Serious pastrami sandwich from 2nd Ave. Deli (photo: Steve Dolinsky)
I know Manny’s has been around a long time, and the 11 City Diner surely tries to keep tradition alive, albeit in a modern setting, but it’s really hard to compare the Jewish deli experience in Chicago with what is available in New York City. ‚ You’ve got Katz’s and the Carnegie (a bit overrated, frankly), but the 2nd Ave. Deli is still one of the best delis in America. ‚ You’re looking at a a fraction of my lunch yesterday. ‚ That pastrami was not only juicy, but it had a splendid outer crust of pepper and spices, while the interior had just the right amount of fat; the entire sandwich was properly cured and sliced and was barely held between two soft slices of rye. ‚ Naturally, man does not nosh on pastrami alone, so I also led off with a magnificent bowl of matzo ball soup:
Here is where NYC really dominates. ‚ The broth was clear and yet seemed to be jammed with chicken-y flavor. ‚ The matzo ball - a perfectly-formed sphere that was neither sinker nor floater; just a perfectly balanced mound of matzo meal, chicken fat and eggs. ‚ Extra points for the toothsome sliced carrots, mini-squares of pasta and flecks of freshly-chopped dill. ‚ Northwestern Hospital should seriously consider using this recipe in place of penicillin. ‚ Another two outstanding starters: the free pickles and the dense kishke:
Two types of pickles for the price of none (photo: Steve Dolinsky)
Like everything else at 2nd Ave. (which, incidentally, has moved from its original location and is now at 33rd St., just a few doors west of 3rd Ave.) the recipes are replicated with almost reverential adherence to old customs, as if the pictures of the Yiddish actors and famous Jewish leaders on the wall were observing, watching, just to make sure everything was being cooked by the predominantly Mexican kitchen staff as they should be. ‚ Turnover is high, so everything is fresh, and while the corned beef in my half-and-half sandwich was just o.k., the warm, thinly-sliced tongue was as good as any Jewish offal I’ve had; when slathered in the Deli’s famous, assertive mustard, it was certainly worth kvelling over.