Apple of Your Eye
By Nancy Powell
A steady stream of traffic filters into New York Delight on this warm, breezy fall day. Young twentysomethings with inked arms and pierced digits talk animatedly at nearby tables, sharing a sandwich and drink, waxing philosophic on community happenings. Middle-aged couples dressed in their Sunday best queue up for a warm cup of tea or a steaming mug of Joe, just enough pep to carry them on to the next group of galleries beyond Delight’s freshly Windexed door.
You see, Delight had just been sold to proprietor and Chef Smyth Johnson on Monday of that week, who took the keys on Friday and turned the restaurant around in just one day, with the help of family and friends. Granted, the interiors and the menu remain essentially the same, but there are new touches too, like the promise of a coffee bar and freshly brewed teas. Johnson, who is a recent Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School graduate, has honed her skills at the Hash House A Go Go and Amato’s Bakery in Las Vegas. Yes, the restaurant itself is in flux, grandma is taking orders behind the register, a younger sibling, perhaps, is busily bussing tables throughout the night, but at the ripe young age of 20, Johnson’s ready to make her mark in this vaunted downtown deli. Already on its grand opening during Pomona’s First Saturday Arts Walk, Johnson’s newly established digs seem poised for community greatness, a place of idle chit chat, quiet reflection, and just plain hanging out.
The food doesn’t hurt either. The seemingly shy Johnson stands at her workstation, slapping together piles of fresh bread, vegetables, cheese and then piling on the meat. The first sandwich on the giant blackboard, the AC Projects, arrives with fresh turkey and thick slices of pink roast beef spilling onto the wrapper. The foot-long monster is simple in its make-up, with lettuce, tomato, and meat sitting atop a slathering of tangy Dijon mustard on a French roll, but the ingredients themselves speak a language all their own. Absent is the manufactured, overly processed blandness of meat which survived long past its life on plane or train. Johnson cuts all meats (which hail all the way from New York) on order, and her piled-on-so-high-you-can’t-even-take-a-bite heartiness invokes pauses and stares from neighboring tables. No wonder the Pomona P.D. likes to schlep about here during their off-duty hours . . . each sandwich is a meal fit to feed an overgrown king.
For non-meat lovers, Johnson offers the TAP 23 (you decide on the veggies), the Steno (PB&J) and the LA County’s Fire Trucks 182 and 185, a tuna fish alternative with no fishy taste and which won’t hit you in the gut or down south an hour later. Number 12 Pap Franks packs some serious color—an 11-ingredient sammie that comes with cappicola, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomato, pepperoncini, olives, onion, roasted peppers, oil and vinegar. It’s all very nice to look at; there’s almost so much tryptophan going on that sleep sneaks up mighty quick, then the realization hits that in order to enjoy such generous missives, massive starvation is necessary to appreciate the rigors of Chef Johnson’s kitchen.
Delight might still be working out the kinks in the final menu, but its reputable past guarantees that Johnson (should she stay on course) remain a hit of the future.
New York Delight, 310 S. Thomas St., Pomona, (909) 868-6518; www.nydelight.com. Mon-Thurs 6AM-3PM, Fri 6AM-9PM, Sat 7AM-9PM. AE, D, MC, V.