Cafe Reviews


Page 2 of 3

When it comes to deli, I'm particularly picky. If you're not, Bomans might do.New York Bagels 'N Bialys, 6990 East Shea, Scottsdale, 991-3034. Hours: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, Monday through Saturday, 5:30 a.m. to 8p.m.; Sunday, 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

No matter what your level of deli tolerance, New York Bagels 'N Bialys certainly won't do.

The good news is that New York Bagels 'N Bialys puts out a plate of pickles and rye bread. The bad news is that this turns out to be the high point of the meal.

Problem number one: the setting. This is one of the least savory places I've run across in town. On one visit, we encountered air-conditioning problems. Hey, that can happen anywhere. But that doesn't explain the one bejillion flies that swarmed about the place, to the utter unconcern of management. (When the waitress tried to shoo them away with her hand, I thought I heard the flies laughing.) Nor can it account for a floor strewn with napkins, cigarettes and bits of food that looked like it hadn't been swept since Labor Day.

Problem number two: the service. Mastering the concept of courses doesn't require the same brainpower as mastering the theory of relativity. But it seems to with this staff. Dishes arrived haphazardly; entrees before soups, appetizers after sandwiches. Sometimes items didn't arrive at all, like the thrice-requested gravy for the kishke. And I've had an easier time getting my kids to clear the table of dirty dishes than I did with employees here, who are presumably trained and paid to carry out the task.

Problem number three: the food. Most of it falls into the category of "why bother?"

You'd never know from this restaurant's models that soups are one of the glories of Jewish deli cooking. The matzo ball soup is decidedly thin on poultry flavor, and it's not enhanced by a mushy matzo ball. Chicken soup should also come to the table steaming. My bowl came at a temperature level better suited to gazpacho.

Cabbage soup is just as disappointing, strictly one-dimensional. This soup needs to cook all day, but the kitchen obviously took a major shortcut. The cabbage wasn't cooked through, and the broth also lacked the beefy underpinnings and the sweet and sour smack you find in the best versions.

Main dishes are only marginally more inspiring. The beef brisket took so long to come out that I suspected the cook had started with a live cow. Even so, when it finally appeared, the less-than-mesmerizing meat hadn't been heated all the way through.The stuffed cabbage won't transport youto the Lower East Side, either. Quantity certainly isn't a problem; you get three hearty pieces. But like the cabbage soup, this dish is too light on hard-hitting flavors. Among the entrees, you're probably safest with the rotisserie-spun chicken, a moist bird that offers neither unpleasant surprises nor heart-stopping thrills.It took the side dish of steamed vegetables that accompanies the main dishes toreally get me steamed. From my table in the back corner, I could see that the young man in charge of them suddenly realized that he had been steaming them for several minutes over a pot whose water had evaporated. He belatedly poured in some liquid, hoping that the blackened veggies and their unpleasant burnt aroma could be rescued. They couldn't. But they were served to us anyway. How can you have so little regard for paying customers?After dealing with flies, litter, inept service and charred vegetable remains, it took enormous powers of concentration to focus on the quality of the deli sandwiches. ("Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the show?") Still, not even these distractions could blind me to the charms of the thick, chunky chopped liver, served on a well-made bialy. The pastrami and corned beef, though, could never make it on Broadway.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Howard Seftel