When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours)
Restaurant: Abe's of Scottsdale Deli Restaurant Location: 10050 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale Open: A little over two weeks Eats: Jewish-style deli eats Price: Between $11 and $30 per person
Unlike the Valley's few Jewish-style delis, which, for the most part, don't tend to draw too much attention to themselves, Abe's came onto the scene with a bit more fanfare.
See also: Best Jewish Deli 2012 - Goldman's Deli
Its owner, Larry Abel, operated delicatessens in New Haven, Baltimore, and San Francisco for over 35 years; chef Reed Groban (formerly of Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and current partner of Pink Pony) was brought aboard to help craft the menu; and its location, in a busy Scottsdale shopping center, sports a sprawling dining area, espresso bar, walk-up deli counter, and patio.
With a tagline exclaiming, "Finally . . . An Alternative!" Abe's seems to be saying what most East and West Coast transplants have been thinking for years. Better yet, it looks to have the start of enough good dishes to make good on the claim.
Given its breadth and somewhat tiresome, tongue-in-cheek humor ("Don't Get 'Verkelmpt' When Trying Abe's New Age Lamb Praakes"), you would not be faulted for an eye roll, a groan, or simply giving up and consulting the server when it comes to reading Abe's menu. It's lengthy listing of classic deli staples, sandwiches, and all-day breakfast items could stand an edit or two.
But there is a plate of pickles and a small bowl of Abe's crunchy slaw with a light, sweet flavor brought out before the meal. And these are good things.
You could start with a good chopped chicken liver ($7) -- probably not the best you've ever had, but better than most. More or less the Jewish version of pate and made with chopped eggs, onions, and schmaltz (chicken fat), it's pleasingly presented in a glass jar along alongside veggies and rye bread (forgotten on my order). Not too moist or too creamy, the texture is spot-on; however, the overall flavor stays on the light side, with notes of the onions and rendered chicken fat present, but not in a big way.
The Jewish Penicillin, or chicken soup ($7.50/bowl), is less successful. Although packed with chicken, veggies, and noodles, its too-light broth is scantily seasoned and not helped at all by a flavorless matzo ball.
Massive deli sandwiches may be what Abe does best -- especially the grilled Reubens ($12), where rye bread can be replaced with latkes, or potato pancakes. Packed with a choice of meat (go with the corned beef or Romanian pastrami), melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing, the crispy and slightly greasy latkes turn this classic hoagie into a unique, knife-and-fork affair that could easily be split with a friend.
Inside Abe's, the scene is open and inviting -- more reminiscent of a casual restaurant than an old-school deli. Buttery yellow walls surround a red carpeted floor and rows of booths in the sprawling dining area and coffee lounge. In the back, a walk-up deli features bagels, sweet treats, flavored cream cheeses, smoked fish and meat, cheese, and other traditional favorites.
And with several of the eager-to-please staff, from the hostess to the bus boy, double- and triple-checking on the state of your dining experience, Abe's is clearly trying to get it right.
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In just a little more than two weeks of being opened, Abe's of Scottsdale may still have some work to do, but overall, it looks as if this shakeup to the Valley's Jewish-style deli scene can back up its "Finally . . . an Alternative!" tagline and become a welcome addition to the neighborhood.