Thursday, April 21, 2016

Jack's Delicatessen: Philadelphia, PA

The Chosen People know how to eat
Photo Credit: TH
What: Jack's Delicatessen
Where: 8500 Bustleton Avenue, Philadelphia, PA (northeast corner of intersection with Tustin Street)
Order: Jack's Special (Corned beef special) with Swiss cheese, onion rings

American Jewish people have quite the amazing spectrum of culinary offerings. One end contains things that I might generously called "acquired tastes." Gefilte fish and chopped liver, for examples, that I might need amazing amounts of coaxing - or alcohol - to even think about trying. But it's not all weird offal and seafood. In the hands of a seasoned bubby, roasted brisket is amazing. Matza ball soup has curative properties. Kugel works both as a savory side and a sweet dessert. Blintzes, latkes, various pastries... the Chosen People certainly know how to eat.

The most notable of these foods probably comes from the deli case, which is probably why the Jewish deli is the most abundant of restaurants representing the genre. Northeast Philadelphia has a few spots, which makes sense since it has a high concentration of Jewish, Russian or otherwise, residents. If you ask them, many will point you to Jack's Delicatessen on Bustleton. Jack's has been there forever, and it looks and smells like it. Don't let the dingy exterior discourage you; the food will knock your damn socks off.

At the behest of, [extremely Borat voice] MY WIFE, I got myself a corned beef special, called the Jack's Special, grilled with Swiss cheese. We split an order of onion rings. Unless you're going with a bunch of people or you're really goddamn hungry, stick with the small order. Portion sizes aren't for the timid. Anyway, for those who don't know, a corned beef special is a corned beef sandwich with cole slaw and Russian dressing on rye bread. The grill and the cheese just add enough richness to the sandwich to put down a bull elephant. The beef was among the best I've ever had, as was the slaw. And the kicker is that they put a bowl of Jewish deli pickle slices on the table. I could have eaten just those and been happy. As good as the sandwich was, the onion rings made our lunch. They were perfectly fried, crunchy on the outside and sweet and unctuous on the inside.

Jewish food is certainly not health food, except for the soup, obviously, but it will make you feel whole inside when it's made correctly. Jack's seems to have that part down pat. If you're in the northeast section of Philadelphia, and you really have a hankering for some great traditional Jewish cuisine, head to Jack's. Go hungry though, because you'll end up with a full belly, full of delicious eats. Or hey, even if you do want those, ahem, "acquired tastes," they have those too. Just don't expect me to have a bite of your gefilte fish. Just more for you, I suppose.