Don Bauder 5:30 p.m., March 10
Wish for knish
This Hillcrest restaurant throws down with big plates of deli food
Confession: I had always assumed that City Delicatessen in Hillcrest would suck. The internal system of hints and warnings, which is usually reliable to me, sounded the alarm every time I travelled past on University Ave. Keep going, the voice of reason said, there’s nothing for you there. It turns out that I was wrong and that my love of Jewish comfort food has been inches from satisfaction this whole time.
The place is modelled, more or less, after venerable institutions like the Carnegie Deli in NYC and other bastions of corned beef and bagel consumption. When I finally went into City Deli, I was thrilled to see a menu replete with knishes, noodle kugel, matzoh, whitefish, and pastrami.
I dove straight into the vat of pickles at the center of the table.
“But...sanitation?” my companions wanted to know.
“They’re pickles,” I said. “The most sanitary food there is. Eat them.”
The matzoh ball soup featured an enormous dumpling afloat in a briny sea of chicken consomme and aromatic veggies. Perfect to ward off the chill of a cooler evening.
A plate of brisket and smoked tongue, in no uncertain terms, a heroic portion of food. Half a pound of meat lurked beneath a ladle-full of brown gravy and a few steamed veggies hung out at the periphery. The secret star of the show, not just a mere side dish, was the huge latke (potato pancake) that came with ramekins of sour cream and applesauce. Very much in the Polish style, the latke was studded with onion, garlic, and bits of shredded potato.
I even managed to get an egg cream. It looks like a chocolate milkshake, but the egg cream is made with soda water and the frothiness comes from beaten egg whites so it’s much lighter than an ice cream drink.
For the sake of objectivity, City Delicatessen gets a little pricey for what it is. Entrees broach the $20 mark and, while the portions are generous, the fare is neither fancy nor artful. It’s certainly best to stick to the deli stuff--the corned beef and kugel--and maybe end with a slice of cheesecake. The wonderful phenomenon of eating comfort foods until you burst is its own kind of special joy. There’s no denying that money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can buy latkes.
535 University Avenue