Irving's Deli in Livingston
Finally, for all of you who have wished that there was a real Deli from your neighborhood in New York, in New Jersey, the answer may be Irving's on Route 10 in Livingston.
I've been there twice and have left happy.
There is no Irving. The owner hired a guy from Katz's in NY, taught everyone how to hand cut pastrami, brisket, and corned beef, modelled it after Katz's even in the decor. You get a ticket at the door, order your sandwich, get a sample as they are cutting - they give you the sample whether you tip or not, get a drink and take a seat.
The pastrami and brisket were spectacular. The corned beef very good, (though I'm partial to pastrami, if I had to choose). Really good rye, (bread didn't fall apart when confronted with moist meat.
Good Yonah Shimmel style knishes.
I've been there twice and agree with Felixnot. This is a place worth seeking out. First time I went there myself for a hot dog. Excellent 5 to a lb natural casing all beef dog grilled on a flat griddle. Second time I came with my wife. I had a pastrami sandwich, which was excellent. I rarely eat pastrami and can't really compare it to anything I remember, but it was delicious. I had part of a pastrami sandwich at Katz's about 6 years ago (again I went for the hot dogs) and remember liking it. I'd say that Irving's is in the same league. My wife had a corned beef sandwich which she liked very much, and we both sampled the brisket which was top notch as well. They serve a special brand of cofee which was the best I ever tasted. I asked the name, but forget what it was. Irving's has only been open a few months.
No comparison. Irving's pastrami, brisket and corned beef are better: they pull it out of the steamer in order to slice it! And then they slice it by hand.
When we only had Eppes, it was fine, but Irvings is a better alternative, for those of us who really like Katz's in New York.
I had a hot dog there and it was OK, good sized but not too tasty. And for pastrami, in Livingston you can't beat the taste of Nana's pastrami. Definitely better than this, no comparison. But it's nice to have a few options in the area. The hand-sliced meats are an aquired style and taste. I prefer the real Kosher-deli style thin-sliced. This pastrami was way too smoky-flavored for me. Nice atmosphere in the dining area too.
Irving's wasn't a top notch jewish eatery, though, one at which you can get the needed yidisha fixa. Many things were off about our dining experience there. 1. The wait staff seems to lack coordination. Our son's high-chair took 5 minutes - one came out, but was commandeered by a busboy who had no remorse in making us stand longer for a table he was helping that came in 3 minutes after us. The busboy walked by and smiled when i told him it was for us...pretty juvenile, but no surprise when a young 20-something is in charge of things on the floor, huh. 2. Our server then had to stop in the middle of taking our order to get our pickles/coleslaw. The busboys, too busy talking in the corner, had failed to do their initial dispensation of these items, but why she stopped in the middle of our order (as my wife was in mid sentence) was curious, at best. 3. The matzoh ball soup was luke warm, and the MB itself was rather tasteless, as was the soup (It wasn't golden and rich, but pale yellow and watery). Good balance of pepper, but lacking otherwise. 4. For a place that dares compare itself with classic NYC delis and drops the KATZ name, the corned beef was pretty tough since it was cut WITH THE GRAIN, allowing the natural toughness of the cut to stand out. They go for the thick cut, so there is no way around this textural dilemma. Also curious was how "extra lean" costs more, a first in my 40+ years. In every other place I have ever found the classic jewish meats, the FAT CUT is extra for flavor purposes. Hmmm... 5. Like many places, IRVINGS does not have anything but brown mustard. This is no crime, but for many who enjoy different kinds of mustards/condiments, the meat gets pigeon-holed in with their already-salty mustard to create a sodium aftertaste that sticks around for days (seemingly).
The management could have cared less about our marginal experience, so don't expect much when/if things are off.
Highlights included the coleslaw, the brisket - good fat marble while also being cooked until super-tender, the knish (also had a nice pepper balance while being lighter than their dense Manhattan brethren) and the easy parking. It isn't to be avoided, but IRVINGS seems like it is a place that will hold you over until you can get to a REAL jewish deli. Go because it is convenient, but not if you have to travel far and are expecting the HOLY GRAIL (or ARK OF THE COVENANT, as the case may be).
