Central Oregon's only Jewish-style New York deli has what might seem an unlikely location: in a corner of the Re/Max Key Properties real-estate building, opposite Chase Bank on Franklin Avenue in downtown Bend.
The Pastrami Old World Deli opened June 1, just in time for the summer season. It filled a void left after Letzer's Deli closed both its main restaurant on South Division Street and its satellite branch on Franklin in March.
According to a former partner, building owner Mikel Lomsky, had enticed Letzer's to occupy the deli space after he remodeled the red-brick Re/Max structure in 2011. When Sheridan Letzer retired but chose not to sell the name of the family business, Lomsky proceeded to rekindle the Jewish deli concept, especially for downtown office patrons.
East Coast style
Two dozen framed, black-and-white photographs of historical New York pepper the walls of the 16-seat deli.
It's a clean, bright space, with a simple working counter and prep kitchen. There's a cooler for drinks, a rack of help-yourself chips, and a set of garbage and recycling bins.
The pleasant counter attendants — on each of my visits, the young women who took my order were cheerful and informed — also assist the sandwich maker when things get hectic. Every order, after all, is made from scratch. And it does get busy here; when the seats inside the deli are filled, there are tables on a small patio and large lawn that can seat another two dozen diners.
The menu is simple, with an emphasis on — you guessed it — pastrami. The deli's selection of six meats includes East Coast pastrami (with a red paprika rub) and West Coast pastrami (with a black peppercorn rub), as well as corned beef, roast beef, salami and turkey. Patrons may choose between a “short boy," with a quarter pound of meat; a “tall boy," with a half pound of meat; or a “skyscraper," featuring a full pound of meat.
Vegetarians are not ignored, as veggie sandwiches and salads are available. And a variety of breads, cheeses and condiments enable patrons to design their own meals.
Rachel and Reuben
An eponymous pastrami sandwich had to be my first choice at the deli. I opted for the Rachel “short boy" made with the red East Coast pastrami.
Coleslaw was sandwiched between a dozen layers of thinly sliced pastrami, topped with a slice of Swiss cheese. An ample amount of house-made Russian dressing was spread beneath the meat on lightly grilled rye bread. I loved the sandwich, but would have preferred bread that was more thickly sliced and not as toasty.
The deli differentiates between a Rachel (red pastrami and slaw) and a Reuben (corned beef and sauerkraut). A Date Night Special places Rachel and Reuben between the same rye, with sides of both slaw and kraut.
There's also a Black Dragon choice that features black pastrami with pepper-jack cheese, horseradish and onion — for the diner who needs a little extra spice.
I didn't push the envelope that far. On another visit, my dining companion and I did enjoy a Reuben, although she felt the grilled rye was too greasy.
Pros and cons
Among the deli sandwiches, I like the turkey. There was plenty of lightly smoked bird in my “tall boy" turkey sandwich, which I again had on light rye with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion.
My companion had a roast beef “tall boy," but she was very disappointed in her choice of challah, a traditional Jewish egg bread that is usually braided.
A light coating of egg whites should give the bread a crispy glaze, locking moisture into the loaf for a soft texture. But this bread was very hard and dry. She focused on the contents and threw the challah away.
My friend and I disagreed on our enjoyment of the side dishes.
In particular, I liked the deli's potato salad, which is a little bit crunchy rather than mushy. The potatoes were slightly undercooked and finely diced, then mixed with a modest amount of mayonnaise, bits of celery and red onion and a sprinkle of fresh dill. But my companion said that she would have liked the potatoes more thoroughly cooked.
On the other hand, I didn't care for the coleslaw when it stood alone, without the other Rachel ingredients. I found it relatively flavorless, neither sweet nor vinegary. But two dill slices and a pickled green tomato, which accompany every sandwich, were a nice touch.
I wonder if the Jewish delis in New York also offer green tomatoes?
El Jimador has closed its doors in downtown Bend. Owners Roberto Anaya and Baltazar Chávez have combined the Mexican restaurant's unique menu items with the fare offered in Anaya's other downtown Bend restaurant, which recently changed its name to Amanda's from El Caporal. Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. 744 N.W. Bond St., Bend; 541-322-8916, www.facebook.com.