What’s your staple deli order? Gone are the days where Edison students had to walk down the hill to get their bacon, egg and cheese. The local spot on 164th street erupted a major sense of school pride, foreign to anything Thomas Edison has ever seen before. I got to talk to the busy man himself as well as interviewing a student coming out of the deli after Baseball game. I am looking to answer one question; Does this deli live up to the hype?
Hakeem, the beloved owner of Queens Organic Deli, was nothing less than a joy to speak to. Immediately as you enter the store, you’re greeted with glimpses of light resembling a 80’s disco party. From the blue recess lights on the ceiling to the rainbow LED lights under the register, The scenery is truly unlike any other corner store. As I was about to begin the interview, he invited me behind the counter to get the full experience of the shop.
Queen’s Organic Deli has come a long way before landing in Jamaica-Hills. “I’m from Memphis originally. I have been there for the last 20 years. My parents are from Yemen, the Middle East. I grew up working since I was seven years old. My first deli was in the Bronx 1997,” said store owner Hakeem. The NYC spirit is essential here. Everything from the food to the lingo.
The house special at this deli is unique to any sandwich you’ve ever heard of before. The consumer favorite, J-nine sandwich is what holds true to be the house special. “A J-nine is some high class stuff. Its halal chicken with the marinara sauce, oh not not the marinara sauce, Aye what’s in the J-nine?“ Hakeem asks the deli cook, Crissie, to further explain, “chicken, spicy chicken with the mozzarella cheese with lettuce, a bit of chipotle mayonnaise and a bit of the Arabic sauce.”
“Organic” in the name of the deli is not just for aesthetics. All of the store’s ingredients are shipped straight from the source, a close friend of Hakeem’s that farms overseas. “The Arabic sauce comes all the way from the Middle East. I have a lady out there and she does the cleanings. If the tomato has one little flaw, she won’t do it. Everything she does is like natural.”
Clean ingredients make happy customers.
Are you really a New Yorker if you’ve never had a chopped cheese or a bacon egg and cheese on a roll? That question is entirely rhetorical, however, we had to contribute to the final verdict on the best chopped cheese sandwich in the area. I caught local Edison student, Craig Brownbill, spotted walking out of the deli with what appeared to be a chopped cheese sandwich.
“It has flavor, very flavorful…it has a little kick to it. Maybe like a mix of Cazón, cayenne pepper.”
This local chopped cheese packs a punch.
The close proximity of Queens Organic Deli to Edison means that the majority of its customers are high school students. There are two other corner stores along 164th street, but there is a different vibe to this one.
“What makes us different from other delis is we care about our customers. It’s not about the money. It’s about everybody being happy, getting good service, looking out for everybody, making sure it’s safe for everybody and that’s it,” said Hakeem.
Of course we cannot neglect the massive monster high looking school across the street from us. When asked about the Jamaica high school students, Hakeem replied, “We get a little bit of Jamaica high school students but Edison, that’s my school right there. I didn’t even go there but I feel like I go there (…) I love edison. All Edison students are welcome here and the staff; everybody. Edison on top!” This Memphis native sure knows how to bring people together.
Mid-interview, we got a surprise visit from local resident Sebastian. Not only is he an avid supporter here at Queens Organic Deli, claiming to eat all three meals of the day here, but he also saw this shop grow from humble beginnings. “I live upstairs. I saw everything happen when it opened up, when it was empty still. Now it’s crazy how many people be here all day long like literally all day. From people getting coffee in the morning to people coming in at midnight trying to squeeze in a meal before they stop cooking,” says Sebastian. Hakeem referred to him as “his boy” as he entered the checkout line. Customer care takes a whole new meaning at this facility.
Creating a wholesome environment shop is what’s truly important. Just don’t mention the sacred “Edison Student Discount” at checkout if you want Hakeem to stay in business. “We love ‘em (Edison students). We got credit for y’all and everything. This is for Edison. Look at all the lights I put in here! *points at the blue lights* You know we are one big family. If y’all come here I will take care of yall I promise.”
There you have it. Queens Organic Deli is a one stop shop. If you need anything from a sandwich to a whole mango, Hakeem and his team got your back.
Overall I would give this deli a review of 9/10 and is entirely worth the hype. The food is exceptional, service is welcoming and most importantly it’s one block away.