Quality Foods Gourmet Market in Lutz is a deli, pizzeria, bakery and specialty foods grocer that also offers an extensive vegan and gluten-free menu.
Owner Christopher Houp takes great pride on the number of foods made in-house, such as his mojo-shredded pork for his Cuban sandwich, which he serves with house-made potato chips and his own signature pickles.
But, his showstopper is his NYC sandwich.
“Our NYC is three-quarters of a pound of meat piled high, half pastrami and half corned beef, both house-made,” said Houp. “It’s steamed just like it is in New York City, so it’s hot, on two slices of rye bread with a grain mustard, and that’s it. You can add cheese if you want, but the bread soaks in the juices from the steamed meat, and the mustard gives it a little spice, and you get this nice big juicy sandwich.”
For most house-made items, you can ask for a sample and try it before you buy it. Quality Foods makes its own pesto, sauerkraut, beer cheese, chimichurri, fresh-baked pretzels, breads, desserts and cookies, as well as many different kinds of condiments and dressings.
Its vegan deli and pizza menu runs two full pages long and accommodates families with many different diets, from lactose-intolerant and gluten-free carnivores, to strict vegans.
“The vegan community is an underserved market,” Houp said, whose wife is vegan. “People are very appreciative that they can have a vegan meal here. Our vegan Cuban is all over social media, and we have regular customers from Orlando and Sarasota who drive here to load up on vegan groceries that they can’t get anywhere else.”
As a grocer, Quality Foods stocks items from other local businesses, especially farmer’s market vendors, including Mammoth Foods Hummus, Peach Pit Farms, Sassy Girls Salsa, Gulf Coast Sourdough Bread and Faedo Family Bakery Cuban bread.
It also stocks nearly 90 local craft beers from more than 20 local breweries, many which are available in mix-and-match six packs. It carries a large collection of hand-selected wines, including fresh Italian wines on tap and bottled by request, just as you would see in Italy.
To hear Houp talk about good food is like listening to a poet praise the merits of Epicureanism.
“Food is a lot of things. It is fun, it is familial. All of life’s activities revolve around food. You have a party. There’s food. You have a baby shower. There’s food. When there’s a funeral. Food. You have food when you’re born. You have food when you die. What do we build the holidays around? Food. There’s always food, because it’s comforting, so if food is central to life, then we may as well eat quality food, and that’s what you’ll get here,” Houp said.
Life is too short not to indulge your appetite today at Quality Foods on U.S. 41, just south of where it meets Nebraska Avenue. Besides running Quality Foods, the Houps also operate their own farmer’s market, Lake Chapman Market.
The market can be reached by calling (813) 373-5466.
By William Jacko
Published October 17, 2018