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Harold's New York Deli

3050 Woodbridge Avenue, Edison, NJ - (732) 661-9100
Posted By Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle on 3/15/2008 2:39:00 PM
Harold's Deli is a large, brash restaurant that serves enormous portions of food. Don't be fooled by those comically large servings; quantity is not all at Harold's. Owner Harold Jaffe, once of the legendary Carnegie Deli in New York, sells some of the finest Jewish deli dishes to be found in the New York City area.

Located in a Holiday Inn in an unattractive collection of office parks and hotels, Harold's is a classic New York Jewish deli (old Carnegie Deli model). In fact, many signature Carnegie menu items, such as Go, Giants, Go! (two foot long dogs with a giant knish), also appear on Harold's menu. There is often a wait for tables; Harold's is extremely popular.

The dual stars of the menu are pastrami and corned beef. Waiters no longer ask if you'd prefer lean or "juicy" (lots of fat). Unless you ask for one or the other, you get what they call "regular", which is something in between. We've had it all three ways, and while the lean meats are moist and excellent, the fattier versions can be extraordinary (although once in a while they can overdo the fat). The pastrami, in particular, has a hauntingly smoky flavor and a steamy melting texture; not for fat-phobes. We feel confident in proclaiming that Harold's, at its best, serves the finest pastrami sandwich around (and we've been to Katz's and enjoyed their hand-carved meat).

Your sandwich gives you access to what is billed as the world's largest pickle bar. Half-sours, full-sours, dills, sliced, spears, tomatoes, kraut, and fantastic health (or Claremont) salad (cabbage, carrots, peppers in a vinaigrette) are available, as are stacks of their good chewy-crusted rye bread and small onion biscuits and vanilla muffin gems. Sandwiches also come with spectacularly good sweet slaw.

The kasha varnishkes (buckwheat cooked with onions and bow-tie noodles) is wonderful. There is an "appetizer" called kreplach with dark fried onions. This is something like the Jewish version of St. Louis fried ravioli. The kreplach are sturdy little packages of dough and meat, but the real draw are those dark fried onions. They’d be worth ordering by themselves.

The mammoth knish is well-oiled and onioned, in both potato and kasha varieties. Terrific chicken soup (with bigger-than-softball-sized matzo balls, if you wish) and outstanding freshly-made blintzes are also available. There is an enormous menu of other things to eat, and much of what we've seen heading to other tables looks good. The Roumanian steak, in particular, looks promising. They even make that old NY diner/deli oddity: Chinese roast pork with Chinese mustard and duck sauce on garlic bread (yes, in a Jewish deli).

The cheesecake recipe keeps changing. We would once claim that Harold's serves the best cheesecake in the land. Today's version is good, if not the world’s best, lightly sweetened and tasting mostly of cream and cheese and eggs, with no lemon or vanilla flavoring that we could detect. It sits on a thick, but not sweet, graham cracker crust. The eclair goes beyond comically large into preposterous territory. Your slice of layer cake will serve a table of six generously. A container of crunchy rugelach, speaking more of fruit and nuts and sugar than cream cheese, would be a nice sweet for when you get home.

There are a few Harold's delis in NJ, but this is the only one actually owned and run by Harold Jaffe, and it is the only one we recommend. You can usually spot the very friendly Harold schmoozing with customers somewhere in the restaurant. Prices are very high, but much of the food is sized to be shared. In fact, the menu recommends it; no sharing charge.

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Scorecard

4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
pastrami
Chicken Noodle Soup - Cup
Health Salad
Rumanian Steak
Pickle Bar
Corned Beef/Pastrami Combo Sandwich - Large
Corned Beef Sandwich - 13 oz.
Mushroom - Egg - Barley
Kasha Varnishkes
Cheesecake
Kasha Knish
Potato Knish
Onion bread
French Fries
Pastrami Sandwich - 26 oz.
Roast Brisket Of Beef Sandwich - 13 oz.
Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato Sandwich
Matzoh Ball Soup
Linzer Tart
Chicken Soup with Golden Noodles - Bowl
Rugelach
Single Potato Pancake
Corned Beef/Pastrami 26 Ounce Combo Sandwich
Hot Dog
Chocolate New York Egg Cream-16oz.
Pastrami Reuben
Fried Kreplach
Harolds Delicious French Fried Sweet Potatoes
Cheese Blintzes
Napoleon
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Harold's Famous In-Between Triple Decker: those are potato pancakes between the layers of corned beef and pastrami.
"Harold's Famous In-Between Triple Decker: those are potato pancakes between the layers of corned beef and pastrami."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle





