New York itself seems to have fewer and fewer real old-fashioned Jewish delis, but in Vernon, Connecticut – of all places! – Rein’s deli has been going strong for longer than a quarter century. And make no mistake, it’s the real thing: piled-high sandwiches on chewy rye bread, chopped liver infused with plenty of schmaltz (chicken fat), grandmother-good stuffed cabbage with sweet and sour sauce, and genuine New York cheesecake. The only thing missing in this restaurant east of Hartford is a staff of crabby waiters. In our experience, the waitresses are all quite nice – unheard of in a real New York deli!
The menu is gigantic, ranging from beet borscht and matzoh ball soup to such old-neighborhood beverages as chocolate egg creams, and a glass of “2 cents plain” (seltzer water) costing … exactly 2 cents. Some of the best things to eat, in our experience are the potato pancakes – small, crusty discs that make a great side dish to almost any meal or sandwich, the butter-tender beef brisket, either stacked between slices of rye bread or as an open-face sandwich with gravy and potatoes on the side, and the especially excellent warm noodle pudding, known as kugel. There are smoked fish platters, triple-decker sandwiches, and a whole roster of meatless dairy dishes, including cheese blintzes (crepes) topped with sour cream, apple sauce, blueberries, or cherries, and the traditional “farmer’s chop suey” of cottage cheese, sour cream, and chopped fresh vegetables.
Virtually everything on the menu is available to go, and there is a whole case full of frozen things to take home – facts worth knowing if you are zooming along I-84 with no time to stop for a meal.