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 V.15 No.12 | March 23 - 29, 2006 

Restaurant Review

New York Style Delicatessen and Café

What are they, chopped livah?

Chuck the Ownah takes a breathah
Jennifer Wohletz
Chuck the Ownah takes a breathah

There are a few "sch"-prefixed words that inspire a thought-provoking sort of glee: schmuck, schlitz and, of course, schmaltz. But what in the tap-dancing world is schmaltz? Yummy, gooey gobs of chicken fat used to flavor meat dishes both hot and cold. And with this hand-rendered ingredient being a rarity west of New York, deli owner Chuck Ferry, aka "Chuck the Ownah," may be tapping into an underrated market here in the sweet, spicy Burque.

New York Style Delicatessen and Café is the most recent incarnation of the old Bagel Jo's on San Mateo, revamped last October by the ostensibly retired Ferry and his band of merry employees, which includes Manager Joe, aka "Joey the Bake-ah," who stayed on from Bagel Jo's.

I walked into the place, ordered my lunch from the massive wall menu and immediately got a Brooklyn sandwich spot vibe, since Connie, aka "Connie the Servah," waited on me like she knew me, and brought the sass.

Food so good it makes us a little ferclempt
Jennifer Wohletz
Food so good it makes us a little ferclempt

Imagine the following dialogue with a nice, thick East Coast accent.

"Connie, will ya bring me a tahmayto?" hollers Joe from the front.

"LOVE yous," yells Connie from the back.

"Love YOUS," replies Joe.

What I love about this place is not only the wiseacre staff, but the true authenticity of the whole place; the food, atmosphere and people are all unpretentious.

The menu is breakfast and typical deli fare, but with an emphasis on quality products like Boar's Head meats, breads from TLC Bakery and homemade sandwich fillers like smoked whitefish salad and chopped liver spread.

It doesn't get any better than the chopped liver platter ($9) and I lucked out—they only had enough for a half order, so I got to augment my plate with a healthy scoop of the whitefish salad. The salads were quality: cold, meaty and not overwhelmingly oniony, but the unique touch was the veritable relish tray that accompanied. I got a plate loaded with diced tomato, leaf lettuce, pickles, olives, green onions, radishes, peppers and hard-boiled egg halves.

The water bagels are perfection, and a complement to the bagel gods high atop the mountain. Crisp, glossy outsides and dense, chewy insides make them unbeatable when compared to the offerings of their corporate brothers and sisters.

"Einstein bagels?" gasped Joe, "those aren't even bagels—they're bread with holes in 'em."

The matzo ball soup ($2 cup, $2.50 bowl) was also quite good, the secret being the real roasted chicken broth with no hint of bouillon. Ferry is proud of his prowess with regard to fowl preparation. He gave me the rundown on his schmaltz, which is the key ingredient in the chopped liver, giving it that paté-like consistency.

Another house specialty is the Taylor Pork Roll ($6 full sandwich, $4 half), which Joe describes as a "New Jersey delicacy, usually eaten after a night of heavy drinking." It consists of a hard roll, a nice hard-fried egg and cheese, with "Jersey gravy" optional. The things people will call ketchup never fails to astound.

The rest of the menu is old favorites like pastrami, corned beef, turkey and salami, and come with sides of cottage cheese, potato salad, macaroni salad or baked beans.

And what deli would be complete without lox and bagel? They serve Nova lox, thick-sliced with your choice of fresh bagel and all the trimmings for $9.

The cheesecake is made in-house, and worth more than the $3 price because the slice is ample and fruit-smothered.

There is an extensive beverage selection here with everything from fresh-squeezed lemonade to gourmet sodas. Heck, they even have Yoo-hoo.

"I like it with Bailey's," says Joe.

My love for this deli was diminished by their cappuccino dispenser. I was expecting the cappuccinos here to be real, but instead they come from (deep breath) one of those push button machines that you see in gas stations. C'mon guys—you can do bettah.

Overall, the delicatessen passes muster, and I can see the ample to-go deli platters being very popular around the holidays. I left pleased with yet another restaurant changeover, but I couldn't help but wonder if Joe was really going to make Connie wash all those dishes by herself. It sucks to be on that end of the schmaltz.

The Alibi Recommends:
Taylor Pork Roll minus the Jersey gravy
Hot pastrami sandwich
Bagels, any kind with homemade schmear
Yoo-hoo (with or without Bailey's)

New York Style Delicatessen and Café, 3115 San Mateo NE, 883-0020; Hours: Mon. thru Sat. 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Sundays. Price range: Inexpensive. No smoking, credit cards accepted, catering, deli platters to-go.

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