A close-up of the pastrami showcases the juiciness of the spice-edged smoky meat.
"A close-up of the pastrami showcases the juiciness of the spice-edged smoky meat."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


At its best, Harold's pastrami is as good as it gets.  This is half a large sandwich.  The other half is hidden behind it.
"At its best, Harold's pastrami is as good as it gets. This is half a large sandwich. The other half is hidden behind it."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Here's what you came for!
"Here's what you came for!"
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


We think of blintzes as breakfast food, but as we enjoyed these we were saying how they would make a great dessert for two or three people.  As we got ready to leave, a table of four next to us were served a plate of blintzes for dessert.
"We think of blintzes as breakfast food, but as we enjoyed these we were saying how they would make a great dessert for two or three people. As we got ready to leave, a table of four next to us were served a plate of blintzes for dessert."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The giant kasha knish is filled with well-onioned and oiled smooth-textured cereal.  True Jewish soul food!
"The giant kasha knish is filled with well-onioned and oiled smooth-textured cereal. True Jewish soul food!"
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Here is a bowl of seriously satisfying chicken soup with noodles.
"Here is a bowl of seriously satisfying chicken soup with noodles."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


A serving suitable for a family; the terrific kasha varnishkes are loaded with deeply-browned onions.  Ignore the bad and irrelevant gravy.
"A serving suitable for a family; the terrific kasha varnishkes are loaded with deeply-browned onions. Ignore the bad and irrelevant gravy."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


There are boxes of ruggies for sale at the counter as you pay your bill.  They are crunchy and fruity and make a satisfying zweet for when you get home.
"There are boxes of ruggies for sale at the counter as you pay your bill. They are crunchy and fruity and make a satisfying zweet for when you get home."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The cheesecake is dense and creamy.  The picture doesn't show it, but a slice will feed three generously.
"The cheesecake is dense and creamy. The picture doesn't show it, but a slice will feed three generously."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


This is the small Reuben.  It comes in a large version, too.  Yes, underneath that tidal wave of melted (good) Swiss cheese is a pile of Harold's incomparable pastrami, along with some mild sauerkraut and sweet Russian dressing.  There's even rumored to be some rye bread at the bottom.
"This is the small Reuben. It comes in a large version, too. Yes, underneath that tidal wave of melted (good) Swiss cheese is a pile of Harold's incomparable pastrami, along with some mild sauerkraut and sweet Russian dressing. There's even rumored to be some rye bread at the bottom."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Fried kreplach come with ultrasweet, long-cooked onions.
"Fried kreplach come with ultrasweet, long-cooked onions."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


This
"This "small" corned beef was ordered lean and, sure enough, it had barely any fat at all."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


A potato knish is sized to serve three or four as a side dish.  It would also be suitable as a monomaniacal entree for one.  Filled with smooth potatoes dotted with browned onions.  They also serve a version filled with kasha.
"A potato knish is sized to serve three or four as a side dish. It would also be suitable as a monomaniacal entree for one. Filled with smooth potatoes dotted with browned onions. They also serve a version filled with kasha."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The table next to ours was kind enough to let us photograph their triple-decker sandwich.  When the waiter brings it, the sandwich is standing erect, about a foot-and-a-half high.  He then lays it down on the plate.  This one has turkey, Swiss cheese, and what looks like pastrami.
"The table next to ours was kind enough to let us photograph their triple-decker sandwich. When the waiter brings it, the sandwich is standing erect, about a foot-and-a-half high. He then lays it down on the plate. This one has turkey, Swiss cheese, and what looks like pastrami. "
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The large pastrami sandwich holds 26 ounces of meat.  This is half a sandwich.
"The large pastrami sandwich holds 26 ounces of meat. This is half a sandwich. "
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


