With so many Phoenicians hailing from elsewhere, a few local restaurants have tapped into the transplant market -- offering everything from Chicago deep-dish pizzas and Kansas City BBQ to Southern collard greens & biscuits or farm fresh California style salads. Among the choices for homesick New Yorkers, cheese blintzes have been one of the hardest menu items to find.
For this week's Battle of the Dishes, we tracked down this Jewish Deli staple at two Best of Phoenix award-winning delis. Now let's get blintzed together!
Stan's Metro Deli is tucked at the end of Mill Ave's up-and-coming (we hope!) dining district across from Caffe Boa. The family-owned deli had it's heyday in the '90s, closed, and then recently reopened. It's a trip back to NYC circa 1985: Black-and-white parquet floors, diner tables, vinyl banquettes and customer service that's top-notch. At Stan's, the manager and owner are always popping by for a quick chat or to ask you about your meal. They'll also come out and personally apologize if they're out of the dish you order.
The downside is that this seems to happen a lot at Stan's -- at least, to me. On six separate occasions, they were out of the ingredients needed to make the Eggs Benedict or cheese blintzes I ordered. Sigh. As soon as the blintzes were back on the menu, I was back at Stan's. Not sure what the heck a blintz is? Think crepe with cheese or potato filling, lightly fried in a skillet until the edges are golden brown. Delish!
Three neatly wrapped blintzes arrived on a crisp white plate with a side of sour cream and strawberry preserves. The outside of the crepes were perfectly browned, with a golden yellow color. I bit in and tasted... home. The crepe was delicate and moist. The filling was light and fluffy, with a strong salty taste that contrasted nicely with the sugary jelly. I say jelly because it lacked the chunks of fruit associated with canned preserves. Sour cream alone made the blintz too tart, but the combination of sweet jelly and sour cream was satisfying.
"This is really unusual," remarked my dining companion, who'd never seen the inside of a NY deli or a blintz before. "It's not as sweet as I expected."
While some modern restaurants replace the filling with a blend of ricotta and cream cheese, Stan's blintzes use traditional cottage cheese. It makes for a dish that's lighter on your waistline and in your stomach. The only downside to the dish was that I wanted more blintzes and would've preferred blueberry preserves to the strawberry jelly. Stan's may run out of blintzes a lot, but they're worth the wait.
Scott's Generations is a family-owned New York style deli that focuses on good food and good service rather than trendy decor and other frills. The place is pretty bare bones, with fresh baked bagels behind an ordering counter and lots of booths and tables for dine-in guests. There's also a large patio, though the parking lot view isn't worth braving the heat.
Scott's dishes up cheese blintzes with your choice of toppings from among a list of various fruit preserves, applesauce, fresh fruit and sour cream. Perfect -- we love choices. Four small blintzes arrived in a few minutes, accompanied by plastic containers of my three chosen toppings. The crepes were lightly golden and folded into cute little packages overflowing with creamy curds. I bit in, sans toppings.
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Everything was a bit firmer than Stan's version. The crepes here were slightly chewy, with an earthy, natural taste and a buttery coating. The filling was only mildly salty, and dense enough that it didn't get runny or watery as cooked cottage cheese can do. Toppings aside, Scott's and Stan's blintzes were both light, pleasurable meals with a fluffy curdled filling and a wheaty, salty finish.
Where Scott's really differed was in the toppings. Thick blueberry preserves were the blintz equivalent of pancake syrup. The thin applesauce made for a strange texture combination with the cottage cheese curds, but added natural sweetness that helped balance the salty filling. Fresh fruit meshed well with the cottage cheese (Stan's also serves this as a side with their blintzes).
The Winner: This one is a tough call. Stan's service was amazing and the salty blintz filling delicious, but I preferred the blueberry preserves and heartier crepe of Scott's blintzes. Thus I'm reluctantly calling this one a tie. Of course, that's probably just an excuse for me to go "get blintzed" again.