Restaurant Review – The Bagel Deli

June 7, 2012
The Bagel Deli is an institution, dating back over 40-years.  Families, Denverites and lovers of matzo ball soup come here to fill their cravings for traditional Jewish cuisine.  I heard about this restaurant nearly two years ago from a colleague but just recently made my way over to taste what all the hype was about. 
(Clockwise from top:  restaurant exterior  /  taking down a monster Ruben  /  Guy Fieri  /  lunch piled high  /  chicken noodle soup)

The dining room was nothing to write home about but was packed from wall-to-wall with hungry diners.  Charming family photos cover one wall, truly capturing the family’s roots sense the restaruant’s conception.  It is a simple space in a strip-mall that I will not lie, turned me off at first as it is situation next to a dry cleaner.  The place is cloaked in signage proudly touting their feature on Food Network’s ‘Diners, Drive Ins and Dives’.  No joke, there is a TV that airs the special on a loop, all-day-long!
Up until my visit to The Bagel Deli, I had never eaten matzo ball soup before so, to say the least, I am the last thing from an aficionado.  I thought the broth had deep flavors but it was overly salted for my tastes (crazy, I know because I love salt!) and I felt like the soup was begging for a couple grinds of fresh cracked pepper.  However, the matzo balls had great texture and flavor that balanced out the salty soup.  Coincidently, the homemade chicken noodle soup, with a plentiful serving of delicately thin noodles was swimming in, what I would presume to be the same broth from the matzo ball soup.  Sadly it slightly reminded me of a store-bought version I like to eat on days I am feeling under the weather.
The hype however, is about sandwiches stacked high and proud with briny corned beef, pastrami and brisket.  Slow-cooked in their natural jus, vegetables and spices these meats are standouts on the menu.  The phrase, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ must be the motto with the cooking preparation for the tender, thinly-sliced proteins that sing between two slices of deliciously soft and chewy rye or pumpernickel breads.  The classic Ruben with tangy sauerkraut and Swiss cheese was nearly 4” high and a complete mess to take down.  However, if you have been making the same sandwich for over forty years, I would hope you would have mastered it by now so I guess I was not overly impressed. 
The Bagel Deli does knock it out of the park with their purple horseradish; slightly spicy, peppery and pickled, this condiment one that intensifies every item on the menu.  However, beyond the horsey and the proteins, I did not find many memorable items that would bring me back for another meal at this well-known establishment. 
I guess if I had to sum it up, The Bagel Deli has made a well-known name for itself in the community as a place that brings people together over the love of traditional Jewish food but I feel like somewhere along the way, the Bagel Deli has lost its ‘chutzpah’.  Maybe after forty years in business, doing the same thing day-in and day-out without any change has made the place a bit complacent, monotonous or lax.  By no means am I saying The Bagel Deli is going away anytime soon but I feel like the place might need to tighten the reigns and put some focus back on the food before The Bagel Deli’s good name cannot hold up their current reputation.
(The Bagel Deli's feature on 'Diners, Drive Ins and Dives')

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