You can pick up extra slices of the chewy-crusted fragrant rye bread at the pickle bar.  Be sure to take some extra to bring home with your leftovers.
"You can pick up extra slices of the chewy-crusted fragrant rye bread at the pickle bar. Be sure to take some extra to bring home with your leftovers."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The health salad (or Claremont salad) from the pickle bar is a perfect example of this deli favorite.
"The health salad (or Claremont salad) from the pickle bar is a perfect example of this deli favorite."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Towards the bottom right you can see ONE (!) eclair.  Below that are single apple turnovers.
"Towards the bottom right you can see ONE (!) eclair. Below that are single apple turnovers."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The pickle bar holds sour pickles (lower left), dill pickles (lower right), and half-sours (top).  There are also pickle chips and slices and pickled tomatoes and sauerkraut.
"The pickle bar holds sour pickles (lower left), dill pickles (lower right), and half-sours (top). There are also pickle chips and slices and pickled tomatoes and sauerkraut."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Harold's Deli is bright, noisy, and hectic.
"Harold's Deli is bright, noisy, and hectic."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Harold’s matzoh brei (broken matzoh bread scrambled with eggs) is a truly unique dish in theory, though the result was rather tasteless and dry.
"Harold’s matzoh brei (broken matzoh bread scrambled with eggs) is a truly unique dish in theory, though the result was rather tasteless and dry."
Chris & Amy Ayers


Today's pastrami was especially tender.
"Today's pastrami was especially tender."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


We are especially fond of the health salad, not visible in this shot.
"We are especially fond of the health salad, not visible in this shot."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Part of the pickle bar; the health salad is terrific.
"Part of the pickle bar; the health salad is terrific."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


On this colossal breakfast sandwich, the Taylor ham was tender and juicy, and the melted cheese sloughed off the sides in large gobs.  Fork and knife required!
"On this colossal breakfast sandwich, the Taylor ham was tender and juicy, and the melted cheese sloughed off the sides in large gobs. Fork and knife required!"
Chris & Amy Ayers


This “side order” of pastrami hash is enough to feed 5-6 people, and every hunk of meat and potatoes was bursting with flavor.
"This “side order” of pastrami hash is enough to feed 5-6 people, and every hunk of meat and potatoes was bursting with flavor."
Chris & Amy Ayers


Bright, noisy, crowded, and casual - just what you'd expect.
"Bright, noisy, crowded, and casual - just what you'd expect."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Harold's is a classic NY style deli.
"Harold's is a classic NY style deli."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Large pastrami sandwich, regular.  Super-juicy, with a heady aroma and flavor.
"Large pastrami sandwich, regular. Super-juicy, with a heady aroma and flavor."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Small corned beef sandwich, lean.  No fat, but moist meat.
"Small corned beef sandwich, lean. No fat, but moist meat."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


We took home
"We took home "a" Napoleon. That box is a full-size cake box. Insane! And not particularly good."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle



""
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


A big corned beef/pastrami combo, toppled to the horizontal.
"A big corned beef/pastrami combo, toppled to the horizontal."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The small corned beef sandwich, ordered lean, is completely fatless.
"The small corned beef sandwich, ordered lean, is completely fatless."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The blintzes may well be the best dessert in the house, though they're not often thought of that way.
"The blintzes may well be the best dessert in the house, though they're not often thought of that way."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Sour pickles side Harold's incomparable health salad.
"Sour pickles side Harold's incomparable health salad."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


If you order a sandwich, remember to hit the pickle bar for a stack of rye.  You'll want to bring some home to go with your leftovers.
"If you order a sandwich, remember to hit the pickle bar for a stack of rye. You'll want to bring some home to go with your leftovers."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Order a piece of cake and you get a wedge, two feet top to bottom, cut from one of these.  We haven't tried them all but in our experience they have too much frosting to cake.
"Order a piece of cake and you get a wedge, two feet top to bottom, cut from one of these. We haven't tried them all but in our experience they have too much frosting to cake."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


A small, lean corned beef sandwich; your waitress may well warn you that sandwiches ordered lean will be dry.
"A small, lean corned beef sandwich; your waitress may well warn you that sandwiches ordered lean will be dry."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


We prefer the kasha knishes to the potato knishes.
"We prefer the kasha knishes to the potato knishes."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


A 26-ounce pastrami sandwich should take care of you for days.
"A 26-ounce pastrami sandwich should take care of you for days."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Diners have access to the World's Largest Pickle Bar.  The health salad varies from visit to visit, but it's always one of the highlights.  It's made with cabbage, red onion, sliced carrots, and sliced cucumbers in a pickly marinade.  Be sure to take a stack of chewy-crusted rye bread.
"Diners have access to the World's Largest Pickle Bar. The health salad varies from visit to visit, but it's always one of the highlights. It's made with cabbage, red onion, sliced carrots, and sliced cucumbers in a pickly marinade. Be sure to take a stack of chewy-crusted rye bread."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


