Girl Roamer Nicole goes to sandwich heaven at Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria in Orlando
Want to impress your date in Orlando? Take them to one of the city’s many fine gourmet eateries.
Want to find out if your date is The One? Take them to Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria (67 North Bumby Avenue; 407-894-0865; PomPomSteahouse.com) in Orlando, Florida.
If they’re flexible enough to accept the idea of sandwiches for dinner, things are going well already. And if they trust you enough to stick with the plan even after you pull into a strip-mall parking lot, that’s a very good sign, too.
If, on the other hand, they poo-poo the idea of a casual café having anything special to offer, or quail at being served by staff with tattoos, or (and this actually happens sometimes), they walk out because there’s no American cheese on the menu … well, at least now you know. You know that you’ve picked someone with no sense of culinary or cultural adventure, and if that’s going to mean a lifetime with no Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving sandwich, frankly, you may be better off without them.
Sure, this realization is going to sting. But the silver lining is that you’ve come to the best place in Central Florida to ease your pain. Whether what ails you is a heartache or a hangover, Pom Pom will soothe you with foods you had no idea you found comforting. (Allegedly. I’m sure I know nothing about the hangover part even though I visited during Orlando’s raucous Pride weekend.)
A good place to start the healing is with that Mama Ling Ling sandwich. Available year-round, it tastes like a family Thanksgiving, but with less Jell-O. (Actually, no Jell-O.) Bread piled with turkey, stuffing, cranberry and cheese is served with a cup of gravy to be used as a dipping sauce. Ginger curry in the cranberry gives the sandwich a gently funky kick, elevating the dish above the level of simple culinary Xanax and into the realm of the truly interesting. Pair it with a side such as sesame- and cilantro-rich Asian slaw or noodles with peanut sauce and wash it down with your choice of 30 or so varieties of tea, and you’ve got a Benetton ad on a plate.
Mixing unlikely ingredients—and even cuisines—is a hallmark of Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria. You can get a simple grilled cheese, if that’s what you crave, but many sandwiches and salads on the menu boast exuberantly offbeat combos, like the Seasonal Berry Melt, offering the sweet/salty pairing of fruit and hot Brie; or the Viet Pom, with its flavors of turkey, cucumber, and Sriracha. That diversity is largely down to the unusual background of owner Pom Moongauklang, who was born in Thailand, trained in the French pastry tradition, and tempered by an intense stint working at famed high-end Japanese eatery Nobu in New York City.
Pom brought all that international flavor and Big Apple edginess to her Sandwicheria, but wrapped it in an accessible package. Brightly painted walls, mis-matched ceramic plates, and a rotating collection of local art make you feel like you’re at the coolest party you ever went to in your shabby-chic youth—but now everybody in the room will talk to you. Pom seems instinctively drawn to artistic, creative outsiders, and cheerfully offers that much of her pierced and coiffed staff would have a hard time landing a straighter job.
So maybe your beloved follows you through the door to sip some chocolate-hazelnut Rooibos tea and nibble some Asian pulled pork. Maybe they don’t. Either way, pull up a chair and stay a while. The quirky outsiders at Pom Pom’s (including Pom herself) know a thing or two about people and their hang-ups. They also know something about making unlikely pairs work. Most of all, they know how to fill up the emptiness, whether the hole inside you is the size of the one that got away, or just needs salving with a little mashed potato and gravy.
THE DIRTY DISH
Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria; 67 North Bumby Avenue, Orlando, Florida; 407-894-0865; PomPomSteahouse.com.
TYPE OF RESTAURANT: Casual sandwich and salad place. Woman-owned. Eclectic.
AMBIANCE: You remember the arty kids’ table in the high school cafeteria? All the tables feel like that at Pom’s, except that everyone’s been listening to a lot less Joy Division and is legitimately happy to see you.
SCENE: Youthful and slightly left-of-center, but anything goes. Milk District hipsters clutching vinyl from next-door Retro Records (59 North Bumby Avenue; 407-898-2484; Facebook.com/pages/Retro-Records/221049891280959?rf=137492829625192) sit next to briefcase-toting 9-5ers grabbing a hearty lunch.
SERVICE: Fast, friendly, and as far from snooty as can be imagined.
NOISE LEVEL: Depends on the time of day. Evenings can get boisterous.
RECOMMENDED DISHES: The Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving sandwich is perfectly traditional and quirky at the same time—it’s quintessentially Pom Pom.
SIP: Tea. Black, green, herbal, decaf, sweet, spicy….find your favorite or try something new.
CHECK, PLEASE: $ = $10-$15
(price of average dinner/lunch/breakfast/brunch bill for an individual dinner)
THE EAT: This restaurant may change the way you feel about sandwiches as a meal.
WORTH THE NIGHT OUT? Absolutely—especially since it won’t even take up your entire evening. (Or your entire wallet.)
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