I had been hearing a lot lately about a place called Mediterranean Deli on Fairbanks Avenue, the western part of Fairbanks that drifts into Orlando city limits, closer to Edgewater Drive. Good gyros, good falafel sandwiches, was the buzz. So I headed over there to check it out. While I stood looking over the somewhat scruffy menu of food items on the wall behind the ordering counter, I noticed a plaque beneath it with an old review of the eatery. The review was too far away to read, but I was able to make out the reviewer’s name. Imagine my surprise at learning that I had written the review.
Now, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ll admit that some of the names and some of the memories have had to move out of my head to make room for newer ones. But I’m pretty good about remembering actual places, especially when I’m standing in them, and I was certain I had not been here before.
And I hadn’t. At least not in that space, but it turns out I had reviewed Mediterranean Deli -- the proof was in the weathered shellacked Chow Hound column on the wall -- but it wasn’t in this location. It was inside a produce market just off I-4 on Fairbanks. That was back in 2004, and I actually have some memory of the place. But I don’t think it was as good then as it is now, because that’s something I wouldn’t have forgotten.
The experience begins with the owner, Walid, welcoming you. Not just one of those cursory “welcome to Mediterranean Deli, how can I help you” sort of canned greetings. This is more like, “Welcome, my brother, so good to see you; thank you for coming in today,” and every word of it is uttered with sincerity.
“What can I get you today, my brother?” He says “my brother” a lot, but with a genuine warmth.
I ordered the gyro and my friend got the falafel. We upgraded from just the sandwich to a combo that included a choice of salad and a drink.
My gyro was so large and so full of seasoned meat, onions and thick tzatziki sauce that it impossible to pick up -- I had to eat it with plastic knife and fork. The Greek salad I chose was made up of big hunks of cucumber, tomatoes and feta cheese.
My friend had the brightly flavored tabouli salad, made with chopped parsely. The falafel sandwich was more manageable than the gyro, which is not to say it was less filling or any less enjoyable. The little chickpea fritters were just the way I like them, firm but moist.
Mediterranean Deli is quite small, and there are only a few tables and chairs inside, all of which were occupied when I was there. So instead, my friend and I took one of the two white plastic tables out front and enjoyed our lunch in the sun.
When we took our disposable plates back inside to toss into a trash can, Walid again thanked us, stopping what he was doing to say how much he appreciated that we had come in. It was a most memorable experience.
Mediterranean Deli is at 981 W. Fairbanks Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. There is no website. Most sandwiches are in the $5 range; about $7.48 with a combo, a veritable bargain. The phone number is 407-539-2650.