Any devoted eater who has spent time in Chicago gets happy to see a hot dog stand or deli that sports a bright red and yellow sign advertising Vienna Beef. Vienna Beef is good, especially the company’s taut hot dogs and garlicky salami; so we were thrilled to find such a sign not far from the KPBS studio at San Diego State University. When we walked inside the immense deli known as D.Z. Akins, we were nothing short of flabbergasted. The air was perfumed with spiced beef and the bakery shelves up front held a spectacular array of ryes, pumpernickels, bagels, hard rolls, and challahs, plus countless macaroons and cookies, all baked right here.
Sandwiches are grand, including hot, fat-striated corned beef radiant with flavor, cut thick and piled between two slices of rye that is soft inside with a nice sour smack and a hard savory crust. Roast beef – soft and luxurious – is best in a poppy-seed spangled hard roll. And the kosher salami (Vienna brand, of course) packs a garlic wallop.
In true urban-deli fashion, the menu is vast: Beyond its 134 sandwiches are pierogi, stuffed cabbage, knishes, steaks, stuffed kishka, matzoh ball soup, blintzes, kasha varnishkes, and fried kreplach.
Breakfast is especially wonderful, featuring a bevy of cold fish platters, omelets, corned beef hash, blintzes, and potato pancakes. Matzoh brei — billed as “Grandma Fay’s Matzoh Brei” and served pancake-style (as opposed to jumbled up) — is nearly as good as the brei I make (and I make the best).