I'm not expecting to find one of the better chicken Parmigianas at a place that trades on Coke, coleslaw and half moon cakes.
But here it is: $11.95 worth of subtly seasoned chicken breast, bulkily sitting under a crust of Parmesan and breading and over a plate of perfect al dente pasta. Even the tame tomato sauce can't hold it back.
It's a welcome find at Broadway Deli on Northpark Drive, the expansion site for Eric Velasquez's North Academy Boulevard restaurant. Serving more than just the traditional deli sandwiches and breakfast, this location offers a dinner menu boasting steaks, more pasta dishes, seafood (mostly tilapia and salmon) and pizza.
A word about the pie: Though the large combo pizza ($14.95) can't top the one Marzio's Pizzeria served in this building — and a vegetable topping consisting solely of mushrooms and black olives is enough to make a guy wish for an artichoke heart here or there — the big, chewy crust and large slices of ham and pepperoni help a lot.
And it's like that all over the restaurant: For each rough patch, you'll find a diamond.
Take selections from the new dinner menu. The eight-ounce New York strip steak ($15.20, with a quiet Caesar salad) is pale, tough and overcooked, with some token grill marks seemingly thrown in for peace of mind. It's an outsider to a meal that already includes the wonderful Parmigiana, and a tilapia ($11.95) fillet that could not be improved: perfectly fried with just enough breading and seasoning to complement the creamy character in the high-fat fish.
Sides are fair, and included with most evening entrées. The bright yellow rice may be more pleasant to look at than eat, but the garlic mashed potatoes (unexpectedly smothered in a thick brown gravy) work fine. The cinnamon apples taste OK, but are the nauseating consistency of the pink pod goo in The Matrix; meanwhile, the barley soup, a rotating addition, is a flu-curing richness of salty broth and chunky squares of beef.
As for lunch, Broadway Deli obviously knows its way around a sandwich, though prices run on the high side. The Reuben ($9.95) is medium-thick, layered with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and the option of turkey, pastrami or a moist corned beef; buttered and grainy rye bread toasts up nicely. The Bronx Cheer ($9.95) — turkey, Swiss and avocado on toasted sourdough — also tastes better than the sum of its parts, the thick slivers of pale avo perfect among the thinly sliced turkey breast. On the side, the potato salad is slightly eggy, while the thin, mayonnaise-y coleslaw fails to pull any weight.
Unfortunately, the salmon salad ($9.95) is similarly lackluster. The dry-ish, mottled fillet of pink and gray is less than impressive, and can't be saved by the otherwise fine mixture of greens, tomatoes, red onions and cucumber.
By the way, the salad dressings aren't made in-house, but almost everything else is. So credit Broadway for that, as well as for deli sandwiches among the Springs' best, and for that rare deli menu full of quality dinner dishes.
And note that Velasquez makes a killer cheesecake ($5.95), a thick bounty of lightly-sour cream dripping with chunks of blueberry topping. Even if that's somewhat less surprising than some of the place's other culinary finds, it's no less tasty for it.
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