Memorable | One of the Best
Harold’s New York Deli
Review by: Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
Harold’s Deli is a large, brash restaurant that serves enormous portions of food. Don’t be fooled by those comically large servings; quantity is not all at Harold’s. Owner Harold Jaffe, once of the legendary Carnegie Deli in New York, sells some of the finest Jewish deli dishes to be found in the New York City area.
Located in a Holiday Inn in an unattractive collection of office parks and hotels, Harold’s is a classic New York Jewish deli (old Carnegie Deli model). In fact, many signature Carnegie menu items, such as Go, Giants, Go! (two foot long dogs with a giant knish), also appear on Harold’s menu. There is often a wait for tables; Harold’s is extremely popular.
The dual stars of the menu are pastrami and corned beef. Waiters no longer ask if you’d prefer lean or “juicy” (lots of fat). Unless you ask for one or the other, you get what they call “regular”, which is something in between. We’ve had it all three ways, and while the lean meats are moist and excellent, the fattier versions can be extraordinary (although once in a while they can overdo the fat). The pastrami, in particular, has a hauntingly smoky flavor and a steamy melting texture; not for fat-phobes. We feel confident in proclaiming that Harold’s, at its best, serves the finest pastrami sandwich around (and we’ve been to Katz’s and enjoyed their hand-carved meat).
Your sandwich gives you access to what is billed as the world’s largest pickle bar. Half-sours, full-sours, dills, sliced, spears, tomatoes, kraut, and fantastic health (or Claremont) salad (cabbage, carrots, peppers in a vinaigrette) are available, as are stacks of their good chewy-crusted rye bread and small onion biscuits and vanilla muffin gems. Sandwiches also come with spectacularly good sweet slaw.
The kasha varnishkes (buckwheat cooked with onions and bow-tie noodles) is wonderful. There is an “appetizer” called kreplach with dark fried onions. This is something like the Jewish version of St. Louis fried ravioli. The kreplach are sturdy little packages of dough and meat, but the real draw are those dark fried onions. They’d be worth ordering by themselves.
The mammoth knish is well-oiled and onioned, in both potato and kasha varieties. Terrific chicken soup (with bigger-than-softball-sized matzo balls, if you wish) and outstanding freshly-made blintzes are also available. There is an enormous menu of other things to eat, and much of what we’ve seen heading to other tables looks good. The Roumanian steak, in particular, looks promising. They even make that old NY diner/deli oddity: Chinese roast pork with Chinese mustard and duck sauce on garlic bread (yes, in a Jewish deli).
The cheesecake recipe keeps changing. We would once claim that Harold’s serves the best cheesecake in the land. Today’s version is good, if not the world’s best, lightly sweetened and tasting mostly of cream and cheese and eggs, with no lemon or vanilla flavoring that we could detect. It sits on a thick, but not sweet, graham cracker crust. The eclair goes beyond comically large into preposterous territory. Your slice of layer cake will serve a table of six generously. A container of crunchy rugelach, speaking more of fruit and nuts and sugar than cream cheese, would be a nice sweet for when you get home.
There are a few Harold’s delis in NJ, but this is the only one actually owned and run by Harold Jaffe, and it is the only one we recommend. You can usually spot the very friendly Harold schmoozing with customers somewhere in the restaurant. Prices are very high, but much of the food is sized to be shared. In fact, the menu recommends it; no sharing charge.
Directions & Hours
- Monday: 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
- Tuesday: 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
- Wednesday: 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
- Thursday: 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
- Friday: 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM
- Saturday: 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM
- Sunday: 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|