For the third year in a row, I’m going to attempt to eat every single item on Time Out New York’s annual 100 Best Dishes list. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100. Let the gluttony continue…
I thought I was never going to visit Liebman’s Deli again. Not because the first time wasn’t memorable, but because it’s in the Bronx in the quaint neighborhood of Riverdale and there’s not a whole lot of reason to make the trek. Even the stellar corned beef and pastrami on their own were not quite enough. But my completist nature and the fact that this smoked meat found its way onto Time Out’s list gave me a good enough reason to return.
Not only does the place smell of garlic and brine (like all good delis), but it smells of authenticity. Liebman’s is the real deal – a true Jewish deli that’s not trying to be anything but that. The cheesy paintings on the walls are real, as is the old out of date furniture, and the old world hospitality. I get so used to going out to new nostalgic places that are trying to be hip and kitschy that it’s refreshing to come somewhere like this that is just doing what they’ve been doing for decades. They’re keeping the tradition alive.
It was hard to scale back our ordering, so in addition to the pastrami sandwich, we got a potato pancake (with apple sauce of course), a cup of matzoh ball soup, a kasha knish, and some mixed dill pickles. Only the latke fell flat since it was too thick and overly greasy. But the other dishes were all phenomenal.
I can never order a full pastrami sandwich at a deli like this, but instead have to include some corned beef by making it a combo. To fully understand my issues on this deli meat pairing, check out this video.
The waiter was nice enough to make half the sandwich pastrami and the other half corned beef (that’s not typical at these places). I love, love, love their buttery corned beef here – it’s tender, salty, and full of that lingering umami flavor. The pastrami wasn’t as stellar as I had remembered. There was some great quality smoke notes and the fat was abundant, but not overwhelming. I just found the texture a tiny bit chewy.
But this is the way it should be done – massive tender meat sandwiches, made in house on rye bread, and a side of mustard. No pretense, no irony, no substitutions. All excuses to come back again and again.
Would Liebman’s Deli’s Pastrami Sandwich make my Top 100 of the year? The pastrami is tender and smoky with the right amount of fat, but just a little chewiness. It gets an 8 out of 10 on its own, but combine it with that awesome corned beef and it’d get a higher grade.
|552 West 235th Street (between Johnson Avenue and Oxford Avenue),