Review: Zaidy’s Deli & Bakery still comforts in new location

Like the waiter said at the Borscht Belt restaurant as he swung around to check on his table of ladies-in-lunching, “Is anything all right?”

Zaidy’s Deli & Bakery — the third of this name that I have reviewed since the first in 1989 — had a start as rough as Fran Drescher’s voice when it opened in its new location on South Holly Street. In large part, pandemic restrictions and constraints killed off the preceding Zaidy’s (in Cherry Creek). It was well over a year’s hiatus until this new locale kicked off mid-August.

But the coronavirus hurt this third reiteration of Zaidy’s, too. Too few staff, mainly, the bane of most (if not all) restaurants emerging from the current fog; a kitchen lethargic on orders (to my mind, very “un-deli”); and, on one visit (due perhaps to a combination of these two just mentioned), a 45-minute wait for a table despite a good one-third of the seats in the house being empty.

However, baruch HaShem (“thank God”), nearly “everything is all right,” mister waiter, sir, because, after just a couple of weeks, Zaidy’s has found its groove. A solid number of eager staff; a kitchen with a bit more pizzazz. and so. Much. Good. Food.

For the past 35 years, the quality of the food at Zaidy’s has been due to its founding father (in truth, “grandfather,” because “zaidy” or “zeyde” is every Jewish grandpa’s nickname), Gerard Rudofsky. No longer owner, it is a great blessing to Denver’s plates — and palates — that Rudofsky’s recipes (and presence: the man is there every day, every hour) are the mainstay of the kitchen.

If you go

Zaidy’s Deli & Bakery, 600 S. Holly St., Denver, 80246. 303-333-5336. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Mondays.

The new owners — Beth Ginsberg and father-son Max and Joel Appel — supplement Rudofsky’s traditional Zaidy’s offerings with a new emphasis on baked goods and prepared fish. Sometimes, the marriage of the past and present is over-the-top scrumptious, as when a mini-challah accompanies a bowl of the chicken matzo ball soup ($6.25). The bread is a sort of white brioche, delicious in and of itself. But sop up the deeply flavored chicken broth with it and ancillary flavors develop that just send you.

However, the present needed to grow up, too. Take the latkes. (In mid-August, I would have added “please.”) When I cook grated potatoes and do not use them up immediately, they take on a grey-blue cast. I ordered the latkes ($12) thrice, just in hopes they would lose their azure. The third time’s a charm; these are what a pancake wishes it tasted like.

Rudofsky’s latke recipe grates potatoes and onions together and binds the mash with both matzo meal and some of the potato-onion mix further blended into a sort of mortar. These terrific latkes just hint at onion, don’t fall apart on the grill, and pick up a tawny-brown crust that cracks under the fork.

And so on throughout the menu, blends of the past and present that often please but on occasion do not. The new owners make much of their prowess at smoking and curing fish, but when the smoked fish platter costs $16.50 and a peewee portion of smoked salmon arrives (itself tasting so reservedly of cure and smoke as if it merely passed by the smoker on its way from stream to plate), you’re right to be miffed.

On the other hand, ask for gravlax on the platter and something more substantial — and rather more delicious — shows up: house-cured salmon, sweet and oily, as it should be, flecked with fresh dill and as pink as winter’s cheeks.

Zaidy’s has both a breakfast and a lunch menu. However, you may order pretty much anything from either side after the early hours. On the breakfast side, the corned beef hash ($12.50) is house-made, with large chunks of previously roasted corned beef set among slabs of grilled potato, topped with two perfectly poached, runny eggs. One long-time Zaidy’s breakfast favorite, Joe’s Special ($12.50), has made it through the parting of the pandemic waters: green with spinach, hearty with hamburger and one of the only times that black bits and nibs on thick-cut potatoes and onions are truly delicious.

Another survivor, Zaidy’s latke Reuben ($18.50), though dear, does deliver on a couple of meals if you wish to take home its better half. It’s a terrific sandwich, those great latkes holding the deli’s top-notch roasted corned beef and a fun play of tastes between a zippy-sweet Russian dressing and the tang of new sauerkraut. Side dishes of choice, to note, such as a creamy but peppy cole slaw ($3.25) and a chunky, celery-laden (celery is a house signature) potato salad ($3.25) are just spot-on deli fare.

Onto the much-vaunted bread baked in-house, featured, of course, in many of Zaidy’s signature and new-menu sandwiches. Well, ya gotta go for the hot pastrami on seeded rye ($13.50), lightly toasted would be my suggestion. My word, what a fine reintroduction to the satisfactions of fat, how it shines and shimmers off the edges of the just-sliced meat, itself roasted just right (chewy-crisp, still succulent).

And what does a St. John know from a bagel ($1.50)? He thinks there may be better around town (you know who you R), but Zaidy’s is just fine, especially with its water-crisped crust, made crunchier even more on toasting.

What’s called “Combination #2” ($15.50) is a happy blend of roast turkey and Swiss with more of that tangy-sweet Russian dressing; another fine deli sand. Zaidy’s offers many other lunch sandwiches although I did not sample them: the burger, the turkey club, the patty melt, the grilled cheese, the of-courses. And salads. And desserts. And, because this Zaidy’s has a liquor license, a raft of beers, wines and booze.

The new Zaidy’s is spiffed out, too, brightly lit, washed in charcoal grey, orange and (hmm) grey faux-alligator. The dishware, glassware and silverware are spotless (honestly, you don’t see that that often).

Maybe none of us is Jewish (although I may be mistaken because one never asks a woman her religion), but I want to wish Leshana tovah u’metukah (“A Happy and Sweet New Year”) to those who served me on my visits to Zaidy’s. You’re real pros and delightful people: Nancy, Stephanie, Maggie and Elizabeth.

Subscribe to our new food newsletter, Stuffed, to get Denver food and drink news sent straight to your inbox.

Source: Read Full Article