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Cheap Eats: Positively Polish at M&M European Deli

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Stuffed cabbage, croquette and pierogies at M&M European Deli.

Eating Companion and I are standing just inside the door of M&M European Deli, where we’re meeting a couple friends. Hidden in the same plaza as the much-loved Bangkok Thai restaurant, on the corner of Proctor and Swift, M&M specializes in European groceries, chocolates (Milka!), beers, industrial-size jars of various pickled things, and hot Polish food—sandwiches, sausages, pierogies, stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes, blintzes, assorted hot soups and stews.

Equal parts deli, grocer, and cafe, there are a handful of small tables up front, and even a couch and a television. The kitchen staff are unmistakably Polish, very sweet and very busy. It’s very quiet and calm, but still a little odd.

We peruse the deli cases, deciding on some traditional hot items: stuffed cabbage with meat, a half-dozen pierogies, and a meat croquette. The ladies behind the counter are uncertain as to the contents – the “meat” stuffing – but decide on beef and pork. The hot sandwich menu is pretty impressive, and quite affordable, with most clocking in at $6.50.

We decide on the M&M Surprise (corned beef, pastrami, Swiss, lettuce, and tomato on a toasted hero, $6.50), an M&M Club (double decker with ham, turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on rye, $8.50), a Sarasota Special (roast beef, bacon, Provolone, on a “garlic-kissed” toasted hero, $6.50), and a Sunshine Special (ham, turkey, Swiss, lettuce, and tomato on a toasted hero, $6.50).

We grab a seat up front. Several of the customers enjoying soups or salads are authentically Polish, as is one of our friends lunching with us. She says other Polish people have a habit of waving at her, or smiling, as if acknowledging on of their own. This turns out to be true.

The pierogies, stuffed cabbage, and croquette all show up first, steaming hot. The stuffed cabbage is smothered in a tomato-based sauce, full of ground meat and rice. It’s rich and hearty, with a vinegar tang, a cold weather treat for sure. The croquettes have a strangely breakfast-y flavor, as if one had simply wrapped up ground meat in a pancake. The pierogies are divine, dense, tender little Polish dumplings stuffed with either cheese, mushrooms and kraut, or meat. The mushroom and krauts turn out to be a table favorite, sour and rich at the same time.

The sandwiches arrive shortly after. Each is accompanied by a side of slaw. The M&M Club is a Dagwood-sized beast, two solids stacks of ham, turkey and bacon between three slices of rye. It’s a refreshing, cool lunch sandwich, which stands in stark contrasts to the meaty behemoths sitting next to it.

The Sarasota Special is advertised as having bacon but ours does in fact not have bacon. We feel a bit silly walking back up to ask them to put some on, and they’re busy. The roast beef is thick-cut, cooked on the grill with the provolone until its melted. The hero is toasted, not pressed. It worries me that this is what they mean by “kissed” with garlic, as it’s basically all you can taste. We’re a little underwhelmed. The sandwich smells like it should be ridiculous, but ends up being kind of bland, save for the garlic.

The M&M Surprise and Sunshine Special are entirely different animals. On the Surprise, the meat and cheese are cooked the same as the Sarasota, a goopy, greasy mess of corned beef and pastrami smothered in Swiss. Generous amounts of thick, salty pastrami, and smoky corned beef, the whole thing a savory, delicious mess. The Sunshine is a bit lighter, though comprising a bit more generous portion of meat—warm ham and sliced turkey breast. The hero rolls they use are pretty incredible, light and fluffy even after a serious toasting. Bread makes sandwiches.

We settle up, resist the temptation to order one of each of the deli case’s desserts, opting instead for a couple Milka bars for later—plain milk chocolate and one with some sort of nut, possibly macadamia, it’s hard to tell as they are labeled in Dutch and German, respectively. We’ll be back for some borscht and sausages soon.

M&M European Deli
2805 Proctor Road, Sarasota
922-1221
Last modified: September 13, 2013
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