From top to bottom: rugelach cheesecake, napoleon, and plain cheesecake (the best dessert in the house).  That rugelach cheesecake is so over-the-top but one day we're going to give it a try (and we expect to say that it's good but the plain is better).  We do not like the napoleon at all.
"From top to bottom: rugelach cheesecake, napoleon, and plain cheesecake (the best dessert in the house). That rugelach cheesecake is so over-the-top but one day we're going to give it a try (and we expect to say that it's good but the plain is better). We do not like the napoleon at all."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Harold's is a classic NY-style deli.
"Harold's is a classic NY-style deli."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Rumanian steak can feed three NFL players comfortably.  Mostly hidden beneath the beef is a mountain of well-cooked onions, mushrooms, and garlic.  All highly recommended!
"Rumanian steak can feed three NFL players comfortably. Mostly hidden beneath the beef is a mountain of well-cooked onions, mushrooms, and garlic. All highly recommended!"
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


A cup of chicken noodle soup.  Harold's excellent broth tastes homemade.
"A cup of chicken noodle soup. Harold's excellent broth tastes homemade."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Regular entrees come with your choice of potato.  Ask for potato pancakes and you get two foot-wide, inch-thick manhole covers of spud.  They are finely textured and a little sweet and, like all restaurant potato pancakes, not nearly as good as good homemade latkes.
"Regular entrees come with your choice of potato. Ask for potato pancakes and you get two foot-wide, inch-thick manhole covers of spud. They are finely textured and a little sweet and, like all restaurant potato pancakes, not nearly as good as good homemade latkes."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


We rarely pick up any of the sweet vanilla muffin gems and onion rolls from the pickle bar before tearing into pastrami, but before a steak it seemed more right.  The muffins have good flavor and were obviously fresh but this batch was a little undercooked.  The rolls are good, infused with onion flavor, more than you expect from looking at them.
"We rarely pick up any of the sweet vanilla muffin gems and onion rolls from the pickle bar before tearing into pastrami, but before a steak it seemed more right. The muffins have good flavor and were obviously fresh but this batch was a little undercooked. The rolls are good, infused with onion flavor, more than you expect from looking at them."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


A small brisket sandwich is a nice change of pace if you eat here frequently, but if you come here once you should stick to the cured meats.
"A small brisket sandwich is a nice change of pace if you eat here frequently, but if you come here once you should stick to the cured meats."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Sweet potato fries: get 'em if you really want 'em, but they are ordinary.
"Sweet potato fries: get 'em if you really want 'em, but they are ordinary."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Here's a sight you probably never expected to see at Harold's.  When you are served an entree, a plate of steamed vegetables is served alongside.
"Here's a sight you probably never expected to see at Harold's. When you are served an entree, a plate of steamed vegetables is served alongside."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


One pound ten ounces of pastrami (top) and corned beef (bottom).  Both meats in top form.
"One pound ten ounces of pastrami (top) and corned beef (bottom). Both meats in top form."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Harold's chicken noodle soup is warming and satisfying.
"Harold's chicken noodle soup is warming and satisfying."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


A large (meaning small) corned beef/pastrami combo.
"A large (meaning small) corned beef/pastrami combo."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The dish listed as Mushroom - Egg - Barley is like a moist, mushroomy pasta-based stuffing, along the lines of matzo farfel and kasha varnishkes.
"The dish listed as Mushroom - Egg - Barley is like a moist, mushroomy pasta-based stuffing, along the lines of matzo farfel and kasha varnishkes."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Be sure to pick up a stack of the good rye bread from the pickle bar.
"Be sure to pick up a stack of the good rye bread from the pickle bar."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Sour pickles, dill pickles, and health salad.
"Sour pickles, dill pickles, and health salad."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Some of the best pastrami I've ever had.
"Some of the best pastrami I've ever had."
bill eaton


There is usually some pumpernickel bread available at the pickle bar, too.  Pretty good but we think the rye works better with cured meats.
"There is usually some pumpernickel bread available at the pickle bar, too. Pretty good but we think the rye works better with cured meats."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle



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