For all its variety, the Triangle’s restaurant scene has long suffered from a paucity of Jewish delis.
No, make that an utter lack of Jewish delis. The closest thing in these parts to the genuine article – Horwitz’s Deli, which satisfied our chopped liver cravings for two decades in North Raleigh and then Cary – has been closed for years now.
It should come as no surprise, then, that when Rick Weinberg opened a Jewish deli in November in the original Horwitz’s space in North Ridge Shopping Center, the news spread like butter on a hot bagel. Weinberg had worked at Horwitz’s as a young man before going on to a career as a specialty foods broker. For the opening of his first restaurant, he enlisted the consulting help of his mentor, Horwitz’s Deli owner Neil Horwitz.
Their combined experience yields a menu that showcases their connections to some of New York’s premier deli suppliers. The corned beef on Weinberg’s excellent Reuben comes from the same producer in Hunt’s Point Market that supplies a number of noted Big Apple delis.
So does the pastrami. And raw brisket, which is cooked onsite and served up in a variety of guises, from traditional brisket dinner (one of a handful of Blue Plate entree offerings, along with house-roasted turkey, roast beef, meatloaf and stuffed cabbage rolls) to open-faced sandwich with homemade brisket gravy.
If you’ve spent any time in New York, chances are you’ve had a bagel from the Bronx baker that supplies Weinberg’s. Delivered par-baked, they’re finished in the restaurant’s oven and available with just about any accompaniment a homesick New Yorker could wish for, from Nova lox to house-made whitefish salad. Unless your breakfast craving leans to cheese blintzes or matzo brei, in which case Weinberg’s has also got you covered.
From lunchtime on, you’ll find all the usual Jewish deli sandwich suspects here, from Rachel (Reuben’s pastrami sister) to beef tongue to Sailor (pastrami, knockwurst and Swiss cheese on grilled rye). Egg salad, chicken salad and tuna salad are all house-made, as is a fine chopped liver sweetened with caramelized onions.
Virginia ham and the bacon on BLT and club sandwiches are among the telltale signs that, while Weinberg’s is unmistakably Jewish, it is not a kosher deli.
Nor is it a strict reproduction of a New York deli, supply lines notwithstanding.
Rick Weinberg was also inspired by the Jewish delis of other major metropolitan areas, notably Cleveland, Ohio, where he remembers eating in a deli for the first time when he was 7 or 8 years old, and South Florida, where his parents retired.
Fondly remembered family meals at home also play a large role. “The brisket dinner we serve – that was our Friday night brisket dinner when I was growing up,” Weinberg says. He notes that several family members work at Weinberg’s, and that many of the restaurant’s dishes are made from family recipes.
When complimented on the chicken soup, chopped liver or potato pancakes, he’ll proudly point out that those are his mom’s recipes, as are the ones for matzo balls, kreplach and noodle kugel. Stuffed cabbage and redskin potato salad are contributions from his wife Julia’s side of the family.
The graham cracker-crusted cheese pie that beckons from the pastry display case? The rugelach? The moist carrot cake with its rich cream cheese frosting? They’re the handiwork of Laura Weinberg, Rick’s ex-wife and the restaurant’s baker.
The pastry display case and deli case are, true to form, the focal points in a classic deli decor whose glazed tiles and simple furnishings reflect a traditional emphasis on cleanliness and efficiency. Children’s crayon drawings on the wall behind the counter add a touch of warmth and color. At the back of the room, a sign over the door to the private dining room that reads “Family – all because two people fell in love” is a reminder of Weinberg’s roots.
On the menu cover, those roots are represented by vintage sepia-toned photographs of Rick Weinberg’s grandparents: Charles and Molly Weinberg, who settled in Cleveland many decades ago after immigrating to America from Eastern Europe. No doubt they would be proud of their grandson’s restaurant.
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