We hope to start an occasional feature here on SideDish in which one of us adventurous eaters endeavors to discuss a restaurant experience with either some dinner companions or a couple of Dishers who might have expertise in the area.
For the first installment of SideDish TableTalk, I knew just where to go to round up a couple of fellow Chosen People to talk about Zinsky’s Delicatessen. What follows is the transcript of that conversation (or, if you prefer, complaint fest). We all seem to like Zinsky’s very much, but that doesn’t stop myself, “The Pastrami Kid,” and “Harry” from finding something to kvetch about. Below we discuss important Deli issues such as the one-handed sandwich, kasha knishes, and bagels. You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate this, but it helps.
Evan: Hello, gentlemen. Hello?
Pastrami Kid: I am here. Where is Harry? And Sally?
Evan: Just so everybody knows, I guess I should make this disclaimer on why we are talking about Zinsky’s deli: We are all middle-aged, all of Jewish background and all enjoy food. Oh, and we’ve all been to Zinsky’s.
Evan: So, what are your impressions?
Pastrami Kid: I like the place a lot. It’s a really comfortable place to hang out, to start with.
Pastrami Kid: Which, in itself, sets it apart from your typical NY deli.
Pastrami Kid: The waitresses are too friendly. They would never make it at the Carnegie. They actually ask you how you would like certain things made…like matzoh brie for example…”would you like that made with onions or without?”
Evan: Don’t know that they would have made it at Gilbert’s for that matter. When Harry and I went, we sat for a good 30 minutes after eating our last bite of food and not one kvetch from the staff.
Harry: Sorry I’m late, I was eating.
Pastrami Kid: Don’t talk with food in your mouth, Harry.
Evan: Very surprising, Harry. So, what were your impressions of Zinsky’s?
Harry: It is a good Dallas deli but…
Harry: Too clean. Too polite. Too goyish. I want attitude and a corned beef sandwich I need two hands to hold.
Pastrami Kid: Yeah, there is an awful lot of smiling going on.
Harry: At least the waitress, who was far too nice, didn’t ask if we wanted mayo on the corned beef.
Pastrami Kid: So you are objecting to the one-handed sandwich?
Harry: What else?
Harry: To be completely authentic here all questions should be answered with a question.
Evan: That is a good point, Harry. Like talking to my dad. I say “Hello, how are you?” He says “How am I? How should I be?”
Pastrami Kid: How about the corned beef itself?
Evan: The sandwich is rather small, I gotta say that. I want to be able to complain that “you could feed an army” with that thing, because how much fun is it if you just eat the food and enjoy it? I need to kvetch.
Pastrami Kid: OK, but you two guys are the corned beef eaters. How is the meat?
Harry: So what’s to say about the corned beef? It was OK.
Evan: I thought the Corned Beef was very good, very lean, no?
Pastrami Kid: OK? As in Stage Deli ok? As in Brooklyn ok? Or as in St Patrick’s Day with cabbage ok?
Harry: And since you didn’t ask, I thought it was a mistake to put the counter in the back. I like to peruse the goods before I buy.
Pastrami Kid: you can’t walk 10 yards to the counter??
Evan: Oy vey.
Harry: And by the way, that parking lot is crowded.
Evan: Not enough signage. Harry was walking all the way to Royal China before I stopped him.
Harry: Is there anything more Jewish than Chinese food?
Harry: I’ll say this, though, the matzoh balls were delicious. The soup not so bad, too.
Pastrami Kid: I agree on the matzoh ball soup
Evan: What do you know? Me, too. Momma, I’m sorry for saying this, but these matzoh balls might have been better than yours. Oh, I cause her such tzuris.
Evan: Two golf ball sized matzoh balls that allow for enough soup. Other places, they just try and wow with the size of their balls (that’s not a euphemism), you know what I mean? These were light and tasty.
