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Monday, September 28, 2009

A New Yorker's Take on Portland's Deli

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 11:38 AM

Two weeks ago when we set up the Mercury branch office outside City Hall to celebrate Parking Day, we met a lot of interesting passerbys. But one of the most memorable was this very confident young man, Jonah Levy, who claimed to be one of the best tour guides in New York and was exploring Portland by bike. We asked Levy to critique Kenny and Zuke's, the downtown deli that serves pastrami so good that some critics claim it'll make you forget about the Big Apple.

By God, only two weeks later and the NYC tour guide has sent in his review. Here's a New Yorker's (condensed and edited) take on Portland's most prominent deli:


I found the space to be far from a New York style kosher deli. Where were the sweaty hordes of bickering couples? Replacing them were mild-mannered families.

The menus arrived and my impressions immediately inflated. Naturally, the drink menu was glorious. Extensive doesn't begin to describe the soda menu, which had a promise of quality control as a pre-cursor (Ah, Portland. How seriously you take your beverages). I went with a Henry Weinhard's Black Cherry and I was offered ice. What a treat! I graciously accepted.

My dish came shortly and to abate your desire for NYC approval, I'll say now that the pastrami was terrific. Perfect sized strips piled nice and high on seeded rye...it was well done. On the other hand, its tenderness in no way touches Katz or Carnegi. I could have gone for steamy when what I received was lukewarm. The potato salad was at some times tasteless and at other undercooked, and the pickle was laughable (see attached photo). But hear me now and repeat it forever: the pastrami at Kenny and Zuke's easily meets NYC standards.

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