Let’s Build the Perfect Dallas Delicatessen

We’ve reminisced about old Dallas delicatessens (Phils, Gilbert’s, Wall’s) and we’ve criticized the new ones that failed (Roaster’s, Zinsky’s) and the one’s still in business (Deli-News).  Let’s pretend that we have been hired by a company to build the perfect delicatessen for Dallas. Big sandwiches? Great bagels? Acme smoked fish? What? Whaddayawant?! I say, bring back the blueberry cheesecake from  Phil’s! Spill it people, somebody with money is looking for your ideas.

37 comments on “Let’s Build the Perfect Dallas Delicatessen

  1. Marc Stanley’s mother (Renie) would make the brisket….. best I’ve ever tasted.

  2. My opinion: the food at Roasters and Zinsky’s was great. It’s not the food — it’s the location. When do people buy deli food? For lunch and on their way home from work … so putting delis in North Dallas away from offices makes little sense. A great deli would thrive in uptown. I’m choking down yet another Potbelly sub for lunch today.

  3. 1. North Dallas… probably on Preston. Maybe Far North Dallas.
    2. Reasonably priced
    3. Simple, if not bare bones decor. I will not pay for anyone’s fancy interior.
    4. Homemade bagles for breakfast. Not homemade? Then don’t bother.
    5. Plenty of space for lunch.
    6. Not worried or interested in dinner

  4. I want deli sandwiches, but always have trouble deciding. How about slider-type mini deli sandwich plates (e.g., pastrami, chicken salad, mini-bagel & lox)? Compare to salad sampler plates. A pain to prepare, but…cha-ching!

  5. And – please have good service. Spare me the fake, overly friendly, BSy service — I mean competent, efficient service.

  6. Jesus [censored] Christ, this ain’t that hard. Look at any decent deli menu like Deli-News, Katz’s or Canters and duplicate that EXACT food but on a smaller scale.

    The problem with eating Jewish food is 16 hours later you’re hungry again. BWHAHAHAHA!!

  7. Okay, Scagnetti, since you don’t think it’s hard you are going to be our general manager. FYI, the owners of Zinksy’s went to all of the delis above plus about a zillion others. Some things you can’t duplicate. LIKE BAGELS? What do you mean by smaller scale. People complained about the smaller sandwiches at Zinsky’s. You are oversimplifying a big problem. But you will learn this on your first day as GM and we tell you we want the same pastrami as Katz’s and you can’t do it. Plus, each of the delis mentioned in your comment do potato salad differently.

  8. What we need is:
    Real quality meats…Carnegie Deli cures their own corned beef. There are local purveyors that can do that…if not then get really good meats brought in. The mark of a truly good deli is the corned beef and pastrami…anything less dooms it to fast food.
    Smoked fish is mandatory…Central Market has no problem bringing in really high quality nova, lox and smoked whitefish and salmon.
    The bagels and bialys are best fresh and local. Again the tipping point is a quality bagel…if they are less than the best a deli cannot survive.
    It is not about the decor but simple high quality ingrdients. Put it at Preston/Royal and people will come…look at Purple Cow. There is nothing special about it but a simple good menu and location.
    The problem is that our expectations about a deli are much higher and we are disappointed when it falls short.

  9. (I saw the Friday post first so I’m reposting comments here.)
    I think everyone has a different definition of a “real” NY deli. For some, it’s the lox/fish. For some it’s the bagels. Others have to have a certain style of sandwich or have homemade matzah ball soup. Maybe it’s too much to ask of a restaurant in Dallas, even in a neighborhood with a lot of Jews. Deli News may actually have a better location because most of the New York transplants (excluding ultra-religious Jews) from the last 30 years live north of LBJ. North Dallas/Preston Hollow has the old guard– people who have never lived in NY. There are plenty of exceptions, including many of us on this blog, but there aren’t enough of us to sustain a deli down south.
    Most people in Dallas like places that “proudly serve Boar’s Head,” not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  10. I will echo
    1) Good corned beef, pastrami
    2) Good lox, white fish really good if they cure their own Salmon.
    3) Fresh bagels, bialys
    4) Fresh home made Knish
    5) Other fresh baked good Rugelach, sugar free Rugelach …
    6) Mile high or regular sandwich
    7) Reasonably priced all though this would not be a deal breaker
    8) Wait staff that knows what they are serving. Either Jewish staff for at least educated staff.
    9) Almost forgot really good condiments including house pickles.

  11. *I will not go to a Jewish Deli for dinner
    *I will not drive to North Dallas for lunch
    =I will not go to a Jewish Deli in North Dallas.

    Hell, Put a crappy one in uptown, I’ll go!
    @ALM I’m funking sick of Potbelly too

  12. @NN: First of all, NOBODY is going to have pastrami like Katz’s. And don’t tell me that in order to have a successful deli you must have an Old World pastrami recipe brought over from Romania by your Bubbe.

    What I mean by smaller scale is you don’t need an 8 page menu, which some delis and Greek diners are notorious for. Just serve the basic salted meats, hot dogs, lox & bagels, smoked fish, etc. but always use the good stuff.

    Also, as GM I would not allow any shiksas in except for you Nancy dahlink, you’d always be welcome.

  13. I think the concept here needs to be turned on its ear… Executing a wide raning jewish styled deli is a daunting and seemingly expensive enterprise, seldom duplicated well outside of NYC.

    I personally think the best part of any deli is the corned beef/pastrami… it needs to be done in house and most importantly needs to be sliced thicker and not sliced until you order it. I would imagine no place in Dallas has done that is because it is not feasible financially.

    Another problem I have with Dallas delis are the size of the sandwiches. Why must a ruben be the size of my head and cost 15 bucks? If I can’t eat it in one sitting (and I’m a big dude) its TOO FREAKING BIG!

