Nalbandian Nosh: February Review

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Mira Nalbandian

We are back in front of the television for our review of the Jewish deli food from Protzel’s.

Transitioning into February, a month both short and sweet, it was time to venture into the world of Jewish deli food. My father is quite the expert in this cuisine, posting numerous of his own reviews on Facebook. But of course, our reviews work better in tandem, so I needed to try some for myself. I was curious to see if local Jewish delis had adequate vegetarian options, and we were both excited to see what else they have to offer. Please enjoy our review of the Jewish deli cuisine from Protzel’s.

The Herbivore’s Meal

I decided to try and eat a little healthier this time around, and what better way to do that than to eat salad. In fact, I even ordered two salads. Of course, neither of these salads actually included lettuce. I may be a vegetable-lover, but even I have a limit. So, I ordered an egg salad sandwich and a potato salad side. Keto dieters, cower in my presence.

Egg Salad (Cousin Sandy’s homemade recipe) $7.25
Side of Potato Salad (made fresh each day) $1.79
(Mira Nalbandian)

I did order the egg salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread so there was still a semblance of health involved. Simply put, it was very good. Sometimes egg salad sandwiches can be a risky move; they can be too bland or have too much relish, but Protzel’s provided a good balance. The flavors were all delicious, and the salad was the perfect texture, not mushy at all. The eggs combined with the traditional mayonnaise and mustard made for a very tasty entree. Egg salad could be risky to get as take out considering the ingredients can quickly go bad, but luckily it went smoothly. Overall, it was an amazing sandwich.

My second lettuce-less salad was also very enjoyable. It wasn’t one of those generic store bought potato salads that’s all weird and yellow, but the good kind that you can tell is going to be delicious right away. You could taste all of the little herbs, especially dill, that really brought the whole dish together when added to the mayonnaise, mustard, potatoes, and celery. Like other “salads” that tend to include a lot of spoil-prone ingredients, potato salad can be dangerous to transport (I must reference Michael Scott’s tumultuous experience with potato salad at a high-profile cocktail party), but it arrived safe and sound. My only complaint? I wish there was more.

So, if you’re looking for a good vegetarian salad that doesn’t have any of that gross green stuff, I highly recommend Protzel’s. They also served my meal with chips and a pickle, which just brought the whole deli experience to life right in our own living room. I look forward to eating some more of Protzel’s cuisine very soon.

The Carnivore’s Meal

The Ross Meal (½ Sandwich and ½ Soup) $8.75

Potato Knish (the “K” is NOT silent) $4.00

Black and White Cookie $2.50

As my daughter said, I have harbored a love for Jewish Deli food for many years. It harkens back to my youth, when my dad would cart me off to Sherman’s Deli in Creve Coeur for tongue sandwiches I refused to try. This is mainly because it is literally the cured, thinly-sliced tongue of a cow. I remember with fondness the great smells and tastes, the bakery case filled with sweet treats and the lovably surly wait staff. Sadly the days of grand, full service, everything made fresh in-house Jewish delis are nearly gone from St. Louis— only a handful of places remain. Protzel’s is one of those throwbacks. It’s a survivor, still run by the Protzel family and still serving real-deal deli food made almost entirely in-house.

For my meal, I chose a little variety and ordered the classic corned beef on fresh baked rye with Russian dressing and a small bowl of matzo ball soup, with a potato knish on the side. My corned beef sandwich was just what I’d hoped it’d be with a tender thinly sliced meat that has the right balance of flavor without being fatty or greasy. Traditional corned beef is a beef brisket (the cut of meat from the frontal chest of the animal) cured with salt and peppercorns’, which is then cooked usually by simmering or sometimes smoking the meat. This process imbues the meat with a deep pink color and unique peppery flavor, and Protzel’s is among the best I’ve had. They trim their brisket to leave just enough fat for flavor but not enough that it is greasy or chewy. The nature of the cut requires a great deal of work to produce a tender texture and flavor, and this one is a home run. 

Protzel’s doesn’t bake their own bread, but they get their rye from a top notch bakery. The addition of Russian dressing—think 1000 island and, replace the pickle relish with finely chopped onions and you’ve got it— is just the right amount of sharp and sweet to compliment the meat. It lets the meat shine without overpowering it. Don’t you hate when you put too much mustard on the sammy and then it just becomes a mustard sandwich?

I also had a wonderful matzo ball soup, a must for a Jewish deli. The soup is pretty basic: you take fresh chicken broth, add matzo balls to it and let them simmer until tender. Matzo is an unleavened bread, like a crunchy cracker, that is ground up and then combined with eggs, water, and schmaltz and then formed into small, meatball-like spheres. If these are not made correctly they can turn into bland little rocks in the broth, but Protzel’s are full of flavor and tender as can be. 

Additionally, I ordered a potato knish, a type of pastry ball filled with mashed potato. These were very well executed. The potatoes were made from scratch and had a buttery, peppery flavor and the pastry shell was flaky. 

The capper to my meal was the black and white cookie, not really a cookie but actually a flat cake, made with yellow cake and vanilla and chocolate glaze icing. These were made fresh by the Protzel family and were moist and tender with just the right amount of sweetness in the cake that was a great compliment to the sweet icing. 

The entire meal was just fantastic and we will be going back to Protzel’s very soon. They have a few chairs inside, so as soon as things open up we’d love to become regulars.

Outside of Protzel’s Delicatessen, located in Clayton (Mira Nalbandian)