Sunday, January 29, 2012

Horsing Around at the Derby CLOSED

The Derby Deli and Dueling Piano Bar
27741 Crown Valley Parkway
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

I have been known to go to great lengths for a great sandwich. Last year we went across country to try deli sandwiches in NYC, and Lobster Rolls in Boston. Around home we have driven from south county, up to HB for a Philly cheesesteak, and to Santa Ana for a Reuben. Yes, that is the life of a food blogger, but it would be nice if there was a great sandwich place closer to my home. My friend Mike thinks that there is a great sandwich spot right down the street from where I live, and the place he is talking up is The Derby.

I have never been to The Derby before. The few times I have been to the Kaleidoscope Shopping Center, I have walked past the restaurant and heard the dueling pianos and customers seeming to have a good time. In the parking garage at this sparsely populated shopping venue, they have pictures of huge skyscraper sandwiches, piled high with meat. They look good, but will they really be that great? Let's find out.

We arrived at The Derby at seven on a Friday night. The large dining area was quiet, but that was just because the dueling pianos did not start until 8:30. By the time we had left, the place was raging with the pianist playing everything from country songs to rap. The piano show was cool, but I was mainly here for the sandwiches. Let's see how they turned out.

Okay, I know I promised sandwiches, but we started with an appetizer, Hot Diggity Dawn's Balls. This appetizer is named after the owners wife, and they are made of prosciutto and ricotta cheese, which is then deep fried. These were served with a marinara sauce. None of us were too crazy about these. They had a subdued flavor, which mildly entertained our taste buds. Not sure any of us would get these on our next visit.

Now to the aforementioned sandwiches. Starting us off is the Ying Sandwich. This pastrami sandwich came with Swiss cheese and deli mustard, all on seeded rye bread. This usually comes with sauerkraut, but Mike is not a big fan of the pickled cabbage. True to form, Mike called this sandwich, "the best pastrami sandwich he has ever had". He enjoyed the thick cut of the pastrami, and the flavor of the meat. The onion rings served with this were heavily breaded, and crunchy. Not as greasy as I would have thought.

Mike's wife Dawn, was a little more creative in her ordering of this Taylor and Stanwyck Sandwich. Almost all of the sandwiches here are named after a celebrity duo of the past or present. Basically this amounts to a club sandwich. Normally this sandwich contains turkey, but for some reason, "Difficult Dawn", opted for ham instead. She seemed very pleased with the result here. Besides the ham, this sandwich came with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on toasted white bread. This sandwich was so packed with meat, she only finished half of it, which I was shocked by, because she has a really big mouth. Just kidding Dawn, (not really).

There would be no doubt what sandwich I was going to go after, the Laurel and Hardy was in my sights. This sandwich featured the royal couple of deli meats, pastrami and corned beef, along with Swiss cheese, Cole slaw, and Russian dressing, on a seeded rye. The meats on this sandwich were a little on the fatty side. I know that just adds flavor, but some of you may like leaner cuts of meat. The meat was flavorful, and like Mike, I liked the thicker cut of the pastrami. It really let you know that it was present. The corned beef was a little more subtler, and kind of got lost here, but still good. I would have liked this sandwich better if it was warmed  and the bread was toasted. On their web site they make it known that they make all of their bread with real New York water. The bread was okay at the Derby, I was not wowed by it. Still a solid sandwich though.

The fourth and last sandwich we tried was Katie's selection, the Bogie and Bacall. This one came with roast beef, ham, turkey, Swiss cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, and mayo, piled inside an Italian roll. Katie enjoyed the fresh ingredients here, but felt the sandwich was overwhelming due to the size of it. She did not have high expectations coming in here, but those expectations were easily met within the first few bites. The potato salad served with this had too much mustard for her taste. She will opt for another side item on her next visit.

After the large sandwiches, we followed them up by getting dessert. Mike and Katie ordered the Cannoli's above. The Chocolate Chip Cannoli was Mike's choice. He loved this dessert, while the rest of us felt it was not sweet enough. The outer shell was average, and the ricotta inside needed to be sweeter and smoother. The same went for the peanut butter cannoli. Not even close to the cannoli's Dawn brought me back from Boston. Thanks Dawn!

Dawn wanted to try a slice of Cheesecake here at the Derby. This cheesecake was pretty solid. It was not overly sweet and the strawberries were fresh. I am not much of a cheesecake guy, but even I thought this was good. It really helped getting the taste of the awful cannoli out of my mouth, which I was thankful for.

The Derby was more than I expected. I am not going to tell you that these sandwiches will rival those of New York or the east coast. They are solid sandwiches, with great meats and fresh ingredients. They are a little on the pricey side though. All of the sandwiches are in the $10 to $14 range, but you do get to choose one side item to accompany them. The service the night we were here was pretty good. It got a little spotty as the room got more busy, but that is to be expected.

If you come here for a quiet night, get here early, because it does get raucous starting at 8:30 and escalating until the late hours of the night. If the noise gets to you, and you are here on a Friday or Saturday night, retreat to the backroom area, behind the hostess stand. They have opened a secret speakeasy where you can converse, order drinks, and even gamble. Yes, you read that right, gamble. Of course it is not real money, but for $10 you get chips, get to play blackjack and craps, and automatically get entered into a monthly raffle for an exotic trip. Fun, and something a little different.

Out of five rams, (because the town of Derby, England has the ram as its city emblem), five being best to zero being worst, the Derby gets 3 rams.

For more information on The Derby, click here:

The Derby on Urbanspoon

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