Long before trendy "sandos," Dallas had a signature sandwich created by a caterer named Bertha Spiritas — and that sandwich has now been revived by her relatives.
Called "The Original Doozie," it's a layered sandwich with deli meats on marbled rye and a secret sauce that's said to be the key to its success.
After nearly going extinct, the sandwich has been reclaimed by cousins Wendy Horowitz and Dana Eisenberg, Bertha's grand nieces, who tracked down the original recipe and have brought the Doozie back to life. They've launched a website with sandwiches and sides, which you can pick up at their North Dallas kitchen or get delivered.
A tower of corned beef, pastrami, salami, and turkey, the Doozie was a popular party sandwich for years, especially in the Jewish community.
"Bertha was the premier Jewish caterer back in the 1970's," Dana says. "You would be hard-pressed to attend a wedding, bar/bat mitzvah, baby naming, bris, or funeral and not see a tray of Doozies displayed."
"When we first brought it back, some of my friends jokingly asked, 'Did somebody die?' — because it tended to be served at every funeral," says Wendy.
Spiritas eventually bequeathed her secret recipe to her right-hand man, James Birdine, who made the sandwich for several years. He passed away as well, and the sandwich seemed doomed for obscurity.
Until Wendy had a craving.
"I was sick a year ago in the hospital, and everyone knows it's my favorite sandwich," Wendy says. "When something good happens, you want it. When something bad happens, you want it. Dana wanted to get it for me, but she had to track it down."
Dana came to the rescue and was able to get the recipe from Birdine's son.
The essentials of The Original Doozie include:
- thinly sliced marble rye bread
- 5 layers of bread, 4 layers of meat, 1 layer of cheese
- a secret dressing that is vaguely Russian
There are three varieties: the Original, Turkey & Cheese, and Kosher-style. Original and turkey Doozies are $17; the kosher version is $19. They also have coleslaw and two kinds of potato salad, one with mustard, one with red-skinned potatoes. You can order online with trays and lunch boxes for office and catering events.
When served, they're cut into little squares and fanned into an appealing circle. Fans say that they're moist, delicious, but not soggy.
Some, like restaurateur and caterer Daniel Sikora, have tried their own version. "When made properly, they're delicious — but laborious," Sikora says.
Wendy, who formerly worked in recruiting, and Dana, who was a party planner, are reluctant to give too many details about their creation, other than to confirm it's a finger sandwich with multiple layers and different kinds of meat. It's served on soft marble rye bread sourced from a bakery in Dallas "that's been around forever" with an olive on a toothpick to secure the layers.
The pandemic has opened the door for many cottage-industry businesses exactly like this, and the cousins have seen some record-breaking days.
"With the pandemic, it's something you can get at home and people like the idea of something old yet new," Wendy says.