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Jan 8, 2008 11:59 AM

Michael's Deli

Inspired by the thread on Rubin's and the fact that it is just freakishly warm today, I walked up to Coolidge Corner for lunch today at Michael's Deli. As much time as I spend in CC, I've never gotten around to eating lunch here, and I think that's going to change now.

I like a good corned beef as much as anyone, but I wasn't in the mood for a Rachel, my usual delivery system for same. So instead I went for my other deli standby, a chicken salad club on rye. As soon as I finished ordering the sandwich, I picked up a Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray and a bag of kettle-cooked potato chips from the front displays and paid my $9 and change, and by the time I was done with those simple tasks, the cook was cleaving my sandwich in twain and sliding the whole thing into a styrofoam clamshell. I'm pretty sure I was in and out of there in under 90 seconds.

Perched on a bench on that little plaza on Beacon Street just in front of Paper Source (yes, an al fresco lunch on January 8, that's how warm it was this afternoon), I unloaded my bag and noticed that the cook had snapped a large rubber band around the clamshell, which seemed odd. Until I took it off and the whole thing fairly exploded in my hands, that is. This sandwich was basically the size, shape and weight of your standard red construction brick, and filled enough with chicken salad, bacon, lettuce and tomato that shards of all of those things fell off every time I picked it up. The bread was a light seeded rye, lightly toasted and aromatic with caraway. The chicken salad was dense and unadorned, your basic combo of chunks of white and dark meat chicken bound with just enough mayo to hold it together and seasoned with nothing more than salt, pepper and maybe a touch of celery seed, though that might have been coming from my soda. The lettuce was crisp and cold iceberg and the tomatoes were thin-sliced enough to allow me to overlook that they were January tomatoes. The bacon was the weakest link -- crunchy with just enough of a chew not to be shattery, but not the most flavorful I've ever had. Still, that's a minor complaint given the strength of the rest of the sandwich, and at $5.99, this large sandwich was a major lunchtime bargain as well. Coolidge Corner is just enough out of my way that I probably won't make this too much of a lunchtime staple, but it's definitely going to be a regular treat from now on.

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  1. Yes - Michaels is just good down-to-earth value. Try the corned beef next time. It's in the same league as better New York delis.

    2 Replies
    1. re: FoonFan

      You bought bacon in a Jewish deli and then complained about it? For shame!

      1. re: SSqwerty

        If they're gonna sell treyf, they might as well sell good treyf!

    2. His knishes are good, particularly the potato and the pastrami ones. I'm not a fan of his chopped liver. I buy corned beef by the pound, get a seeded deli rye from Clear Flour and pig out. The meat is a $1 or so more expensive than Boar's Head but so much better.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lergnom

        You got it - Michael's corned beef on Clear Flour rye is sandwich nirvana! My trick is to slice the rye diagonally to get larger deli-style slices.

        Every time I visit my relatives in suburbia I bring a care package of Michael's corned beef, and I am now officially the favorite uncle.

      2. The times I've got to Michael's I've liked the food a lot. But I always wish Michael's was bigger, with more seating. And that it looked like a real, NY deli. But I do appreciate the food. By the way, your description of the sandwich was incredible. Thanks.

        my blog:

        12 Replies
        1. re: TheScribe

          I have always enjoyed Michael's Corned Beef sandwiches. I find those along with Barry's in Waban to have the best CB sandwiches but I have yet to find a Boston area deli that serves Pastrami like you can get at Katz's or 2nd Ave Deli in NYC, if there is one, let me know.

          1. re: bakerboyz

            My favorite pastrami in the area is at Sam La Grassa's on Province Downtown Xing.. open for lunch M-F only


            They also make a good corned beef; but I think Michael may nudge it out by a little.

            Michael's is a regular stop fo me if I'm in CC..usually takeout cuz I'm probably eating at Dok Bua or Khao Sarn..:)

            1. re: 9lives

              Any resemblance to NYC pastrami?

              1. re: bakerboyz

                have gone to michaels since they opened, i think the pastrami is better than the corned beef. he gets all the meats from nyc so the pastrami is the same as what is served at the good deli's in nyc. had a combo liver and pastrami the other day, it was fantastic

                1. re: bakerboyz

                  They're not going to put Katz's out of business but it's a real good sandwich...NY style.

                  It's the best I've found in the Boston area..hours make it tough if you don't work downtown..but worth a trip. It's also next door to the Province St if you make a special trip; hit both.

                  I haven't tried Michael's or Barry's pastrami yet..and can't compare, though I'm fond of their CB

                  1. re: bakerboyz

                    Best Reuben I've ever had, lots of meat, always fulfills my "extra kraut and dressing" request and melts the cheese perfectly without making a whole soggy mess. Considering the Jewish influence in the area, you'd think there would be more places that knew how to make a sandwich like this but I can't seem to find anything that comes even close. Forget Zaftigs that place is trash in comparison!

