Review: Rascal’s Deli

Photo“I went to this great deli for lunch today. I almost called you to come down here, but then I realized I didn’t want to have to share.”

I love my coworkers. Ever since that conversation, my coworker John has been cajoling me to try out Rascal’s Deli in Blue Ash. We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time together lately due to travel, and I swear that every third day he asks, “Have you tried Rascal’s yet?”

We tried to go one Saturday without realizing it was Yom Kippur. So we popped in the next weekend when they were wide open and ready for business.

PhotoRascal’s Deli specializes in all sorts of traditional Eastern European treats: pastrami, corned beef, knishes, smoked fish, pickles and pierogies. They also have some less-familiar foods like kasha varnishkes (buckwheat groats), schmaltz and gribenes (rendered chicken fat and the crispy leftover bits when you render the chicken fat), and throw in all-day breakfast, too. It’s a big menu with choices for everyone (even vegetarians).

We were greeted promptly at the door and escorted to a seat, and were offered pickles: sour pickles and pickled tomatoes that are made in-house. They were crisp and sour with a pronounced dill flavor.

Unfortunately, once our waiter started to serve us (and not the man who I realized later was the owner), the service slowed. There were long gaps between drinks and orders, and an even longer one to get our order (the advantage of a deli being that you generally get your food quickly), but it was easily forgiven once we got our orders.

Terry selected a simple pastrami sandwich. Their pastrami (though no Katz’s), is excellent: beautiful dark edges, richly marbled, rosy interior and subtle spiciness make a pretty perfect pastrami experience. He chose potato salad as his side, which was a good, mustard-based potato salad made with red skinned potatoes and bits of carrot and pickle.

PhotoI picked the Reuben, which is your choice of pastrami, turkey pastrami or corned beef on marble rye with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. It’s a deli classic, and this one is good– incredibly filling, but not so overstuffed that you make a mess of sauerkraut and Russian dressing. A half a sandwich was more than enough, particularly when paired with the half-dollar sized latkes (I still prefer Izzy’s potato pancakes but these are more than competent) and a tiny container of Red Hot-flavored cinnamon applesauce. This was the stuff I had as a kid, that was more candy-flavored than cinnamon flavored and was a fun addition to the sandwich.

Rascal’s is as close to authentic New York deli as you’ll get in Cincinnati, and I’m looking forward to trying other dishes there– particularly a “killer” mac-and-cheese that my coworker said we should try. My only concern is service: for a truly authentic deli experience it should be quick and efficient.

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