Between the Bread
all flavor, no filler in the sandwiches at Jay Ray’s Deli
When I walked into Jay Ray’s Deli to meet with the owners, co-owner Adam Moskiewicz was on the meat slicer, prepping a whole pile of beef pastrami, special ordered from Chicago. That real authentic stuff. The stuff of deli dreams. The spot had been open for only a few days, but the pastrami is already a hot ticket item, for good reason. Jay Ray’s might be the only place in a significant radius where you can get that real Windy City pastrami right in the heart of Eau Claire. And it’s only a fraction of the breaded possibilities.
“The main thing I wanted was the names to be cool, honestly.” – Justin Allen, co-owner of Jay Ray’s Deli
Moskiewicz and Justin Allen are the brains behind the newly opened deli along with Adam’s brother Brian, who’s full-time over at Red Coal BBQ. Red Coal, now a fixture in the local food scene, got its humble start at the small shack at 1907 Brackett Ave. where Jay Ray’s is now – and has since moved into a much larger space on Mall Drive (boldly across the street from Famous Dave’s no less). Allen, the former sous chef at The Lakely, was line cooks with Moskiewicz at Red Coal when the opportunity to run a killer deli with a drive-thru was too good to pass up.
Allen said they’re hoping for that same Red Coal kinda success with Jay Ray’s, great food with a great reputation opening the door to do more delicious stuff all over town.
“It’s all about the product. If we push out a good product people are gonna want to come back,” Allen said. “It all boils down to time and consistency. If we can keep going, and get the word out there, and get people in here, and they like it, and they keep coming back, we can build off that.”
Word of mouth so far has done wonders for Jay Ray’s, getting busier and busier every day. Their deli sandwiches are made with utmost care and top-notch ingredients, and though they might not be the most attractive of sandwiches, each is packed with flavor and make others seem sort of bland by comparison.
“It’s not like a long slim like a lot of places do, it’s like a short chub,” Allen said with a laugh. “We were really picky on our ingredients. Between the three of us, we probably tried 150 types of different bread.”
The nugget of brilliance across the menu is the roasted garlic aioli – Allen’s secret recipe – and other diversions from the norm like the use of berry mustard and aged provolone. An elevated ingredient here and there makes all the difference, and with the myriad of sandwich purveyors in the Valley, it’s going to be what keeps people coming back to Jay Ray’s.
“The main thing I wanted was the names to be cool, honestly,” Allen said. Truthfully, there’s obviously more to it than that, but the names are very good. The De Niro is beautifully executed pastrami with pepperoncini, aioli, and provolone; The Space Jam is a classic roast beef; The Fresh Prince has extra beef with oil & vinegar; and The Karen says on the menu that it has “all the veggies.” And if you’re brave, you could still be the first to order The Big Chungus, a giant sandwich with four kinds of meat, cucumber, beer mustard, and that dreamy aioli.
In just the handful of days Jay Ray’s has been open they’ve had a bunch of return customers, which is encouraging for the team. “We had a guy come in here, he got a tuna sandwich. It was early, it was like 11:30. And he came back at five just basically to tell us that it was in his top five favorite sandwiches of all time,” Allen said. “He said ‘If I could eat this every day for the rest of my life, I would.’”
The shop is small and the hours are limited to 11am to 4:30pm at the moment, but there’s lot of future plans in the works if everything goes good here at the start, including late night dining, multiple locations, hot sandwiches, a vegan menu, catering, and more wild experimentation with stuff like Italian beef and Philly cheesesteak.
They said they’ve had a lot of customer feedback, some more helpful than others. “What you guys need to do is microwave your bread and get duck eggs” is one Allen heard, and Moskiewicz heard one like “You guys need catfish.”
Maybe we’ll just leave this to the experts. They’re doing just fine.
Jay Ray’s Deli, at 1907 Brackett Ave., is open daily (except Sunday) from 11am to 4:30pm in store or via drive thru. You can order delivery via EatStreet. To learn more, follow Jay Ray’s Deli on Facebook and Instagram.