Rye: My Kind of Neighborhood Bar

David Weinstein, co-owner of Rye Deli, and I, outside my new neighborhood bar, wearing TC Jewfolk's new shirts.

Everyone needs a neighborhood bar. A place where you walk in the door, order a cool one and sit for a while, relaxing your bones.  A place where the bartender gives you shit, laughs at your jokes, and then gives you a few extra sample pours.  Where you might not know everyone, but you know someone each time you’re there.
For me, that place is going to be Rye Deli, the brand new Jewish-style deli, restaurant and bar that just opened up on the corner of Hennepin and Franklin in Minneapolis.
I’ve been there twice and I’m sold.
I love the style.  It feels like a deli, with a bustling counter, and a restaurant, and a bar, and I have to say the fact that they’re serving latkes, He’Brew beers, and have a menorah behind the counter during Hanukkah just rocks my world.
The music has a light rock feel, which keeps the place energized without being annoying.  The kind of stuff where you say outloud (especially after having a drink or two), “ooh, I really like this song.”
I’ve seen some not-so-thrilled reviews of Rye’s food, and I’ve not eaten enough to challenge them.  I liked Rye’s Matzo Ball Soup (the Matzo balls were like mom’s, and the soup was good and chicken-y), and had their bagel bite nachos today (good spicy and the corned beef on top was a fun touch), but I haven’t done dinner there yet (although I plan to) or had their famed bagels and bialys (I’ll send the hubby over to pick some up soon).  But like my writer Jeff Mandell, I’m wiling to give Rye a few more months to perfect their edibles.
And it’s hard to make food for Jews.  Our Bubbe made it, then our mom made it, then we made it, and we think what we make is the best of the bunch.  But Rye Deli says its “Not your Bubbe’s Delicatessen” and they mean it, so let’s stop the nudging and let them try something different, nu?
But I digress…
Like any good neighborhood bar – it’s the people at Rye that are going to keep me coming back.
The owners, David and Tobie, are mensches.  The kind of people who stick around the restaurant/deli’s front end, shmoozing the customers instead of hiding in the back.  David’s in the picture with me (above), in front of Rye, wearing the new TC Jewfolk shirt that says “Ya Sure… Jew Betcha” that we’re launching this month.  You’ll be able to buy our t-shirts for just $5 (additional donations always appreciated) at upcoming Jewish events that we’re co-sponsoring – the first being Yemen Blues at the Cedar on January 5th – and, in the near future, at Rye Deli. (Eds note: become a Facebook fan of TC Jewfolk so you know where & when we’ll be selling the shirts!)
The bartender/cook/carver Sharky was fun with an attitude. His name? He says it’s because he used to work on a shark boat. I can’t vouch for the truthfulness of that story, but it fits his style. I’d come back just to kibbitz with him over a He’Brew any day.
And both times I’ve been there, I’ve run into people I know.  Yesterday, it was the fabulous Josh Ribnick and Sarah Gruesner. Today, it was Judge Lloyd Zimmerman.  Come on folks, it’s not every day that you get to sit down, have a cup of matzo ball soup (plus a few bagel bites) with one of the kindest judges on the Hennepin County bench.  It totally made my day.
So I’ll keep coming back.  Regardless of what fellow MOT Andrew Zimmern says in his reviews.  Two Jews, three opinions, right?  In my book, Rye Deli is the kind of place I want to be on my day off.  And it’s the kind of institution in our community that I want to support.
Rye may not be in my “hood” technically, but it is my neighborhood.  See you there.