Pastrami Kid: You could go to Royal China and throw in a few kreplach because Zinsky’s doesn’t have any. I hear they are thinking about adding them, though.
Harry: No Kreplach, no knishes, either.
Pastrami Kid: As for knishes. NO KNISHES??? Are you kidding me? They could buy the NY frozen knishes which are delicious and have them shipped down, couldn’t they? The square ones, I mean.
Harry: And there absolutely has to be kasha knishes.
Evan: I can’t get over the knish thing. What are they trying to do to me? Every other attempt at a Jewish deli in town had square knishes and they were fine. They go better with the corned beef sandwiches.
Pastrami Kid: I think kasha knishes might scare off all the gentiles.
Harry: Deli News has round knishes. Good too. But last time they slipped in a meat knish on me. Not good.
Evan: But enough about corned beef, Kid, how was the pastrami? Another one of the few “Jewish” delicacies on the menu.
Pastrami Kid: speaking of which, we need some help on the potato salad and cole slaw, no?
Pastrami Kid: OK, you asked about the pastrami? You want good pastrami? They’ve got GREAT pastrami.
Harry: Back to the soup. I asked for some, you know, crackers and they served up Tam Tams.
Evan: Tam Tams. Nice touch. My bubby used to have those.
Pastrami Kid: Serves you right for asking for crackers. The matzoh balls aren’t enough for you? You’re eating too much starch, Harry. My cardiologist says to cut out some of that white starch.
Harry: Hey, it’s not a health food restaurant.
Pastrami Kid: I know, I know. I’m just looking out for you, bubbelah.
Harry: I’ll also say this, for a fancy shmancy deli, the prices weren’t bad.
Evan: A half-sandwich and soup for $7.25 is pretty good. Even if the sandwich is small. Now, back to the sandwiches. What else have you tried besides corned beef?
Pastrami Kid: Sorry I gotta have pastrami…..it’s as good as the pastrami I recently had in New York. They slice it a little thick, but who’s complaining?
Harry: I consider myself a turkey maven. Roasted off the bone. It was not bad, right?
Evan: Here’s another concern: No chopped liver. Or gefilte fish. Not that I would ever willingly touch either one, but how can you not have that stuff there, I mean to at least scare the kids?
Evan: They have a BLT, but no tongue?
Evan: Oh wait, I just found the chopped liver. Never mind.
Harry: If you are ever in the Bronx, by Yankee Stadium, there used to be the Roxy Deli. And there was one across the street. They were crowded and delicious.
Pastrami Kid: Yeah, now across from Yankee Stadium there is a place called Yankee Stadium.
Evan: I heard nobody goes there anymore, though.
Pastrami Kid: They got two of them, side by side
Harry: Oy. Like a his and hers?
Pastrami Kid: We could have use two Ebbets Fields, I tell you that
Pastrami Kid: OK, lets talk about hot dogs.
Evan: I was thinking T.O.
Pastrami Kid: Zinsky shocked me with his hot dog….delicious.
Evan: You liked his weiner (again not a euphemism)?
Harry: I’ll tell you this…Shouldn’t they be called frankfurters or franks?
Pastrami Kid: Great buns, too….and I don’t mean the ones on that cute little waitress.
Harry: We may need to stop I am getting very hungry.
Pastrami Kid: You just ate.
Evan: Yeah, but he’s skin and bones. Skin and bones.
Evan: They are called hot dogs on the menu, but there is a mention of “franks” and “knackwurst” below. But we all know that knocks better as specials.
Harry: Exactly. Why not call a “frank” a “frank?” Who are they afraid of? The goyim?
Evan: The hot dogs are Boar’s Head. I think they were excellent. Just enough spice to the dog and, I know this is going to sound weird, but I like a good casing on my hot dog. Something that makes it go snap or crunch. Boar’s Head can make a casing, I’ll tell you that. I would have liked the dog to be grilled just a little bit more. I like my franks/dogs/weiners Cajun style – a little blackened.
