Jewish Delicatessens: Not Your Local Sub Shop

The best delis have an adjoining bakery which sells authentic bagels, bialys, cookies and rolls, along with take-out foods and salads. Some of the old timers like the Stage Deli and the Carnegie Deli have gone the way of the dinosaur (go figure) but some still flourish, especially in NYC, Chicago and of course Miami. We’re not talking sandwich or sub shops here, we’re talking honest-to-gosh authentic delis where you’d swear grandma was making matzo balls in the kitchen. Here is what you can expect to find if you venture into a good one:

Lox and bagels or bialys, with or without a schmear of cream cheese (if they don’t serve these, you made a wrong turn and you’re at Subway)

A comforting bowl of matzo ball soup – a light dumpling made with matzo meal in chicken broth, or kreplach, a heavier meat-filled dumpling

Borekas – filled pastries made of a thin flaky phyllo dough and filled with spinach, cheese or sometimes meat (also a Greek dish)

Kugel – popular baked noodle dish, can be sweet or savory

Shashuka – spicy dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin

Potato latkes – your basic potato pancakes, served with applesauce and sour cream

Brisket and pastrami sandwiches – best served warm on Jewish rye with lots of mustard, coleslaw on the side

Blintzes – usually fruit fill and served with sour cream, similar to a crepe

Potato knishes – a heavier dumpling-type usually filled with, potato and onions

Reuben sandwich – classic grilled sandwich with corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing (you can go “lighter” with turkey) delicious

Potato salad and coleslaw – the perfect side dish, creamy and plenty of it

Matzo breh – pieces of matzoh lightly sauteed in butter and scrambled with eggs, the perfect breakfast

Chocolate egg cream – a tall drink with a splash of milk, flavored syrup and fizzy water (no egg or cream)

Chopped liver – usually a plate with a mound of chopped liver, accompanied by sliced onions, tomatoes, chopped egg and served with rye bread

Kosher dill pickles – the best, say no more

Brown mustard – the spicier the better (forget that yellow stuff)

Gefilte fish – not high on everyone’s favorites but a traditional white fish and part of a traditional holiday meal, served cold

Matzo – flat tasteless popular cracker, part of a traditional Jewish passover meal

Kasha – buckwheat groats, pretty tasteless but very traditional (great source of fiber)

Babka – coffee cake

Loaves of braided challah, a traditional sweet holiday bread which usually contains raisins, similar to a brioche

Sufganiyot – a jelly donut

Rugelah – a sweet rolled dough cookie filled with raisins and nuts

Many Jewish dishes of course have a similar version in neighboring countries like Poland, the Mediterranean countries and Russia, and many are part of a traditional holiday meal such as Passover. But what has evolved into the classic delicatessen, with its mile high sandwiches, matzo ball soup and chopped liver is unique unto itself. The waiters are rude and rushed, the portions are large, and the customers are hungry. What’s not to like?