Monday, July 22, 2024

Feel at home at Smokin’ Olive

Great food and welcoming atmosphere

Every person that walks into Smokin’ Olive Deli gets a warm greeting from Michelle Ryan, the Deli’s owner. Addressing each patron personally, Michelle remembers them from prior visits. And her friendliness works, as everyone who stops by her establishment feels welcome.

“I just want them to have a good experience, from the time they come in to the time they go out,” Ryan explains.

“Sometimes I cry at night, ‘I’m so tired!’ But then I . . . see people posting {on social media} how [they enjoyed Smokin’ Olive] and it makes my heart so happy. I just like to make people happy with my food.”

From home cook to caterer
Ryan doesn’t like to use the word “chef.” Though she hasn’t had any formal training, after growing up in Cleveland, Ryan moved to Toledo when she got married two decades ago. She loves making meals for her family, and the quality of her preparations caught the eye of a friend, who asked Michelle to cook a meal for the friend’s family.  “I only knew how to make Italian dishes, like, chicken parmesan, spaghetti, salads, breadsticks, things like that. I made that menu for her,  and [she] loved it and spread the word around.”

Soon, Ryan was blending her own spice rubs under the name “Grill Daddies.” While demonstrating her creations at Walt Churchill’s Market, customers began to ask if she would cater for them. “It was a hobby, and it turned into a business, for 15 years now,” Ryan said.

Special of the day
What Smokin’ Olive Deli is today was developed almost by accident. She bought the space at 3726 S. Detroit Ave. mainly to aid her catering business. There were some grab-and-go items out front, but no solid plans to serve food on premises. The Deli opened in November of 2019. But then…

“I opened in November and February, COVID hit. And I had my whole calendar booked with catering. Lost all of them, obviously. So I thought, oh my gosh, what am I going to do?”

Then, customers began coming in. “They were asking me to make them sandwiches. Probably the first five customers, I said, ‘I…I don’t make sandwiches.’

“We just started off as one panini, Special of the Day. But then it just grew and grew and grew, so now you see, you can get any panini you want now.”

Hearty helpings
The dining area in the front of Smokin’ Olive is small but welcoming. Reach-in coolers offer a variety of chilled beverages and to-go eats alongside shelf-stable snacks, all locally made. The deli counter holds a large, handwritten sign featuring today’s food items. A sandwich, chips and drink costs $11.00, a great value given the amount and quality of the ingredients.

Smokin’ Olive doesn’t have a regular menu just yet, outside of a few staple options. Ryan likes to be inventive. “I just come in in the morning and think, ‘Hmm, what do I have?’ We have the staples, but in the grab and go I always have different items.”

One of those staple menu items is close to Ryan’s heart. Her biggest supporter was her father, Tony. Even though he lived in Florida, Tony traveled to Ohio to help build out the Deli. Sadly, Tony passed away in February due to COVID.

“He was so excited for this deli, because he loved Italian. He always said, ‘You have to do a muffuletta,’” Ryan said. “So after he died, we have a muffaletta sandwich named after him.”

The day his sandwich debuted saw record-breaking sales for the Deli. Just ask for “The Tony.” And say hi to Michelle, because she’ll be sure to say hi to you.

Smokin’ Olive Deli
3726 S. Detroit Ave., Unit A  419-351-0690
Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-4pm

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