WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? STRIP MALL SUBS

ajs_deli2The fried eggplant sandwich at AJ’s Deli in Shrewsbury. We’ll be back for another one of these. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

By JIM WILLIS

morsels medium

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large minivan, with a hungry wife and a hungry kid. And you may be passing the McDonald’s on Shrewsbury Avenue in Tinton Falls, and you may say to yourself, “Well, what can I eat here?”

That’s the way-more-than-once in a lifetime situation PieHole found itself in yesterday. But rather than opt for the drive-through McProcessed food, we decided to explore the Shrewsbury Village shopping center, on the Shrewsbury side of the street. And there, in a strip mall we’ve driven past hundreds of times but never thought to enter, we stumbled across AJ’s Deli.

ajs_deliAJ’s Deli is tucked into the back of the Shrewsbury Village shopping center on Shewsbury Avenue. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

At 12:30, the joint was hopping. Clearly, this little tucked-away deli has a dedicated following. The phone orders came in non-stop, and we counted at least three different delivery drivers running in and out with orders as we looked over the huge, wandering menu: breakfast, lunch, subs, salads, burgers, quesadillas.

We quickly got our bearings: Boar’s Head meat, bread brought in from New York. A counter staff whose finely-honed lunchtime efficiency could easily be misinterpreted as surliness.

We ordered a California Cheeseteak ($5.95, “it’s real steak,” says the guy taking my order), the fried eggplant sandwich ($5.95 with fresh mozzarella and tomato on a hard roll) and half a turkey sub ($5.45).  There’s one small table for two in the place, so we get the order to-go and use the seating to wait for our order.

The lunch rush is a full blown tempest of barking orders as delivery drivers mull around waiting for their packages and customers wait for their orders. It takes eleven minutes for our order to get filled. Not bad, considering we had two hot sandwiches. We’re starving, and head home to check out the bounty.

The standout was the fried eggplant sandwich. Not quite like an eggplant parm, just lighter, with paper-thin slices of lightly breaded eggplant stacked up with velvety soft fresh mozzarella and a few slices of tomato.

As promised, the cheesesteak tasted like real steak instead of the usual industrial processed, frozen chipped steak. Great texture and taste. The turkey sub could also hold its own against any other Boar’s Head-plus-good bread deli in town.

The quality of the sandwiches is noteworthy, especially for the price.

Our only complaint is that the steak and turkey were a bit light for the size of the rolls – excellent quality, just underpowered, like putting a four-cylinder BMW engine in a 7-series sedan. Excellent build quality, just not enough under the hood. That being said, we absolutely will be back for the eggplant sandwich.

 

 

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