Pastrami Kid: Nathans always had that crunch, a little juice flying. … Just don’t boil them like those idiots at Fenway Park.
Harry: There is no finer hot dog in the world than Nathans. And this is not a Cajun restaurant. It is a DELI!
Pastrami Kid: I think Evan was just trying to be, you know, hip.
Evan: Nathan makes a good dog. And there is no better place to play skee-ball.
Harry: Oh yes, I had the noodle kugel. It was a little too, sweet, no? Did anyone else have the sweet kugel?
Harry: And by the way now that I think of it, where was the kishka?
Pastrami Kid: No, I tried to come on to that sweet girl Kugel, but she shot me down. … But, you know, you are right. WE WANT KISHKA!
Evan: I had some of Harry’s kugel and I’m going to give my mother more worries – like if I told her I was seeing a shiksa – but I thought the kugel was good. There was some cheesy filling – farmers cheese, maybe? Almost like eating a blintze.
Harry: I’m guessing you give your mom tsuris in your every waking hour.
Pastrami Kid: Kishka and knishes; kishka and knishes. We could get some picket signs and stand outside the restaurant.
Pastrami Kid: If it ever gets below 90 degrees. You can get a serious shvitz out there.
Harry: Pastrami you are a mensh. That’s not the Jewish thing to do. Stand outside and picket? Please.
Pastrami Kid: That’s revolutionary in my neighborhood, but I’ve already filled the suggestion box to overflowing.
Evan: And how can they not have an early bird special? What about all of us who want to eat dinner at 4 or 4:30.
Pastrami Kid: yeah, they are open late, though, on Friday and Saturday.
Pastrami Kid: OK, how about the elephant in the room???? B-A-G-E-L-S
Harry: Didn’t taste the bagels. How were they?
Evan: Uh-oh, Harry, you asked the wrong question. Here he goes …
Pastrami Kid: THEY MIGHT MAKE IT IN OMAHA … NOT IN NY OR DALLAS. They are too tough and have very little taste. Look, New Yorkers are the worst snobs in the world. But they are dead on about their bagels. There are no New York bagels in Dallas.
Evan: But let’s be fair: Is there a good bagel in Dallas?
Harry: There are lots of good bagels in Dallas. They are all at the airport passing through in sack lunches.
Pastrami Kid: Cindy’s has tasty bagels but they are not New York bagels. Actually, Einstein’s has the closest thing to a NY bagel. … But the lox was good at Zinsky’s and the vegetable cream cheese shmear was fine.
Harry: Einstein’s, oy vey! Maybe you got hit in the head with a foul ball?
Pastrami Kid: Relatively speaking, Einstein’s are ok.
Evan: Since I’m in New York at the moment, I am planning to go actually pay for a bagel later on. Just as research, you know.
Pastrami Kid: Hell just froze over.
Harry: Early bird special? Do they have an “Early Bird” at Zinsky’s.
Evan: No. No early bird. You want to eat at 4:30? No problem. You are still going to pay full price.
Harry: Just a thought.
Pastrami Kid: Good idea. Early birds, knishes, kishka, fly in some New York bagels.
Harry: Don’t forget Kasha.
Evan: But they do cater Bar Mitzvahs. Says so right on the menu. I, also, am available for Bar Mitvahs. Weddings. And Bris, too.
Evan: So, you two mensches, I take it that for all the lack of the foods that disgusted us in our childhood, you would go back to Zinsky’s?
Harry: Would I go back? Why not? … Actually, I’d go back in a heart beat.
Pastrami Kid: I will go back there regularly if they don’t change the pastrami, the matzoh ball soup, and the hot dog.
Evan: But we gotta have the Ks, right? Knishes, Kreplach, Kasha and Kishka, right?
Harry: And kugel.
Evan: They have kugel, dumkopf, you just didn’t like it.
Harry: Oh, yeah. I didn’t like it. … I’d still go back in a heartbeat.