In this episode of Bacon & Lox, our very own Stephanie the Shiksa experiences a true rite of passage as she visits her first Jewish deli.
My favorite Jewish deli experience was at the original 2nd Avenue deli in New York. The 90-year- old servers in suits, the Lower East Side neighborhood, the decorations on the wall, the pastrami, I’m not sure anything will ever beat it.
Unfortunately the travel request I submitted to the TCJewfolk editors was denied, so instead we headed to Mort’s Deli in Golden Valley.
Jason: Stephanie, tell us what you were thinking as you scanned the menu for the first time?
Stephanie: Well, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t recognize anything (my Yiddish is rather limited). And browsing the lengthy menu, I did come across some pretty foreign-sounding options: matzo balls, gefilte fish, kreplach, and kosher meats? Our server (Colleen) definitely helped me navigate the menu and made sure my Jewish deli experience was an authentic one. I liked that she shared opinions and recommendations and served our food with attitude.
Jason: And where else but a Jewish deli do you have pickles served as you’re seated?
Stephanie: Yeah, what’s up with that? The pickles were a mix of strange and familiar to me. They looked like most pickles I’ve eaten and had the expected crunchy texture I like, but they didn’t taste like any pickles I’ve ever eaten. I can’t put my finger on what made them so different.
Jason: I’m not sure. Readers, any idea what makes the pickles different and why it is tradition to serve them? Our meal started strong with the “One Pound Knish”. My Baubbie made knishes, and I will fight to the death to defend her knishes as the best ever, but the knish at Mort’s rocked.
Stephanie: I agree, the knish was delicious! I love mashed potatoes (especially my grandma’s), but when you take those potatoes, add some special ingredients (I’m guessing butter, onions and more) and shape them into a cute square and cover them with a flaky, golden pastry, I’m really a fan!
Jason: We followed the kick-ass knish with another classic, Matzo Ball Soup, but with a twist. When we tried to order some kreplach, the server suggested putting the non- fried version of the kreplach into our Matzo Ball soup. This one was a new one for me, and it totally worked.
Stephanie: I like any cutely-shaped pillows of dough with savory filling, so when the menu described them as “potsticker dumplings filled with meat” I had a feeling I’d be happy with them, and I was! And Matzo ball soup was a treat! The simple ingredients like carrots, noodles, and tender pieces of chicken bring back happy memories of slurping soup in my grandma’s kitchen. And much as I loved her homemade soup, I have to say I prefer the light and fluffy matzo balls to the heavier dumplings from my childhood.
Jason: On to the main course, which for us was a Rueben. For comparison sake, we got a half of the traditional Rueben and a half of the Mort’s Rueben, which included a white horseradish cheese thing. They were both unbelievable, but I think the Mort’s version was better, great taste.
Stephanie: This time, I think I’ll have to disagree with you, and go with the classic. The horseradish cheese did add a kick to Mort’s Reuben, but the traditional Reuben reminded me of my 100% Irish grandma (the one I mentioned above). She made sure I developed a fondness for corned beef on rye with sauerkraut and swiss. One of those great sandwich combinations I never grow tired of. The mountain of corned beef on Mort’s sandwiches was impressive. I had trouble finishing half of one!
Jason: You’ll remember I heroically came to your rescue and finished those last few bites for you.
Stephanie: Yes, I appreciated your chivalry.
Jason: That’s how I roll. By the way, I was so full I was unable to move out of the booth for about a half hour after we finished eating, and I can safely say I was still full four days later. As a people, we don’t like anyone to be hungry, ever.
Stephanie: That’s very “big” of you and your people.
Jason: Here’s your chance to sum it all up, tell the readers what you thought about your first Jewish deli experience.
Stephanie: Well, I had such a great first Jewish deli experience that I know it won’t be my last! Although I’m not sure I’ll be ready for the tongue or chopped liver or gefilte fish anytime soon, there are still latkes and blintzes and Dr. Brown’s soda to sample. Thanks for introducing me to your food- always a great place to start when learning about another culture! So, Jason- how about from now on I can be the Lox in Bacon & Lox, and you can be the Bacon?
Jason: Then we’d have to switch the name to Turkey Bacon & Lox, which isn’t quite as catchy, sorry, no deal.
Readers, have an opinion on where Stephanie’s next Jewish deli experience should occur (Cecils? Crossroads?) and what she should order (Chopped Liver? Cheese Blintzes?)? Or, now that she’s experienced the deli, what should be the next stop on her Jewish culture tour? Let her know in the comments below. I’m pretty sure she’ll bow to peer pressure, so don’t hold back.
Filed Under: Being Jewish