I know deli food.
I love the aroma of garlicky pastrami, the noisy clatter of knives being dropped as knishes as big as footballs crowd them off plates, and the sight of sweet grandmothers stuffing crackers into purses “for a bite later.”
Please don’t tell me it was just mine who did that when I was a kid.
Harold’s New York Deli in Edison, NJ, is a first rate deli.
Harold Jaffe, who opened this, spent years managing Carnegie Deli and took everything he learned and applied it to his own namesake deli…
starting with cakes the height and weight of a toddler.
A very tall, chubby toddler.
The space is pure family – plastic chairs, laminated menus, and paper napkins. Once the server takes your drink order, feel free to help yourself to the pickle bar while you mull over your dining choices.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how crunchy the pickles are, how tangy the kraut is, or how wonderfully caraway flecked the rye bread is.
Be careful of those cherry peppers – they pack a really lip-tingling punch.
This is the small order. It feeds between one and three very hungry people who have already embarrassed themselves by stuffing their faces at the salad bar. The chicken salad is almost as good as my mom’s. Mild, creamy but not mushy with juicy chicken, crunchy celery, and enough pepper to make the tiny dices of onion pop. It’s homestyle to be sure and not for a dieter, but it is the chicken salad of every kid’s dreams.
I wasn’t gonna try the pastrami, because why would I cheat on Katz’s like that? The corned beef, though a little dry, fits the bill. It has that uniquely hearty corned flavor and is thickly sliced. It is bolstered by the exceptionally tangy Swiss cheese and the thick, relish flecked Russian dressing. The slaw is crisp and piquant, dotted with poppy seeds, and if you are smart you will layer some of the slaw on the sandwich.
I’m obviously quite smart.
No matter how much food you order at Harold’s, you will always be left with this site at the end of your visit. The food is served in enormous portions, but it’s also really tasty. If you order like we did, you will eat for $15 per person until you are full to bursting. The service is so sweet (NOT always the case in a classic deli), the value is good, and the food is up to my discerning standards.
Now, turn away while I pocket some rye bread for later.