Eat Like a Lady on location in DC
(This image was taken from the DGS Delicatessen website)
I’m going to start this review with saying that I generally don’t like Jewish delis. As a kid growing up, I associated them with dry, kosher food and dingy, crowded settings with sticky booths (I also didn’t like IHOP). Any time someone in my family wanted deli, I grumbled. I just didn’t get the appeal. As an adult, I still have reservations about the Jewish deli. I now like mustard and rye bread, knishes and matzo ball soup, but I still associate them with a lack of sophistication and an old-school generation of Jews unwilling to evolve. Perhaps I’m being too hard on the classic deli, but it’s a place like DGS Delicatessen that I’ve been waiting for for sometime. It makes Jewish food cool. All the dishes on the menu contain classic Jewish elements and flavors, but the chef has elevated the dishes to the next level. The food is also kosher style, not flat out kosher, which let’s admit, means the food is going to have a lot more flavor. The interior is trendy, modern and fun with an inventive cocktail menu that also even draws from Jewish flavors. For instance, the Tenth Ward Cooler has celery soda in it. All in all, I love what is going on at DGS Delicatessen. I loved the food; I loved the environment. And I can’t wait to return on future DC visits!
Schmutzy Fries: Fries topped with smoked meats, swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut. I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to feel about this mish mosh of toppings, but I knew I had to give it a try. Turns out, this is one of the greatest food creations ever. With such strong flavored toppings, I thought they might compete, but instead everything came together. The sauerkraut wasn’t too sour, the meat wasn’t too smoky, the Russian dressing wasn’t pungent; everything just balanced out. This is an incredible shared starter when you’re sober, and I can only imagine this is a fantastic late-night or next-day drunk food option. Just saying.
Knish: A knish filled with lamb murguez and lentils with raisin mustard and spiced yogurt. This was pretty good. I thought this was an interesting take on a classic. I liked the flavor of the outside crust. The lamb on the inside had a nice flavor, and the texture was accurate to knish filling. I had a couple bites and was pleased, but I was more interested in finishing the other items on the table.
Matzo Ball Soup: Grandma Dot’s duck schmaltz matzo balls – this might be the best matzo ball soup I’ve had outside of a home-cooked setting. The ball was big, soft and fluffy and the soup was really flavorful. It’s nice to have a go-to spot for matzo ball soup.
DGS 8 Day Pastrami: This is definitely the best pastrami sandwich I’ve ever had. The meat was thick-cut, juicy and flavorful, which was a nice departure from the dry, thin-cut, over-spiced pastrami I have in my mind. The house mustard also had a nice taste, and the double baked rye was soft and fresh. In addition, I got a side of Russian dressing, because that’s my favorite. I think I would have liked the sandwich a smidgeon more if the rye bread had been toasted. But really I was left with no complaints.
DGS Reuben: This Reuben was fantastic with emmenthaler (a kind of swiss cheese), sauerkraut and Russian dressing on toasted double baked rye. I loved the emmanthaler and the warm, toasted rye bread, both of which really kept the sandwich together. I’m not really a huge fan of sauerkraut, but at DGS the flavoring is mild. I could see a sauerkraut purist taking issue with this, but for me it worked out just right, both here on this sandwich and with the Shmutzy Fries.
Flanken: Beef short ribs braised with Tunisian spices, figs, spinach and fresh mint. The short rib was incredibly soft and had awesome flavor. I really liked it!
And here is my friend Sam getting ready to chow down on the short rib. She wanted to make her debut on the blog. Hi, Sam!
Kasha Varnishkas: Bowtie pasta and buckwheat with mushrooms, olives, harissa, and preserved lemon. I LOVE traditional kasha varnishkas, so I was really excited to try a new take on the dish. This was definitely the least successful. The pasta was overcooked, the flavors were too many and too strong, and the buckwheat gets entirely lost in it all. Perhaps the average person wouldn’t get or care for buckwheat, but if you’re going to make a dish and call it kasha, that’s what should be highlighted. Buckwheat aside, the flavors here are just not good. This is the only dish I wouldn’t recommend.
The Salmon Special
Potato Latkes with crème fraiche and DGS apple preserves
DGS Delicatessen: 1317 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC ($$-$$$)