Speaking of food; when it comes to love; Kosher Deli's right up there in a dead heat with Italian. I eat Italian way more often, but that's not about preference. It's neurotic self-control. I mean, if I ate Kosher Deli more often, I'd be a balloon and as for nutrition, fageddaboutit.
It helps in that real Kosher Deli—real's a big word for me—is hard to find; especially when you're not in New York.
I mean there's pastrami which is a transporting culinary experience; and then there's pastrami which is not.
Ditto for corned beef and tongue and chopped liver and all the rest. Even the texture of the rye bread; and the dressing; and visually; the way your sandwich is put together; and the coleslaw; the potato salad. The pickles, too, play a big part. All essential to the unique Kosher Deli experience.
I mean from the moment you walk through the door and you're overwhelmed by that unbelievably complex aroma, you know you've entered heaven.
For years, the Stage Deli on Seventh Ave, a couple of blocks away from my office in the Tishman building, was my favorite and I'd have lunch there two or three times a week. Always mobbed—every table taken; people standing in line; Max Asnas, sole owner then; walking up and down checking eaters; clapping his hands frequently: "Make room for new players! Make room for new players!"
When my office moved across town I was close to tears. Second Avenue Deli saved my life; just walking in through the door and being overwhelmed by that unique; impossible to fake; real—real, again—aroma; and the line of people waiting to be seated; and seeing the lunch platters being assembled for delivery all over the city; in the vans lined up outside waiting to be loaded.
And for me, years in the making; a history of love; it's a feeling beyond a simple, Boy am I hungry.
And when, I order my Pastrami, lean—that's a joke-and-a-half—on rye; Russian dressing and a side of potato salad and without asking, coleslaw and half-sour Kosher pickles arrive, and within minutes here comes my pastrami, lean, on rye; and I take my first bite and there's no comparison. I don't care with what.
The menu is unbelievable; irresistible; endless; everything and anything you could possibly ever want.
But, save just a little room for the seven layer cake.