Your Guide to Authentic Regional Eats
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Famous Fourth Street Delicatessen
700 S. Fourth St.
September 22, 2008 9:28 AM
When Jane and I met him in 1983, proprietor David Auspitz described his Famous 4th Street Delicatessen as "a living museum. You can bring your kid and see what a real delicatessen is like." Since then, the 1923 Queen Village restaurant has undergone several changes in ownership and management and it has had its ups and downs, but today it is an exemplary kosher-style eatery: glass cases up front full of smoked fish, wrinkly salamis hanging from the ceiling, colossal sandwiches of cured meat, and such classic Jewish fare as matzoh ball soup, noodle kugel, and stuffed cabbage drenched in sweet-and-sour gravy.
Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. croon on the sound system in the background. A plate arrives with crisp cole slaw and a half-sour pickle. Dr. Brown's soda comes in a can along with an immense tumbler full of ice. And finally – ta-da! – the sandwich arrives. You can have it regular-sized, which is large, or zaftig, meaning comically so. The pastrami is shockingly tender, judiciously spiced even at its blackened edges, rich enough to feel like wanton indulgence, but not obscenely fatty. The waitress explains that the meat comes from Chicago, but sings huzzahs: "He spices it and steams it for hours. He is crazy for that corned beef." So am I.
Famous Fourth cookies, which we described in the original "Goodfood" guidebook as "rich and toasty, big round beauties filled with large chips and nutmeats, an ideal balance between crispness and chew," are as good as ever, available in three basic forms: chocolate chip, walnut chocolate chip, and oatmeal raisin.
While not cloyingly so, décor truly is nostalgic: an ancient black-and-white tiny-tile floor, vintage mirrored cabinets at the back of the dining area, and walls crowded with press accolades and pictures of the still-famous and long-forgotten personages who have eaten here.
Pastrami Sandwich (zaftig)
Smoked Salmon Hash with Two Eggs
Dr. Brown's Soda
Pickle & Slaw
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