On the Road: Where to Eat Great Jewish-American Comfort Foods
These eight FN-approved spots serve up Jewish comfort food across the country. Traditional favorites like matzo ball soup, knishes, noodle kugel and brisket will take you right back to Bubbe's kitchen.
Flakowitz of Boynton — Boynton Beach, Fla.
For a taste of New York way down South, head to this 50-year-old "real deal deli" that's serving up mile-high deli sandwiches and smoked fish platters with all the trimmings in traditional Big Apple style. Take the trip down to Florida on a Friday and you'll find Flakowitz's famous potato knish on the menu, which Guy learned to make on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The savory pastry begins with skin-on boiled potatoes that are mashed with sour cream and seasonings and wrapped in a flaky phyllo dough package, then baked until golden brown and crispy. Guy suggests dipping the knish in tangy mustard and raved about the inner texture that’s studded with roasted potato skins. Try the crackly edged knish on your next visit and you’ll soon be one of the "Flakowitz people," just as the Florida regulars call themselves.
Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen — Chicago
This family-run, fourth-generation cafeteria specializes in Jewish cooking that's served up quickly and in generous portions. While they offered special menu items for Jewish holidays on The Best Thing I Ever Ate, including crispy latkes with sour cream, gefilte fish, brisket and borscht, Ted Allen swears by their noodle kugel. Manny's serves a sweet version of the classic baked casserole, which combines egg noodles with sour cream, cottage cheese and golden raisins, all baked until gooey in the middle with an outer crown of crispy browned edges. Creamy and luscious, Ted claims it's "a great way to gain a lot of weight" in one sitting, and so comforting that it's "like a hug from your bubby." For the full old-fashioned experience, slide your tray along the cafeteria's hot food line, order up a slab of richly dense noodle kugel and take in the decades-old memorabilia that lines the walls of this beloved Chicago relic.
The Bagel Delicatessen & Restaurant — Denver
You might not expect to find real deal matzo ball soup in the middle of Colorado, but this Denver-based deli has been serving up traditional Jewish delicacies for 44 years. Guy stopped in just for a bowl of their original-recipe soup, which is so popular that the kitchen churns out 15 to 20 gallons of broth a day. The matzo balls are "super light and tender with a great texture" and complement the comforting ginger-infused chicken soup. Guy also got a kick out of the restaurant's kishke, a sort of Jewish meatloaf made with matzo meal, vegetables and flavorful schmaltz. Spiced with the house au jus mix, the ground veggie mixture of carrots, onion and celery is shaped into a large log and baked into what Guy deemed "a matzo ball gone wild," with an added sweet note from the carrots and deep richness from the melted schmaltz. Both tender and moist, a slice of kishke is a delicious holiday dish for dunking in hot au jus after a bowl of Denver's best matzo ball soup.
B & H Dairy — New York
This East Village diner is an old-school neighborhood staple that opened in 1942 when the area was full of Yiddish theaters and delis. These days, it's one of the last spots in the area to offer authentic Jewish fare like smoked whitefish, hot borscht and kasha varnishkes. On Best Thing I Ever Ate, Duff Goldman said he always heads to B & H for the addictive blueberry blintzes that remind him of the food he grew up on. Similar to a crepe, the thin and tender pancakes are filled with blueberry preserves, folded and fried into a golden-brown package that’s "soft, melty and gooey inside." A little salty and a little sweet, the crispy blintzes serve as a perfect treat.
Ben's Best Deli — New York
Located in the heart of Queens, this third-generation joint is one of the last original kosher delis left in New York. Folks have been piling in since the 1940s to enjoy classic Jewish comfort food like potato pancakes with applesauce and noodle kugel, but Guy was most eager to sample the famous kreplach (a Jewish version of ravioli) and stuffed cabbage on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Guy compared the golden fried kreplach to giant pot stickers, but Ben's are filled with the traditional ground brisket that's been roasted with vegetables and spices until it's supremely tender. The brisket mix is hand-stuffed into thinly rolled noodle dough, which is then tied into knots and either fried until crispy or boiled and added to chicken soup. The stuffed cabbage features a flavorful ground chuck and rice stuffing that's wrapped in the leaves and served with a sweet and sour raisin sauce that Guy called "on point."
Zabar's — New York
An Upper West Side institution since 1934, Zabar's is known for its huge selection of specialty Jewish foods, from freshly baked challah to handmade latkes to brisket. Giada made it her mission to stop there on Giada's Weekend Getaways for a classic New York breakfast of bagels and lox. She headed straight for the smoked fish counter and selected Zabar's homemade smoked salmon pate to pair with the bakery's crusty bagels, and declared that this breakfast is "the best way to start a Saturday." Whether it's the weekend or not, Zabar's always carries a huge helping of ready-made holiday favorites that reach far beyond breakfast. Endless varieties of Jewish dishes are available from chopped liver, matzo balls and stuffed cabbage to a bevy of baked goods like babka and honey cake for stuffing into gift baskets or filling the Hanukkah table.
Honey's Sit 'n' Eat — Philadelphia
Nestled in Philly’s Northern Liberties neighborhood, this funky little spot blends Jewish classics with Southern comfort food for a fusion cuisine that will please the whole family. Guy stopped in to try the brisket frito platter (frito is Spanish for "fried"), which puts a twist on traditional beef brisket by cooking it with the unusual addition of dried onion soup mix. Once roasted, the brisket is sliced and seared in a frying pan to develop a crispy crust, then served up with a lime juice glaze, onions and a tower of tortilla chips on top. Plated with rice and black bean puree, Guy said the twice-cooked brisket was "a little bit country and a little bit rock-and-roll" with perfectly spiced and tender meat that's "even better than Bubbe's." The locals agree with Guy's praise and keep coming back for the funky fusion menu that's rooted in Jewish tradition.
Edmart Deli — Pikesville, Md.
For an authentic Jewish deli experience, Duff Goldman insisted on The Best Thing I Ever Ate that he always heads to his hometown hangout of Edmart for its world-famous brisket sandwich. Second only to his mother's homemade roast, Edmart's kosher top-cut brisket is seasoned with garlic powder and paprika and roasted for hours until meltingly tender. Once it's sliced paper-thin, it's sandwiched between classic rye bread that's slicked with a simple sauce of mayo and horseradish for a perfectly balanced and juicy bite. The locals also swear by Edmart's sliced Nova lox and hot knishes and the deli even offers catering trays for special occasions, like platters of corned beef, pastrami and whitefish. Order one up along with the signature challah rolls and hit the road with a full spread from what Duff called "the best deli on the planet."
For more Food Network-approved destinations, check out Food Network On the Road.