The Jewish Deli Returns: Part I, Tastes of “Rye Deli”

A new deli has officially opened and I’ve been as excited as my 4-year old was when we told him about our trip to Disney World. I’m the guy who wrote about My Deli Despair almost exactly one year ago.

So when I heard that a ballsy Jew named David Weinstein was going to open a real Jewish deli, I barely could contain the aforementioned excitement. After Andy Morantz and I held the 1st (and maybe last) Chopped Liver Spread-a-Pa-Looza, my options actually decreased. We ate all of that liver at the beginning of August. The aftertaste from the stuff we got from Mort’s and Crossroads is still there – I just can’t get rid of it. Seriously.

Our new deli is called Rye Delicatessen and Bar. I’ll just call it Rye Deli because delicatessen is just one of those words that gives me trouble. I had the chance to speak with owner David Weinstein about the opening and why he thought it would be a good idea to give the Jewish deli another shot right here in Minneapolis.

Weinstein is a real estate attorney from the East Coast who loves bagels and bialys. He also is a dead ringer for my brother – also a lawyer and also named David. Like me, he was a little disappointed by our selection in town. So, after eyeing a vacant space on Hennepin Ave for a while, he decided to concoct a plan with local restaurant veteran Tobie Nidetz. The goal is to have a real neighborhood spot – akin to the Jewish delis of old. You know, bagels and coffee in the morning, a corned beef sandwich for lunch, and maybe a drink after work. Well, maybe that last part isn’t very deli-ish – but 10 beers on tap sure does sound nice.

Before I stepped foot in the place, two things stood out for me:

1. Everything is being made from scratch – like my grandma’s kitchen. That is what I want in a deli. I don’t want my corned beef made in some factory in New Jersey like all the others.

2. Rye Deli is clearly a Jewish establishment. As Jeremy Iggers wrote last week, Rye Deli is not hiding from its Jewishness. Sorry Rabbi Avi – I know it’s not kosher. But, at least they call it lox and not smoked salmon.

So without any further adieu, here my take after visit #1. Remember folks, restaurants need some time to get their collective act together, so I’m cutting Rye Deli some slack.I hope that subsequent visits will get better each time.

The space is great and I think it works for the concept. The bar looked great and each stool was taken. It is not full service – customers order at the counter and the food is brought to the table. I first noticed the whitefish and lox in the refrigerated case. The whitefish made me relax a bit, but then a bit of chaos ensued. Apparently, the lunch rush was more than anticipated (which is good!) – so quite a few menu items were out. Out were the corned beef, the smoked meat, the chopped liver, the black and white cookies, and the pickles (all things I had hoped to try).

The staff was great and super friendly, but I think a few episodes of Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm should be mandatory for new hires. A-rugula is something that goes in a salad, not a delicious rolled dough pastry. I should say that I was a little distracted by my son and by the Honorable Alan Page – who didn’t seem thrilled at the prospect of a sandwich other than corned beef.

Braised brisket: In lieu of the smoked meats, I went for the braised brisket sandwich. The rye bread was delicious, so that’s a good start. The brisket was ok – a little thick for my taste, but still ok. Frankly, I wouldn’t ever choose brisket over corned beef, so I’m not concerned. (5 out of 10)

Mish Mash: A nice bowl of chicken soup with everything (you know, carrot, matzo ball, kreplach). I think they nailed it and let me tell you why. Most restaurant chicken soups are quite clear and the broth is secondary to what you put in it. My grandmother’s soup was darker and you could actually taste the chicken. (9 out 10)

Noodle Kugel: A lot of kugels tend to fall apart, but this version held up well. It also wasn’t too sweet, which I like. (8 out of 10)

Bialy: I know that David Weinstein was pretty proud of his bagels and bialys, so I had to try one. For the record, this was the first time I’ve ever even seen a bialy in the Twin Cities. Really really good – I would trek over to Rye just for these. They even have the little bits of onion in the center. The burger buns are made from the same dough, so I;m looking forward to one of those really soon. (9 out of 10)

Turkey: Real. Roasted. Turkey. That’s all you need to know. (8.5 out of 10)

Cole Slaw: The delis I grew up in always had amazing cole slaw. I was a little disappointed here, but again, I hope it wil improve. (6 out of 10)

Rugelach: In lieu of the black and white, I got a few of these. Again, A-rugula is a salad ingredient. They were fine – but I really look forward to those black and whites. (6 out of 10)

Corned Beef: My new BFF, David, was kind enough to bring over a few slices once a new brisket was ready. This is not the corned beef I grew up with – thin sliced and melt-in-your-mouth. This is cut quite thick and far more hearty. More like the corned beef I expect to get at an Irish pub. It was very good and it certainly has potential. I look forward to an actual sandwich for a more accurate portrayal. (7 out of 10)

So there you have Part I. I’ll be back soon – but I’ll give them a few weeks before I write Part II. By the way, the prices are quite nice – far more reasonable than Mort’s and what I would expect from a neighborhood restaurant and bar.

