Jul 27, 2016

A commoner dines (repeatedly) at Corky and Lenny’s Restaurant and Deli, Beachwood, Ohio

There are simply some dining experiences that are hard to find when you live in the heartland.  A classic Jewish delicatessan like Corky and Lenny’s Restaurant and Deli is one of them.

Before I headed to Cleveland earlier this year on a work assignment, I was determined to visit a “real” Jewish deli while I was there.  I knew Cleveland’s reputation for great deli food -- most notably Slyman’s Restaurant closer to downtown.  But I was staying out in the eastern suburbs of Greater Cleveland, and Corky and Lenny’s just happened to be nearby.  I tried it, and once I did, I felt like I didn’t need to go anywhere else.  In fact, I became a “repeat customer” throughout my time working in Cleveland.

I’ve struggled with how to present the greatness that is Corky and Lenny’s, but I think the best way may be to simply let the pictures do the talking … as amateurish as the photography may be.

Corky and Lenny’s location is nothing spectacular, but don’t let that lull you into a false expectation of mundane food.  You’ll find it in a rather ordinary strip mall on the north side of Chagrin Boulevard, just east of Interstate 271..  Once you step inside, however, you really start to … ahem … relish a truly classic deli experience.

You’re greeted by the deli counter and the line of people waiting to be served the moment you walk in.  So, if you prefer to purchase your cold cuts, knishes and other specialties on the go, they’ll gladly help you out.  

Just don’t forget to grab dessert.  

If you’d rather not wait in line, they have pre-packed foods opposite the counter near the checkout.

But the relatively small deli area masks a much larger area for restaurant seating.  

They even have a diner-style section with counter seating …

… with an excellent view of the tempting desserts on display.

The star attraction, though, is the corned beef.  It made it relatively easy to decide what to order from their massive menu on my first visit.

This overstuffed sandwich is named the Sammy Kay, and it came recommended by the waitress.  It features hot pastrami, corned beef and thousand island dressing on rye bread.  

The toothpicks are important, because the size of the “sammich” practically guarantees spillage onto your plate when you pick it up and take that first bite.  

Since I was in Cleveland, why not try it with the city's signature “Stadium Mustard?”  It proved to be the perfect complement to the meat.

And because my eyes often win over my appetite, I added a small bowl of soup to the meal.  It was Wednesday, and the soup of the day was split pea.  I couldn’t pass it up.  It didn’t disappoint, either.  Corky and Lenny’s split pea was simply among the best I’ve ever had.

Also, pay attention to the tray of pickles in the background.  They come complimentary, and they’re obviously house-made.  The flavor is almost indescribably good and garlicky.

This is normally where I’d wrap up my blog post, but frankly I can’t do this place justice without sharing other great food finds I discovered on subsequent visits …

… like the equally overstuffed corned beef and chopped liver sandwich.  It was my first time tasting chopped liver -- I was apparently eager to broaden my taste for Jewish food.  I actually liked it a lot.  The liver wasn’t overly “livery” and it balanced with the corned beef quite well.

Corky and Lenny’s menu also has many House Favorites and other surprises that draw upon Eastern European influences, such as the borscht with sour cream and boiled potato.  The dish is actually served with the potato whole in the soup, and you can add the sour cream to taste.  I thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with this cool comfort food, stirring in the sour cream and chopping up bits of boiled potato in every spoonful.

Finally, I had to figure out what a knish was, so one time I ordered one from Corky and Lenny’s starter menu.  This sure seems larger for a first course, but what do I know?  I ordered a meat one, of course, with the recommended brown gravy.  It’s another example of simply made, spectacular tasting Eastern European “grandma” food.

Corky and Lenny’s Restaurant and Deli is easily one of the things I miss most about my time in and around Cleveland.  If you’re traveling in the area and love a good “sammich” or crave an authentic delicatessen experience, find this place.  You won’t regret it.  

No comments:

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...