There is a reason there’s usually a long line at the Meson Sandwiches at Florida Mall and in Kissimmee. I mean besides the fact that it serves some pretty tasty sandwiches.
It’s because a lot of the people waiting to order already know Meson. Even though it is relatively new to that area and there are only two locations here — with three more coming soon — many know the brand from Puerto Rico, where there are 37 locations around the island.
It was founded by Felipe Pérez Sr. and is now run by his son, whose name is Felipe Pérez Grajales. He spoke with me recently from his office in Mayaguez, P.R.
Pérez Grajales told me that the Meson Sandwiches stores that the company is opening in Central Florida — the first ones on the mainland — are exactly the same as the ones in Puerto Rico. That includes the menu, which has quite an extensive array of sandwiches, some with rather curious names.
Take the All Pro, which was one of the sandwiches I sampled when I was invited to visit the newest restaurant in Kissimmee. It features Virginia ham and pastrami with sautéed onions and melted swiss cheese on criollo bread, pressed in the fashion of other Caribbean style sandwiches.
It was a delicious sandwich, the best of what I sampled. There was something quite familiar about it to me, even though I’ve not been to a Meson in Puerto Rico.
But I have been to many delicatessens in New York City. It turns out that a pastrami sandwich from a Jewish deli in the Bronx was the inspiration for the All Pro. Pérez Grajales’ father took the pastrami sandwich concept and reshaped it in the image of a Cubano. Finally, an honest-to-goodness example of fusion cuisine!
But what about the name? What about this sandwich made it want to be called All Pro? No one is sure, Pérez Grajales told me, though he thinks that a friend of his father’s came up with it.
There’s another sandwich called the White House, and it has nothing to do with politics. According to Pérez Grajales, an American tourist came into the original El Meson many years ago and struck up a conversation with his father. The American said that he, too, owned a sandwich shop in Upstate New York. Pérez Sr. invited the man to come into the kitchen and make a sandwich. He did, with roast beef, sauteed mushrooms and melted cheese. Pérez liked it and put it on the menu, and he named it after the American’s restaurant, which was called White House.
And then there’s the Surfer (I promised I’d get back to the topic of surfing). Pérez told me that the surfing dudes would come into that first El Meson and request something without meat. Meatless sandwiches in Puerto Rico were unheard of in 1972, he said. And so many of them would request a vegetarian sandwich that they just started referring to the meatless sandwiches as a Surfer.
I also liked the little Muffin Sticks side dish, especially with the blended ketchup and mayo (tinged with garlic) for dipping. Delicious.
Meson is also known for its all-day breakfasts and, of course, Puerto Rican coffee (or as the sign out front says, Serious Coffee).
A third Meson is set to open soon in the Premium Outlets on Vineland Road and then another at Lee Vista Promenade. A fifth location will be added by next summer, Pérez said.
For now, you can try Meson Sandwiches at the Florida Mall Dining Pavilion, 8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, and at 1010 W. Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee. The Kissimmee location has a drive through, but please don’t try to drive into Florida Mall. Both locations are open from breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.