                    1. re: bakerboyz

                      i don't mean to be critical just for the sake of criticism, but i do want to make sure future hounds don't stumble on this post and think boston has a katz's or langer's equivalent. IMHO michael's offers a decent deli sandwich, of the thinly sliced variety. in other words, expect a pre-sliced and measured pouch of meat being warmed, not a warm hunk of brisket being hand-carved. i don't particularly like their pastrami, but the corned beef Rachel is a good sandwich if you just take it for what it is. it's miles above zaftig's (which serves the most oily - not fatty, just oily - pastrami i've ever had) but it doesn't come close to giving you the pleasure of biting into a thick flavorful piece of pastrami or corned beef found in NYC or LA. on the positive side: their red potato salad is plain but good. other gripes (besides the ridiculous hours): for a while they kept trying to toast the bread, often burning it badly, but lately they seem to have given up on toasting entirely, at least on the Rachel.

                      1. re: mikhail

                        Good for you, but Michael's has the excellent advantage of being in Coolidge Corner and not Manhattan. That makes it a lot easier for me to grab lunch there, y'know?

                        Incidentally, that chicken salad club was on excellently-toasted light rye.

                        1. re: mikhail

                          I do believe that Michael's sources their pastrami and corned beef from NYC. Also, I strongly prefer a sandwich that I can actually bite, rather than some mountain I must climb and conquer in order to eat.

                  2. re: TheScribe

                    Michael's was a Tealuxe, which explains the decor.

                    1. re: lergnom

                      THAT tiny space was a Tealuxe? No wonder it closed. I can't imagine enjoying a nice relaxing pot of tea in a space that cramped.

                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                        Tealuxe doesn't seem to do "relaxing" - the original shop in Harvard Square is just as bad, and the bigger shop on Newbury Street is even less welcoming.

                  3. I want to try the corned beef and Romanian pastrami at Michael's Deli. Is there a parking lot nearby or meters? Does anyone know if parking meters are free on Sunday in Brookline? Has anyone tried their homemade coleslaw and potato salads?

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: buffet king

                      No meters on Sun. if Harvard St. is crowded, you can park on the side street between the church and gas station very easily.

                      1. re: buffet king

                        There are meters on both Harvard and Beacon, and several parking lots. The largest is the one behind the Coolidge Theater.

                        1. re: buffet king

                          They give you a righteous pickle in Michael', and the potato salad is OK. But so far I can't find anyplace in Boston where they know how to make fresh tasting cole slaw. Michael's tastes like sauerkraut with mayo on it. Last week i was at the Biltmore where an otherwise perfect fish & chips was ruined by slaw that tasted like kim chee with mayo on it. Don't these chefs know that you have to make sides in small batches --ESPECIALLY anything with cabbage in it-- or it gets strong while sitting?

                          Oh, and I only had it once, but Michael's chicken soup was great!

                          1. re: SSqwerty

                            I agree with you about the lack of good cole slaw in the Boston area. Of all of the ones I've tried, the chopped cole slaw at the Brookline Stop and Shop is the best of the average. Not many Stop and Shops carry tjhe chopped version. It's at the deli counter. Sometimes, I add a touch of celery seed.
                            I have to stop reading this thread around lunch time. I was all set to have my tossed salad with grilled chicken that I made at home. Now, a corned beef sandwich sounds A LOT better.

                            1. re: catsmeow

                              try the red cabbage slaw at the La Rotisserie in Chestnut Hill mall. it's much better than average.

                        2. Re parking near Michael's - from the inbound side of Beacon St, just before CC, take the diagonal right onto Webster. There are a few street spots, but also a small parking lot on the left just behind the row of stores that faces Harvard St. You can also get to Webster by going straight across Beacon from Centre St (behind the theater and large parking lot).

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: peregrine

                            I may get in trouble for saying this but you can park in the big secret lot: at the Marriott. Don't tell anyone. You get a ticket and pay at a machine in the lobby doors - which takes credit cards. As part of the deal to get the former town parking lot for development, the garage charges the same as a street meter.

                            1. re: lergnom

                              I went to Michael's Deli yesterday and found a metered parking space right in front of Lineage on Harvard Street. Parking meters are free on Sunday so I was very happy. I got a corned beef reuben for lunch and a romanain pastrami sandwich for dinner. The corned beef reuben was very good and packed with corned beef. Next time I go to Michael's Deli I want to the the corned beef rachel with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut. The romanian pastrami sandwich was excellent. I got it on pumpernickel bread with yellow mustard. Michael the owner took my order and his staff made the sandwiches pretty fast. What else is good at Michael's Deli?