Decent, but not worth telling the grandparents in Palm Beach about....
VERY DISAPPOINTED! I ordered the Pastrami, curious to see how it measured to Katz's. I expected something within reason, but I got a totally tasteless $12+ sandwich. It was fatty and moist enough--it looked fantastic, the bread was perfect, the sandwich piled high, but the meat tasted as though it had been sitting in plain WATER (not brine) all day. Like boiled meat, eww! It was diluted and flavorless. No excuse for what I had. I cannot believe how people are raving about this place. I've had the dry stuff from the supermarket taste more like pastrami than this. The fat is wonderful and juiciness is great, but there HAS to be flavor behind it. I actually added salt, but it didn't help much. I am hoping in a sad $12 way that my sandwich came from a lousy cut of pastrami that fell into the sink. I invested the money and the calories and I ended up not finishing it. How awful! I am a star member of the Clean Plate Club. Their knish was good, but pastrami blew. I called them (I had take-out) to tell them that it was disappointing, but I doubt it went any bit beyond the woman. She said, "blah, blah, well, I'm sorry it wasn't to your expectations, blah, blah" (I expected flavor) and after I told her it needed salt, she'd "have the manager taste it." Thanks, but that sink meat is long since gone. Now, that I've talked about my experience, I will try it again sometime. You all seemed to have thought it was terrific. Maybe it was just a fluke. Maybe their corned beef is better. However, if it comes up tasteless again (this can't be what humans find delicious; something had to be wrong), I’ll let you know.
Figured I'd top this thread...
With all this talk of pastrami lately, I wanted to ask if anyone has been to Irving's lately? When they first opened I went often. Back then, it was good. Very good. I liked it. The pastrami was very good, so were the knishes, and so was a lot of other things. The pastrami was kept in the steamer, hand-cut, and had a lot of flavor, taste, etc., but good balance.
Anyway, after a while, the place just "slipped". I don't know if they changed ingredients, suppliers, staff, or what, but the place just started to slip and things weren't as good. I know several people who felt the same way.
I am fortunate to be so close to NYC, and in the city often, and at least I still have Hobby's (Newark) and the Kosher Nosh (Glen Rock), and when I am in central NJ I can go to Harold's or a few of the others (Deli-King, it's been a long time, so I am not sure if they are both still open).
Has anyone been to Irving's recently?
I went to Eppes Essen the day before thanksgiving for some to-go soup, I wanted a snack for the car so I asked for 5 or so slices of fatty pastrami. Not sure what conditions led to it, but that was some of the best pastrami I've ever had, warm, peppery, juicy, amazing.
I had only recently learned about Irving's, so, with visions of pastrami dancing in my head, I tried it out for the first time the saturday after thanksgiving. The pastrami sandwich was good, but the transcendent sublime deliciousness that were those five slices from Eppes Essen blew it away. Caveat: I'm not sure if the waiter completely received my 'I want it fatty' message. It may have been slightly too lean for my taste. That being said, the leftovers didn't last in my fridge.
The difference is that Eppes Essen is a food museum, outrageously overpriced to the extent that you have to reconcile with yourself that the prices are a donation to keep important food culture alive. So, I appreciate that Irving's is taking a more 'progressive' approach. In that, they do 'wacky' stuff like the Rubenoli (CB calzone, basically) and have slightly more reasonable prices. I think if I were taking a group somewhere and they weren't food obsessed, I'd probably take them to Irving's, but if I knew I was dealing with some chowhoundish folks, we'd go to Eppes Essen.
(on chicken consommé: The main reason I go to Eppes Essen, their matzo ball soup is as good as Sarge's or 2nd Ave Deli. I had it at Irving's and it was great, better than that silly stuff diners call 'matzo ball soup', but it was not on the same level as the other places I mentioned.)