    Since you asked I wonder if it would work to have a deli/counter service restaurant that focuses primarily of making the best pastrami/corned beef around, offer a number of different sizes, hot/cold, cheese or not. Obviously you would have to also carry the normal assortment of other cold cuts, etc. Execute quality sides and salad products (matzoh ball soup, tuna fish, potato salad, pasta salad, house made kettle chips, maybe even a few entree salads, etc)

    I wouldn’t even try to go for the bagel market or breakfast for that matter. Probably no separate dinner menu, brisket, etc.

    Do something really well (pastrami/corned beef) and I think if you kept the operation small there is a chance it could catch on and hold on. I know I’d eat there.

  14. There are near-perfect delis in dozens of cities around the US – those models work. The problem in Dallas is not the Delis, it’s the complex combination of food, [lack of] culture, clientèle, and history. Successful delis in other cities have a rich tradition, they have something to work for- and they have regulars who spread the gospel (or Jewish equiv). Dallasites are shallow, trite, and ADD. The only way a deli succeeds here is if one of the best in the world (via NYC) open up and tell us how great they are. No one else will have the combination of passion, quality, and [not-fore] skins to get it done.

  15. Deli-News is already perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing (except maybe make it a little closer).

  16. Some really good stuff here people. DarnellErwinFletcher, the funny thing about sandwich size is that people expect deli sandwiches to be the size of my, (best,Beat) head. Then others complain they are too big. When Zinsky’s opened and did I think 8-0z meat portions, people complained they weren’t real deli sandwiches. A friend of mine just came back from NYC. He went to Carnegie Deli and paid $52 for two pastrami sandwiches and two cans of Coke. And people here were bitching about $14. I also agree with you folks who suggest breakfast and lunch only. Leave the evenings for catering. Bagels have always been a problem here–whoever solves that riddle is golden. Agree meats should be house cured. Offer two sizes of sandwiches. No mustard in potato salad. And a special seating area for shiksas and eaters of white bread.

  17. Maybe NY delis don’t work here because not enough people want them. This is Texas. We prefer the taco, which, in its infinite varieties, is far superior to cold meat on bread, however nice or house cured it might be.

    I have been to NYC and have eaten at almost all the delis mentioned on this thread. The best corned beef sandwich in the world, is still just a corned beef sandwich. The best bagel in the world, is still just chewey dough that was boiled before it was baked. It’s just not that good. We have figured that out here. So, move on.

  18. Oy, vey. Me? Basically, ditto Gipson. But I want, Baked, not fried knishes! Properly cured meats and beautiful, NYC style crusty, soft textured rye bread. Bialys and water boiled and baked on premises bagels. Ba-Tampte (brand) pickles, mustard, and sour kraut. Real “greek” olives served with all the smoked fish dishes. Chicken soup made on site (without bouillon cubes) from real (preferably, kosher) chickens. Sweet and sour cabbage borsht and HOMEMADE, NOT FROZEN blintzes filled with everything from onion and potato to fruit and served with Daisy (brand) real sour cream. Damn, we’ve certainly have enough Russian Jewish expats in Dallas who know how to cook and prepare these all dishes. Make use of their cooking skills!
    I want, FRESH, silky smoked nova and sturgeon and, NOTHING PREVIOUSLY FROZEN! And of course, freshly baked ruggelah, chocolate bobka, and poppyseed, cheese, and prune danish. All with that beautiful brown glazed finish that comes from an egg wash before baking.
    Personally speaking, I know it ain’t ever going to happen. But, if it does, please be sure and let me know when and where they open.

  19. I miss Wolfie’s in Miami! Half sour pickles and pickled tomatoes on every table. Great bagels, and meats. Open, and always packed morning, noon, and night.

  20. @LJT: Try the NYC style potato salad from Deli-News.
    No eggs, no mustard. The best PS in Dallas, by far!

  21. Darnell, I have no desire to eat a corned beef or pastrami sandwich. We all want something different. I want roast turkey sliced off the bird, soft black and whites, potato knishes, rich golden challah tall enough for a sandwich, salami and eggs, whitefish salad, the elusive perfect sesame bagel, and matzah ball soup. 1/2 sours and cole slaw on the table, too. Next week I’m going to NY and coming home with H&H and challah from Cherly Ann’s in Brookline.

  22. I’m with Lee. Deli cuisine is the Grateful Dead of the restaurant world…Everyone remembers it better than it ever was.

  23. Why not go in a unique direction and offer Montreal style “smoked meat” a la Schwartz’s? I know us Texans love smoked meat, and it’s a step above pastrami. It’s even cut straight from the whole brisket right in front of you so you can watch it all being made. Sure it’s Canadian, but it fits here in BBQ country.

  24. The Ritz was hands down the best deli that Dallas has ever had. Now if someone could manage to find out who was behind that one and reserect the old menu ….they might have a goldmine.
    It was located downtown on S. Akard..? or closeby. The food was awesome and the lines were long. It closed every day about 2….and it closed for good in the 70s.

  25. I remember, and loved the Ritz Deli. They flourished back then not only because their deli food was authentic NYC style but also because of a much more vibrant downtown and a proliferation of business conventions that filled the numerous, large downtown hotels with business people and tourists. Remember the Baker Hotel?

  26. Nice! 24 hours is a great idea. Now, TWillie, can I ask you a personal question? Are you Jewish? If so, you can be our Director of Jewish Decisions. In or out?

  27. Yes, I’m In! I am Jewish but, non-praticing. Although, I do practice the oldest known Jewish custom of, fressing!
    Or as gentiles know it, eating!

  28. I just re-read Scagnettie’s post way up above. Brilliant!
    Laughed my a$$ off at the last paragraph. How true.