Pastrami Wars: A Rebuttal

morrissey via Flickr
Here at New Times, we're accustomed to getting comments on our blog, invitations from PR flacks, and queries from friends wondering whether the food critic might be a tad lonely and need a companion for dinner. But it's not every day that a reader sits down to write a full-fledged literary criticism/rebuttal to a restaurant review.

A gentleman tried to post the following as a comment but had technical difficulties, so he asked me to put it up instead. What the hell -- it can have its own post.

He was responding to this article about a writer's quest for a great Jewish deli.
SUBJECT: Pastrami Wars
LETTER: I tried to submit a response. it doesn't seem like it got through, could you please post?

First you are right, every spot has its shortcomings and long suits. Most likely no way can you find out the hidden treasures or hidden disasters in one sitting.

You take on Zingers with your first meal. The matzo ball soup comment could have been phrased as such: "The Matzo Ball was large enough for a full meal and dominated the cup it came in and because the broth was salty, it gave the Matzo Ball great flavor. I will spend an extra penny next time and try ordering a Bowl, which I expect to share."
You made a point to harp on the broth and never mentioned the number of qualities a matzo ball has. Zingers does a good job in the kitchen and the Matzo ball is no exception. Your Rachel comment spoke highly of the pastrami and corned beef. Spending money to eat at a deli doesn't need to go further than, "I liked the pastrami and corned beef." Your story title speaks of this importance. If you would have mentioned that the sides seemed plain first, and that you enjoyed the meats last, your readers would be more inclined to try Zingers and you would have gotten your point across just the same.

What you left off about Zinger's is this:
1. The portions are healthy sized.
2. The lunch specials include 3 different wraps on 3 different wrappings with a beverage, best taste and deal to be enjoyed. And a brisket sandwich with beverage is often a part of the lunch specials.
3. Not on the menu, half sandwich and cup of soup, good choice.
4. Ask for your Pastrami lean, mmmmmmmm good.
5. Their TV's do add to the lack of atmosphere.
6. As you mention on the fringe, there is an undercurrent of expertise and desire to get the main dish right, not often mastered at many eateries.

If management pays a bit more attention as you eluted, when mentioning the sides, and to its customers, this joint can go from an undiscovered belly pleaser into a line waiting out the door kind of success.

You lead into the Matzo ball soup with a comment stating the place seemed too corporate to produce good food, and then say the soup changed your mind, but I feel your comments were not complimentary on the soup?

You stick to the broth being the soup's biggest feature. I still contend it is the matzo ball in the dish called matzo ball soup and its presentation.

You say the matzo ball looked lonely and I agree. It is a wide bowl and the presentation looks bland. Although the staff is not opposed to giving you a slice of rye bread to give the matzo ball some company, it isn't provided and the absence of a Wolfie's-similar basket of assorted rolls definitely comes into to play here.

You next mention the 2 balabusta-ing deli meats of Pastrami and Corned Beef. Your lead to the article said, "Where do I suggest people go for corned beef since Wolfie's is gone?" Your comment about Ben's meats, "Wolfie's comparable." Whether you know it or not, you said a "mouthful." Ben's offers the best Pastrami in south Florida, no ifs ands or buts, kind of the answer to your quest.

Although I felt you happen stanced their reference within your story, you hit it on the head by putting a picture of Ben's pastrami in the article saying it is a "hit."

Your final comments center around Ben's failures. Potato pancakes -- now this is a subject for a book to be written.

If you ever had them made by your grandmother, anyone else's would have a tough time living up to that memory. That said, I find most delis do not pay attention to the delicate delicacy potato pancakes are supposed to be. Such a sad commentary. No matter how much Ben fails, and I agree that it does, their pastrami is to die for. Did I already say that?

I believe the establishment's shortcomings are derived from 2 areas. These are New Yorkers and they aren't interested in your opinions. (Although they don't have to be from NY to have that marvelous trait.)

And, what you left out that may get them a small class of devoted customers is, the restaurant observes Kosher cooking. Many many recipes cannot be duplicated on premises. This is not to say Kosher cooking is bland, but when you have to compensate for this specialty, more attention needs be included in the preparation of their dishes, i.e, their Matzo ball soup dish. Challah for one is basically only offered on Friday, yet if placed on the table daily, the rigid failures would have an easier time becoming culinary daydreams.

PS: I just discovered maybe the best waiter on this planet. He handles tables that are situated surrounding the hostess, good luck.

You are absolutely right about the Maître d, he is great, but the corollary isn't, if someone else is watching the house, watch your back.

Your dinner rolls with a free drink sound great, I'll be right over!  What I can add is the breakfasts come with free pound cake.

Your review of their menu, which seemed more extensive than the prior 2 stops, did not get me all warm and fuzzy? Further stating that a smothered with other ingredient pastrami tasted ok?

Flakowitz has a gold mine in Boynton, because they were there first, not because of the cuisine. Management has a tough time 'catering" to its customers, but Boynton is growing fast and putting the customer first will either become a top priority or other new establishments will benefit. BTW, The bakery is top notch!

General thoughts:
Although you make the proper play to compare each restaurant's dishes like the Matzo ball soup, not comparing straight out Pastrami and Corned beef sandwiches may have been a mistake. A Rachel is the kitchen sink of sandwiches -- that makes it very tricky to comment on a particular ingredient from the sandwich, as it is being influenced by the other players, and handicapping Pastrami cannot be taken lightly, if you are going to eat deli.

Matzo ball soup is prepared best at Toojays. If these 3 joints would check this competition out, the game could become more enjoyable. ... Toojays also hits a home run with their rye bread, best in town.

On an editorial point, pointing out likes and dislikes are what reviews are all about, by the way you presented each establishment, I don't feel tempted to try any of them. I hope I have given you some ideas on how to not only please the readers, and please the targets, but possibly also be pleased with potential advertising your concern wouldn't mind having as an outcome.

Happy Day

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About six grafs down --"eluted?"  Hunh? 


Ugh. This guy is even duller than Barton. And like Barton, he hasn't convinced me to waste gas going to any place mentioned.

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