Pastrami Jack's (Minnetonka, MN)
A deli stands or falls on its corned beef and pastrami. Pastrami Jack's versions are either good or mediocre, depending on what kind of deli meats you're used to. If you're used to supermarket versions of these, Pastrami Jack's will impress you. But if you're familiar with the housemade meats of the great New York delis, you'll remember that you're not in New York. Neither had the richness and depth of flavor we would have liked.
There are good things on the menu, though. The roast beef is tasty, and the brisket is tender and flavorful.
The tongue sandwich is delicious. If you can get over the fact that you're eating a cow's tongue, you're in for a treat. We recommend ordering it hot on rye, with coleslaw and horseradish sauce.
The chopped chicken liver is marvelous. This is Jewish-style chopped liver, a little coarse with chopped onions mixed in. Order it on a challah roll, with red onions on top.
We loved the soups. The beef and cabbage borscht is delicious: tangy and bursting with flavor. The chicken soup is almost as good, and as hearty as it gets. The soup isn't improved by the disappointing matzah balls or the noodles.
We liked the potato latkes, but not the potato knish. We have mixed feelings about the onion rings. These are huge doughy rings -- a friend of ours calls them "onion donuts" -- freshly fried and very tasty. But if you prefer more onion and less bread, these aren't for you.
Portions at Pastrami Jack's are huge, in the legendary deli style. The sandwiches are so large you can barely bite into them. The salads come in big bowls. The side dishes fill large plates. Order with the intent to share, or expect to take food home.
Desserts are also enormous. A single piece of chocolate cake seems large enough to feed a family. But the cake is stored in a refrigerated case. Cake isn't best when it's cold.
Be sure to order a traditional deli drink. Aside from Dr. Brown's sodas -- black cherry, cream soda, and Cel-Ray -- Pastrami Jack's serves traditional New York egg creams. Made with neither eggs nor cream, an egg cream is (and we know this sounds weird) carbonated chocolate milk. The chocolate must be Fox's U-bet chocolate syrup. You'll mix your own at your table at Pastrami Jack's, and that's a really fun way to do it.
You can also order a chocolate phosphate, which is the same thing, minus the milk. Yep, carbonated water and chocolate syrup. And, weirdly enough, it's pretty good.
Unfortunately, Pastrami Jack's has some of the worst service in the Twin Cities. We'll spare you the details -- we wanted to talk about the food instead -- but it wasn't pretty. On one visit the manager was so embarrassed he discounted the check. And there's no atmosphere. The décor, if you can call it that, says "fast food restaurant" more than anything else.
But go for the soups, the tongue sandwich, and the chopped liver.
6407 Shady Oak Rd, Minnetonka
Phone: (952) 942-9510
Sound level: Not too loud
Recommended dishes: Tongue sandwich, chicken soup, borscht, chopped liver
Prices: Appetizers $8–$10, sandwiches $8–$10, entrees $12–$24
Children: Children's menu available