The menorah shining on the back bar at Rye was a good sign for those of us praying for, at last, a good Jewish deli. But the miracle those candles represent didn’t make it to the table. In fact, on the new deli’s already-revised menu, the notable icons of European Jewish tradition — tsimmes, kasha, kishka — have been dropped. Looks like bubbe’s left the kitchen.
And, just as flu season approaches, taken back her recipe for chicken soup. Rye’s version features a modestly tasty broth dotted with a few root veggies (but no bird). Add noodles if you wish (they’re not house-made) or, for a few dollars more, a couple of kreplach — the Old Country’s version of ravioli. These slim pasta pockets hold bits of ground beef. Or go for the borscht, untasted.
With our soup we ordered a square of carrot kugel — like honey cake with a few extra vitamins — too dry, too firm, to finish with enthusiasm. Next, Rye’s signature deli sandwich, “The Reason for Rye” (or not, turns out). Those who may have enjoyed the Real Deal at New York’s fabled Carnegie, Stage or Katz & Daughters — or, heck, our city’s shuttered, and mourned, Lincoln Del — expect a skyscraper that’ll throw your jaw out of joint. No such danger here. Built on slim, dry slices of supermarket-quality light, caraway rye, it begins with a barely-discernable skim of chopped liver atop (nicely) sweet and spicy mustard, along with onion tendrils. Then corned beef and smoked meat, both too dry, too skimpy by far, and too thickly cut: That’s it. Oh, plus a quarter-spear of dill pickle with its welcome waft of garlic and two tablespoons of coleslaw, yours for $12. Wait, wait: That was the opening menu’s price. Now it, and all sandwiches, will run you a dollar more.
Still hungry, we ordered a knish ($2.25). This may be the only place you don’t want lumps in the mashed potatoes, but there they are, encased in a dry crust. On to our shared entrée, the braised brisket, which originally came with tsimmes but now, on the revised menu, with mashed potatoes (lumpless here) and gravy. The fatty meat itself proved moist and tasty but no bargain at $15. In fact, many prices bring on a bit of sticker shock in a casual café with no tablecloths, no napkins to launder, no waiter service. Instead, place, and pay for, your orders at the deli counter, after which they’re delivered.
I don’t expect a relaxing, romantic atmosphere in a deli — goes against the mantra, in fact — and that’s the case here. If you remember the former Auriga, whose site Rye now occupies, it’ll be déjà vu all over again, after sweeping out the cobwebs. But I do appreciate the opportunity to taste a tap beer new to me called Messiah. But if He favors Rye with an appearance, the management will be chopped liver unless there’s more of the same on His sandwich.
1930 Hennepin Ave.