are usually mixed up with mayo and served cold. This potato salad is served warm with crumbled bacon, scallions, and vinegar, and it’s so, so good if you’ve never had it before. I love potato salad. In fact, it’s probably my second-favorite thing to do with potatoes, after chips, and just edging out fries. That’s my spicy hot take on potato salad, that underrated side order. And as much as I love the mayo-based varieties (especially Southern-style potato salad with chopped hard-boiled eggs, pickles, and yellow mustard added), German potato salad is a nice change of pace, especially as a rich side dish in the fall and winter.
Pom Pom’s also has soups of the day that I rarely order, but I’m usually happy with the ones I try. Waaaaay back in December 2020, Pom had cooked up a pot of dark chocolate duck chili, and there was no way I was going to miss that. They were selling it by the cup for $5 or by the bowl for $7. I ordered a bowl for myself and a cup to bring home to my wife, who doesn’t like my chili at all, but sometimes surprises me by liking professional chefs’ better versions of chili. Both were served in coffee cups as part of my takeout order, and mine was topped with scallions and smoked gouda cheese. It was a rich, hearty chili with at least two different kinds of beans and plenty of shredded, stewed duck.
You can get a better view of everything here, after I caused a stir. It was quacktacular!
When I returned today, I tried Pom’s beef lasagna soup, which sounded perfect on a cooler day leading into a very cold night. It was a savory tomato broth with crumbled, seasoned ground beef, lasagna noodle sheets cut into squares, floating pools of melted mozzarella cheese, lots of garlic, and a surprising amount of chunks of zucchini and yellow squash.
So this is a review after at least three separate visits to Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria, even though I’ve lost count of the many times I’ve been here over the past 16 years. Follow Pom Pom’s Instagram page for daily specials, and time your visit so you can try something new that may never be seen again. But the old classics stick around for a reason — because they are loved and treasured throughout Orlando.