My to-eat list:

  • a full corned beef/smoked meat sandwich
  • pickles
  • black and white cookie
  • chopped liver
  • burger
  • tzimmes
  • grilled salami sandwich
  • breakfast sandwiches
  • matzo fried walleye

In the meantime, if you head over to Rye Deli, let me know what you think and what you eat when you get there. Until next time…

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About Jeff Mandell

Jeff Mandell was born and raised in Queens, NY - spitting distance from a deli, two bagel shops, and 47 Chinese take-out joints. When not chasing after his two adorable kids, Jeff spends a lot of time at Target Field and rationing the bagels he schleps back from New York. He was the go-to-Jew at a local production company that produced the hit show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. These days he searches the globe for things both bizarre and delicious - always asking if they ship.

Comments. Add Yours!

60 comments

  1. for a different take on Rye, might I suggest Andrew Zimmern’s review. Everyone sees things differently, and reviewers are no exception. I am sorry Rye was not as positively reviewed by Mr. Zimmern. Kosher or not, it should be a nice addition to the roster of restaurants in the cities.

    http://blogs.mspmag.com/chowandagain/2011/11/ham-on-wry.html#.TtbQm1mTSwY.facebook

  2. A great passionate discussion! For what it is worth Wifely Person – in my opinion – you are not missing anything at Rye. The bagels and bialys were profoundly mediocre at best – bready on the inside, not chewy, actually kind of weird. This is not in and of itself a bad thing because the service was soooooo bad I would get heartburn if I was compelled back to get decent bagels. Now, I’m a little picky being an H&H or Essa bagel type of girl but I’m not standing in line for at least 10 minutes, when there are only three people ahead of me to get a half dozen bagels if the bagels are not outstanding. Now I know bagels are not the end all and be all but if you don’t have a decent bagel what’s the point. I’m not going there for a cheeseburger or a bacon sandwich – but the bar looked very nice and since it is in my neighborhood I might meet folks for a drink there.

  3. Are they the best bagels in the world? No. But when most Jews in the Twin Cities consider the mass-produced ones at Bruegger’s to be their best option, I’ll wait at Rye for a few minutes. The service at Rye is bound to get better – the bagels at Bruegger’s will only become more colorful.

    The bialys are excellent and since most Minnesotans have never had one, it’s a welcome addition for sure. Try the grilled salami on a bialy and then let me know what you think.

    FYI: I happen to be an Ess-A-Bagel guy which is good because H&H is not long for this world.

    After eating several thousand bagels from all over NYC, my favorite bagels in the Twin Cities are from Seven Stars Coffee House. I’ll drive 15 minutes and wait for a few more if need be.

  4. Sounds delicious!

  5. Thanks for the Seven Stars Coffee House recommendation I will check it out cause I just can’t handle mediocre bagels. I’m just sad cause I would have liked to have a place I wanted to walk to with the family for a nosh. I do like the Common Roots Cafe bagel with the understanding that it is not a NY bagel and thats ok. I’m all ready reduced to making my own pizza (because I’m a fanatic) and I think if I start boiling my own bagels the family will lose it. (H&H not long for this world! THE HORROR. I thought Brothers got their bagels from H&H?)

  6. The “H&H” bagels that you get at Brothers or Mort’s are not what you get in Manhattan. They’re frozen and more like an H&H bagel’s bastard cousin.

    Now onto pizza – after eating thousands of slices of New York pizza, I am endorsing Meda Pizza By The Slice as the best of the Twin Cities. And again, worth a drive and worth a wait. Convenience only goes so far if I want to preserve my taste buds and my psyche.

  7. haha, great commentary about who is and who is not jewish. this could and has gone on forever.

    to the point of the deli, i have been there 3 times and have found the food flavorless and unoriginal in terms of either nostalgic yumminess or nouvelle considerations. i don’t need to go back.

  8. Dont they got no good food in Minnesota?

  9. I am not sure that this discussion needs another opinion from a Jewish former New Yorker, but I will offer mine. I agree with the Rabbi that this community could use a new kosher restaurant. In the meantime, I am thrilled that David and Pam have opened Rye. I live nearby and eat there as often as I can. I have given my critiques, along with my appreciation for various items on the menu. They are working hard to make this a success, and many of us are committed to helping them get there. Although I typically fly my bagels in from H&H, I am buying at least some from Rye now. Aside from the fact that it is a Jewish establishment, it is terrific to have a new place to eat in the neighborhood. And it is always a pleasure to help nice people like Pam and David live their dream.

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