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Mort’s Delicatessen

By Lavender January 27, 2011

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Former Gay 90’s Owner Mike Bloom and Family Offer Traditional Jewish Favorites

I had heard rumors about a new—well, newish—Jewish deli that opened in Golden Valley, but no matter how many times I listened to the gossip, no one seemed to remember its name. What a mitzvah it was when Lavender finally introduced me to Mort’s!

At Highway 55 and Winnetka Avenue, this deli is smack-dab in the middle of strip mall central, but word of mouth nevertheless has spread far and wide about this made-from-scratch place. In fact, its regulars include the Minnesota Vikings and the Timberwolves. I’m guessing its patronage is because of several reasons: Not only are the portion sizes tremendous, but also, in all honesty, no one can make a sandwich like a Jewish deli.

The Shepard; Cheesecake. Photos by Hubert Bonnet

The pastrami is so moist, it’s like butter. The same goes for the corned beef. Both are piled so high, the sandwich easily reaches from bottom lip to eyes, but somehow with one like that, you find a way to cram it in there.

At one point, my dining companion teased me that I had mayo all over my face, and I had to laugh—she looked a bit like the post-Sinai Moses herself.

Mort’s serves traditional Jewish favorites, but it has adapted them to Midwestern taste. In New York, if you were to ask for bacon on your corned beef sandwich, you might be sent to the back of the line—if you’re lucky. But here in the Twin Cities metro, bacon is ordered. Just what kind of a mashuga putz would go to a Jewish deli and ask for bacon is beyond me, but apparently, it happens.

At Mort’s, you can have bacon on a burger, as well as one specialty sandwich, Mike’s Kentucky Hot Brown ($11.99), which is topped with it, along with Parmesan cheese sauce, rotisserie turkey, and grilled tomatoes.

If you go to Mort’s, do not ask for a side of ranch dressing to dip your sandwich in. Yes, the deli has it. But just…don’t.

I’m getting ahead of myself—righteous indignation will do that to a person. We actually started with The One Pound Knish ($4.49 half/$6.49 whole). Knish is a stuffed pastry—in this case, creamy mashed potato is the stuffing. Not exactly diet food, but Jewish food seldom is. Mild and comforting, it sticks to the ribs. We also had Potato Latkes, served with sour cream and applesauce ($5.99). Astonishingly light, and not at all greasy, they are the best I ever have had.

If this is your first foray into Jewish cuisine, your visit to Mort’s is not complete without either Jesse’s Favorite Matzo Ball Soup ($3.50 cup/$8.99 bowl) or Ike’s Hot Cabbage Beef Borscht ($3.50 cup /$8.99 bowl). The cup is more like a bowl, whereas the bowl is more like a tureen.

Growing up in Brooklyn, my father always hated when he had to eat borscht—the beet broth’s color can be a little alarming when you’re little. But I never have understood the issue with borscht, as it’s really good—kind of sweet-and-sour, and earthy.

The hearty matzo ball soup was similar to my own, and like some of my readers, I’m quite fussy about my balls. The ones at Mort’s are generous, with some density to them in the middle, but nice and soft towards the edges. It’s a simple matter, but important. If you ever come across stingy or overcooked balls, you’ll know what I mean.

We tried a few other sandwiches besides the Hot Brown.

The Shepard ($13.99) consists of sky-high layers of corned beef and pastrami with Swiss, plus heaps of coleslaw between two slabs of soft rye bread. I’d come back and get my Moses mayo beard anytime to have that taste again.

We passed over the traditional Reuben to try Mort’s experimental version ($13.59), with grilled corned beef, white horseradish cheese, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut on rye bread. One usually doesn’t mess with a Reuben, but I enjoyed the tweak. The Russian dressing added a different sweetness that was very nice with the sauerkraut.

On to dessert. If you haven’t had a good New York-style cheesecake, you either should order a slice ($7.99)—warning, it easily will feed three or four people—or buy a whole one from the deli to take home with you. Mort’s gets its cheesecake shipped from the famous Carnegie Deli in New York for a reason—none is better. It’s dense, but melts in your mouth. The top is perfectly golden brown, with no crack in sight. It’s served with a very-sweet, very-dominant strawberry or blueberry topping, perhaps to cutie it up for Midwesterners. But I believe it’s much better left as its tangy, sassy, New York-style self.

And for God’s sake, hold the ranch dressing, or so help me…!

Mort’s Delicatessen
525 Winnetka Ave. N., Golden Valley
(763) 544-2900
www.morts-deli.com

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