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Eats: Boychik’s Deli
BY KURT RABIN
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Famed New York writer Damon Runyon once said, “As I see it, there are two kinds of people in this world: people who love delis and people you shouldn’t associate with.”
We’d have been big pals, Runyon and I, because no one loves deli food more than I do. Maybe it’s because my folks had a deli. Well, a deli counter anyway. Actually, it was nothing more than the avocado-green slab of Formica in the kitchen. But that’s where I’d head when I felt like noshing. I’d grab the crispy rye out of the breadbox and the pastrami from the fridge—along with the pickles, potato salad and a jar of herring while I was at it—and eat myself just this side of a food coma.
As I see it there are two kinds of delis in this world: authentic Jewish delis and those you shouldn’t bother yourself with. David Sax, author of “Save the Deli,” makes the case for placing the Jewish deli on the endangered-species list. Sax traveled the U.S. only to find that about 85 percent of Jewish delis have disappeared from the landscape. With profit margins on sandwich meats (a deli’s biggest draw) having narrowed and today’s Jews exhibiting more-varied food preferences, don’t look for delis to stage a comeback anytime soon.
And that’s a shame, because delis are about lots more than just matzo-ball soup and brisket.
That’s right! They’re also about chopped liver and latkes and knishes.
No, seriously, delis are about transmitting Jewish culture and tradition. They’re about comfort and nostalgia, and the feeling of being home. In fact, saving delis is just the kind of cause I’d be willing to throw my full weight behind.
With philanthropy in mind, I ventured recently with my wife to Innsbrook Shoppes in Glen Allen, a 40-minute ride down Interstate 95 and the site of Boychik’s, which bills itself as “a true New York deli.” (Truth is, Boychik’s took its name—and a whole slew of recipes for good measure—from an eatery in Atlanta when that restaurant closed.)
Feeling at home at a place called Boychik’s isn’t too much of a stretch for me. When I was a kid, my grandfather referred to me as boychik, which I assumed was Yiddish for “extremely cool customer” but have since learned means “little boy.”
Boychik’s passed the first test of true deli-hood simply by having cans of Dr. Brown’s soda ($1.75) available for washing down its $6.95 lunch special, which includes soup, half a sandwich, potato salad and pickle.
Boychik’s chicken-noodle soup was a little on the salty side, while the optional matzo ball could have used seasoning to give it some pep. My wife gave her sandwich—roast beef piled high on Jewish rye—high marks. However, my chopped liver with red onions on seeded rye was off the charts—to die for!
We couldn’t very well leave without sampling a knish ($2.25), basically a dumpling, in this case filled with grated potato, as well as a side of potato pancakes ($2.75). The knish was tough, having been grilled instead of baked, a big no–no in this boychik’s book. But the pancakes, three of them (along with what must have been a jar’s worth of applesauce for topping), were fried just right.
Paying heed to our inner Jewish mother, we made sure we left room for dessert—lovely slices of carrot cake and N.Y. cheesecake ($3.95 each) with coffee ($1.75)—before hitting the road.
Final analysis: Even if Boychik’s is more of a New York-by-way-of-Atlanta-style deli than the genuine article, who am I to complain? Besides, any place that’s been family-run by its original owner and is still going strong after nearly 22 years in business probably doesn’t need me to save it.
Rather, it’s my waistline that could use saving—from those boychiks in the Glen Allen hood!
What: Boychik’s Deli
Address: 4024-B Cox Road (in the Innsbrook Shoppes), Glen Allen
Info: 804/747-1030; innsbrookshoppes.com
Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Soup and appetizers: $3.50-$5.25; Sandwiches: $3.95-$8.50; Desserts: $1.95-$4.95; Domestic and imported beers are available.
The Scoop: Family-friendly, good service, good food, parking. Major credit cards accepted.
Kurt Rabin: 540/374-5000