Who would have imagined not one but two New York-style themed delis would open not only in the same town, but also a block apart from one another?
It was only five months ago when Uptown Deli started up shop in downtown Bethesda, offering a menu reminiscent of Jewish delis found in the Big Apple.
Now enter Bubby’s New York Deli.
Taking over the space on Cordell Avenue previously occupied by Rustique and Sasso, Bubby’s (Yiddish for “grandmother”) offers patrons waiter service with a large dining room – two things which differentiate themselves from their nearby counterpart.
We went to their grand opening last Friday for lunch and checked out a few items on the menu.
The waiter came over and greeted us, served us a bowl of pickles and coleslaw (nice touch!), and asked for our drink orders. While it was not listed on the menu, Bubby’s does indeed serve Dr. Browns, a prerequisite for any New York deli.
Rachel and I started off with the Chicken Athena – a plate of marinated, grilled chicken breast with Feta cheese, pepperoncini, romaine lettuce, tomato, olives and Greek vinaigrette. While the dish was good, we were kind of thrown off why Feta was thrown on top. Kosher style this is not.
For our main course, I went with the lunch special which consisted of a bowl of soup and half a sandwich. With a choice of chicken, French onion, or mushroom barley, I of course went with the matzo ball soup.
The matzo ball was superb. At just the right density with fluffy texture, it really complemented the broth, which was great in itself. While a little oily, it wasn’t too heavy on the salt and tasted rather authentic given the focus of the restaurant.
As for the half sandwich, the hot corned beef was a no-brainer. And while the meat was full of flavor, I have to admit it was rather disappointing that there were only so many slices in between the slices of fresh rye bread.
If you’re going to call yourself a “New York Delicatessen”, you better start piling the cold cuts high. What’s even more surprising was that Bubby’s wasn’t following their own mantra where the slogan “Bigger is Better” is found under the Sandwiches section of the menu.
Meanwhile, Uptown Deli generously stacks its sandwiches with so much meat that you’re stuffed from eating just half of it. We’re just hoping that this was a first day snafu and not something that will become normal practice. I don’t think my Bubby would approve of that.
She would, however, kvell over the stuffed cabbage and spinach knishes. Rachel ordered these appetizers as her meal and they were about as genuine as you can get when it comes to Jewish delis. The knish was not greasy at all and tasted more baked than fried. The filling was a blend of spinach and potato and really hit the spot. Meanwhile, the stuffed cabbage had a perfect balance of sweet and sour sauce. It was so filling that I had to help her with it, not that I had a problem with that.
We were told that they would serve dinner till 9pm during the week and 10pm on the weekends while offering more entrée type dishes. We talked to the owner who seemed very excited about his new venture, and when Rachel complimented the stuffed cabbage, he smiled and said that was his son’s recipe.
He said they will open every day at 11am and plans on offering brunch in a month while keeping open the idea of opening earlier for breakfast, if there is interest. He pointed out that since it is a sit-down restaurant, most people would not have time for a full meal during the week.
He also showed us his sign for “Bubby’s Wall”, a dedicated wall inside the restaurant where he encourages patrons to bring in pictures of their Bubby’s to proudly display while diners nosh on their meals.
Nonetheless, the real winners in all of this are deli aficionados. With two New York delicatessans within 400 feet of each other (no, seriously – look at Google Maps if you don’t believe me), Bethesda diners that are craving a tounge sandwich went from zero options to two venues in a mere matter of months!
Bubby’s New York Deli is located on 4866 Cordell Avenue in downtown Bethesda.