In a lease dispute with the landlord, the Second Avenue Deli, the No. 1 delicatessen in the cosmos, closed its doors on January 1, 2006, ruining New York City’s whole year. It reopened last winter, now on East 33rd Street between Lexington and Third Avenues, near New York University Medical Center. “The doctors there are so excited,” Jack Lebewohl, the former manager, told The New York Times Magazine’s Alex Witchel. “Mostly the cardiologists.”
Here’s a reconnaissance report based on a one and one-half hour dinner.
Sunday mid-afternoon (3 p.m.) waiting time: 10 minutes (95 points).
New setting: gleaming white tile, etched-glassed dining-area dividers, comfortable chairs, copper-colored metal ceiling, impeccably clean unisex johns with a wall design that carries the words “kasha varnishkes” and, naturally, “cholent” (a dense meat-potatoes-bean stew that substitutes for a tranquilizer): 96 points.
Clientele: U. M. o. S. (Usual Mix of Semites), as scored by Jewish pricing: 98.98.
Waitress’s sass: 95.
Napkins (absorptive capacity, depth and breadth of protection, style): 94.
Chicken soup: 93 points (down from old location’s 98)
Matzoh balls: 100
Free challah slices: 90 (Old World enough to easily evoke Czarist oppression).
Dark sour pickles: 99 points.
Cole slaw: 85, down from old location’s 92.
Tongue (center cut): 99.
Hot corned beef: 94 (down from 96).
Hot pastrami: 90 (doesn’t match Katz’s 110).
Thickness of 50-degree-angle sliced-meat sandwiches: 89 (doesn’t compare with Carnegie Deli grossness).
Rye bread: 89 (fresh, evenly cut, maybe lacking yesteryear’s free-lunch heft).
Grainy mustard (in half-filled container): 91.
Cholesterol power of salad dressing in container: 92.
Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic: 99 (cellarmaster hasn’t lost his touch); feinschmeckers might consider Dr. Brown’s cream soda, 97, superior to D.R.C. Montrachet.
Warm apple strudel: 97.
Tankard of cold water with ice cubes and neat lemon slice: 89.
H.A.I. (Heart attack index): 150-200, depending on fattiness of cut; parking space for ambulance; adequate (time your arterial blockage to avoid cross-town rush hour); guaranteed 25 percent discount on oxygen-tent purchase from an affiliate (30 percent for tables of four).
Price: Chapter 11
Please note: Intake capability limited the foods sampled to the aforementioned (you should also excuse the expression) pig-out. A later inquiry will focus entirely on chopped liver. We are assembling a deluxe gribenes team: if you would like to join, please submit your tasting credentials (experience with deep-fried chicken skin with onions a must). We do not accept Ivy League degrees. Brandeis (the Oy Vay League) is a different story. If you took a one-night-a-week accounting course at Yeshiva you automatically qualify.
This story appears in the print issue of June 2008.
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