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9th South Delicatessen

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I stopped by on Friday, taking a bit of a break from the bánh mì bacchanal.

I love the look of this place: a refrigerator case bursting with food, tons of small bites piled on top of the counter. The impression is that there is a lot to choose from. The choices spill over into the small dining room, where high-end chocolate and local packaged foods are displayed. The deli is a converted house, and has all of the haphazard charm that comes with that.

I ordered matzo balls in schmaltz, a sweet potato knish, and a half pastrami sandwich and prepared myself to be overwhelmed. Either I chose poorly or this is a case of quantity overwhelming quality. If I was whelmed, it was just barely.

I got a styrofoam cup containing some rocket-hot liquid and a single, smallish matzo ball. Neither was bad, per se, but it tasted like chicken soup and a rather feathery, bland dumpling. I’ve certainly had better balls of the matzo variety. I didn’t finish either part of the dish.

The knish was fairly one-note as well. When I initially asked about the knish on display, the woman at the counter informed me in downtrodden manner that they were out of their specialty ones and that sweet potato was “all that was left.” She was right to apologize ahead of time, as it worked to set my expectations a bit. What I received was a microwaved slab of mashed sweet potatoes in a bit of puff pastry. Again, nothing bad, but nothing worth the drive to SL. I threw most of this away, too.

So, I placed my hopes on the pastrami. I wasn’t disappointed, though this was a fairly sparse sandwich. The meat was delicious, perched between two slices of extremely fresh pumpernickel bread with a generous smear of dijon mustard on both slices. I’d heard that the portion sizes were large, but didn’t find this to be case at all. Even for a half sandwich, the serving was tiny, especially considering the hefty price.

My meal cost $20. Had it been half that, I’d be giving a much better review, but $20 is a ridiculous price both for the stingy portions, the middling quality, and the type of food in general. I ended my meal with a black pepper gingersnap cookie and it was easily the best thing I bought. At $1.50, it was also the only thing I bought that seemed even remotely worth the money.

I grew up here in SL, so I’ll admit that the New York deli isn’t a fond childhood association. If 9th Street was a good expression of the art form, I’d not think that I missed out on much. Given the violent love that most New Yorkers seem to have for the delicatessen, I’m pretty sure it isn’t.

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