New York monsters at Gainesville prices


Published: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 9:52 p.m.

Facts

Jeff's New York Deli

2226 NW 6th St. (378-4428) HOURS: 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday for breakfast only
FOOD: Deli SERVICE: Friendly LIBATIONS: None ATMOSPHERE: Casual

New York City is home to the $17 deli sandwich.
I'll be the first to admit those sandwiches are huge and delicious, but they're still expensive. That's why I am naturally suspicious when a restaurant in Gainesville chooses to use the words "New York" in its title, as in "Jeff's New York Deli."
I went to the place on 23rd Avenue and 6th Street wondering what sort of skyscraper prices Jeff Sherman might have dreamed up for his cold cuts.
The truth is that Jeff's would not survive for five weeks in New York City. He'd never be able to pay the rent.
Sandwich prices here range from $4.95 for a BLT to $10 for "The Powerhouse," the monster sandwich every New York deli seems to challenge its clients to eat. At Jeff's, you'll get corned beef, pastrami and roast turkey with Swiss cheese and coleslaw on your Powerhouse - and Jeff will buy the soft drinks if you can finish it.
I didn't try. Instead, I went for all of my personal favorites on a single sandwich: chopped liver, pastrami and egg salad on pumpernickel ($8.95). And, lightweight that I am, I couldn't even finish that.
Believe me, it was not for lack of trying. This sandwich was a little bit of heaven that I am sure would please any transplanted New Yorker (and I did finish it at home the next day).
Jeff also puts together a mean Reuben made of corned beef, pastrami or turkey topped with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing ($7.95). One of my companions tried the corned beef and pronounced it the best Reuben she'd had in Gainesville.
The meats, including hot dogs, all come from Hebrew National, supplier to many of New York's delis. And there are plenty of deli-only specialties as well - knishes, blintzes, potato latkes, bagels, lox and even egg creams. Jeff also makes his own to-die-for cheesecakes.
Atmosphere-wise, Jeff's definitely was not designed by a high-priced restaurant consultant. The walls are bright yellow with red trim. The vinyl tile floor is, well, sort of pink, and the tablecloths are the plastic kind with black and white checks. Nothing matches, but perhaps that is part of the charm of the place. The only thing that really says "New York" is maps of the boroughs on the back wall.
Perhaps the décor is a result of the building having been home to a myriad of restaurants over the years. It has been Dixie Crme Donuts, Dixie Crme Restaurant, The Original Pizza Palace at Dixie Crme, Firpo's and at least one or two others. Personally, I hope it sticks as Jeff's.
Breakfast was not as satisfying as lunch. We found the egg-and-potato-type offerings to be average, but the more traditional deli-style offerings proved interesting.
Challah French Toast consists of two really thick slices of Challah (a traditional Jewish egg bread) dipped in cinnamon-laced batter, deep fried and topped with confectioner's sugar ($5.50). The menu calls it "lightly fried," but we agreed on two visits that it goes a bit further than that.
The bagels, all imported from New York City, are heavenly, as are bialys, which I would describe as a cross between a bagel and an English muffin. Try the scallion-veggie cream cheese with either, and you won't be disappointed.
David Carlson has been writing about food, wine and restaurants for more than 15 years. He can be reached at dave@carlsonfamily.net.

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