Thursday, April 23, 2009

2nd Ave Kosher Deli on 3rd Ave

2nd Avenue Deli is a Kosher delicatessen that opened in 1954. It's named after its original location (and location until 2006) on 2nd Ave in the East Village. This is their new location in Murray Hill (on 162 East 33rd Street near Third Avenue). What's more impressive than their hours (open from 6 am to 2 am on weekdays and from 6 am to 4 am on weekends), is that we were told this deli would have one of the best corned beef sandwiches we'd ever try. We were more than willing to confirm or dispute that statement.

The deli looked different from how we thought (or rather, assumed) it would look. For some reason, we thought it would look something like Katz's. It was a lot more cleaner and polished looking than Katz's but not as cluttered with celebrityism and tourism like Carnegie's. This was probably the most spic and span looking deli we've been to. The space was also very narrow; you will be elbow to elbow trying to get to a table here.

The tiled walls were coverd with Yiddish theatre images.

Before we even ordered our meal, we were treated to this - great load of pickles (which for two people was way too much), cole slaw (which I normally hate but this was pretty good - light and without that runny milky schtuff), and gribenes (our first time having these crisp thin pieces of deep fried chicken skin and semi-burnt onions). The gribenes were delicous and would better serve as beer companions than peanuts at bars. They also give you a ton of challah bread. We're not sure if they were trying to give your stomach a sort of warm up with all this food before the meat marathon. Question to ponder - if you only eat two pickles, what do they do with the rest?

The Matzoh ball soup with carrots and noodles were great (you can also choose rice or Kasha instead of the noodles). We loved that our waiter evenly split the soup between the two of us and mashed up the ball for us. We appreciate good service.

The most important part of the visit is tasting their sandwiches. When we saw the large Carnegie Deli-esque size of the sandwiches that the two men next to us had ordered, we knew we had to do some sort of split deal since we had a full day ahead of us and could not afford to be dragging our feet (and tums around). (Later, the two men who started out by saying the sandwiches weren't big enough for them could barely finish half their sandwiches). The perfect solution was to order their "Twin Double" where you get one corned beef and one hot pastrami on twin junior rolls for $19.95. This was the perfect portion for two people who just had Matzoh ball soup and the restaurant's generous free appetizers. The corned beef was delicious but we're not quite ready to say it's the best. The pastrami was incredibly moist and tender (one of the best, but for some reason we still preferred Katz's just a bit more), made more perfect by dipping it in the mustard. The sandwiches were great but not phenomenal only because they were served at room temperature. There's something to be said for sandwiches served hot. We actually loved this served on the junior rolls instead of the average deli breads because it allowed us to eat it easily without the bread breaking or crumbling, despite the size and weight of the meat. In keeping with the tradition, we would like them to create a rye roll.

As we received our bill, our waiter brought us this complementary chocolate soda. It was unique and a great way to end the meal. A very nice touch. Hey, one of the best last impressions a restaurant can make is with a delicious FREE treat. Getting back to our waiter, our waiter was how all waiters in the city should be - a friendly gentleman with great personality that kept checking in on us to make sure our food was good. When he handed us our bill, he said "take your time." We loved that we didn't feel so rushed and moved along like numbered cattled in this fast-faced restaurant.

When I was standing in the long line to the restroom (only two unisex toilets), the woman in front of me with an accent reminiscent of Stephanie Mangano in Saturday Night Fever was schooling a tourist who didn't know much about 2nd Ave Deli by telling her "this is the best deli in Manhattan period. You have to order the chopped liver or you don't know what you're ordering." I guess we have much to try, including the chopped liver. Other things on their menu: Gefilte fish, stuffed derma (kishke), ptcha, blintzes, pierogen, kreplach, knishes, tip tongue (extra lean) sandiwhc, center tongue sandwich, knoblewurst, three decker sanwiches like their roast turkey/brisket/chicken fat sandwich, boiled beef in a pot with mushroom barley soup, baked carp, and broiled chicken livers. Their recently added appetizing corner include fish such as sable, pastrami salmon, whitefish chubs, pickled lox in wine sauce, herring in parve cream sauce, schmaltz herring, and kosher crab salad. Their desserts include chocolate babka, rugalach, warm apple strudel, and halvah. They also serve beer and wine (both a bit expensive for a deli). But of all the things that were listed on their huge menu that stood out for me just becuase you rarely see it was their tongue omelet. When was the last time you went to brunch and ordered tongue omelet?

By the way, we love this recent New York Times article on 2nd Ave Deli. We love that it's like having a meal with Nora Ephron and thanks to her we've got another place we'd like to explore.

The worst part of this 2nd Ave Deli experience for us was exiting the restaurant. For some reason, we hadn't noticed the $100,000 Reward Poster on its door asking for help in solving the 2006 murder of the 2nd Ave Deli's founder Abe Lebewohl.

One half of us has a cholesterol problem so we wont' be making frequent trips here (nevermind the fact that we'd much rather have visted it in East Village than the snoozeorhood Murray Hill location); however, we're determined to go back. There's a lot on the artery clogging menu we'd like to try and although the pastrami might have been better at Katz's, 2nd Ave Deli made you feel more welcomed and appreciated for giving them business. We get the whole "rude deli counter person" schtick but sometimes you just want to be treated with respect when you're paying for your meal. And that's what we got at 2nd Ave Deli.