By SUSAN ERICSON
In a carnivorous mood, PieHole headed over to the newly opened Shapiro’s New York Style Delicatessen in Red Bank, where we found plenty of Jewish-style sandwiches to choose from.
Corned beef and chicken noodle soup are staples at most of the delis on the Greater Red Bank Green, so what sets this place apart from the others? For a transplanted New Yorker, it’s the nostalgic Yiddish menu choices, such as blintzes (sweet stuffed crepes), latkes (potato pancakes), tongue (braised cow tongue) and kishke (stuffed derma), that we haven’t seen or tasted in years.
During our second visit, midweek, we found the place just as busy as on our first, for Sunday brunch — when the bagel-and-lox platter combined smooth, silky salmon and a top-notch, house-made veggie cream cheese schmear.
The black and white decor of the Broad Street restaurant — long the home of No Joe’s Café — offers a relaxed, retro vibe. And as is customary at Jewish delis, a bowlful of pickled vegetables was set on our table. But the pace of service is a bit chaotic, and an incessant and loud electronic pinging from the door opening was annoying. These are the kinds of kinks that a new place sometimes needs to work out.
We started with a bowl of matzo ball soup ($5). Full of carrot and celery, the broth delivered a lovely deep, chicken flavor. A single, small matzo ball was tender enough, but had a strong pepper presence, which we found a little weird, but still tasty.
Owner Susan Shapiro stopped by our table to tell us that the brisket was “especially good” that day, and we went for it. The open-faced brisket sandwich ($13) that covered the plate came doused in a rather wimpy, under-seasoned gravy. The ropy beef over slices of white bread was super tender, and, if possible, maybe even a little over-cooked, but tasted good. A plateful of accompanying fries, however, provided a disappointing, forgettable filler.
The hot pastrami sandwich ($12) was made with juicy, tender and tamely spiced corned beef. We opted for it to be served on seeded rye, and found the bread overly soft.
A customer sitting next to us on the banquette ordered blueberry blintzes, and when his order arrived, the fellow he was with asked, “Is that all you’re eating?” The question spoke to portion size. The blintzes are small, and come only two per serving. It works as an appetizer but not for an expected meal.
“New York style” conjures thoughts of thickly filled, jaw-breaking sandwiches, but that’s not what we found here. There is no wow factor yet, but the potential is there. The dishes we’ve tasted need a more confident and competent hand in the kitchen. We look forward to return visits where we’ll try some of the more ethnic offerings and hope for a calmer, more chill experience.
Shapiro’s New York Style Delicatessen is open from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.