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Jun 1, 2010 08:13 PM

No longer a Zingerman's Deli virgin am I!

There is only one Zingerman's Deli (in Ann Arbor, MI, for anyone perhaps confused), and there's a profoundly good reason: no deli I've ever been to is more inviting to the foodie, and has a higher level of service and quality. Yes: everything's expensive, but in this case, and this is coming from a bone fide cheapskate, you do get the best quality for your money. Now, whether the quality necessarily resonates with you, that's a more interesting question, indeed.

Donna and I went there for my first time today. She's been there several times before, and to be honest, I must have driven by that place dozens of times, and never *once* realized what it was. How silly am I? I was hoping that a friend of mine who works there would be working today, and she was, so we were able to chat a bit. Let me just say this: you can accuse me of cronyism with my friend, but *to the employee*, there wasn't a bad attitude among them, and there are just *tons* of employees. They really do a great job there, and everyone was just terrific.

Sampled lots of things, some that really surprised me how much I liked them (Rick's Pick's garlic pickle slices were shockingly good...), some that surprised me given their description (soy/wasabi pickled green beans), and some that were just "meh" (one or two of the olive oils were just so-so). However, the sandwich is why I was there! Standard order: corned beef on rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing. *No* Swiss. New dill. Bada-boom, bada-bing. All set. I knew it would be $14.50, so the price wasn't that hard to bite down on, given the size of the sandwich (it fed me, but none was left), and when Donna paid for it, it was even easier to take! ;)

Here's the low-down:

Bread: A+. Quite simply, the very best Jewish rye I've ever had the pleasure of eating. I could consume far, far too much of this stuff, and I'm *picky* about my bread. Not to be missed, nor underestimated.

Corned beef: C. While the texture and amount were ample, the flavor was just not there where I considered it near as good as what I might get at Stage, or Plaza, or others. While Z's might win in terms of texture, overall taste wasn't there.

Coleslaw: C-. They're just trying to do too much with it, and it comes off a bit poorly as a result. Caraway seeds in my coleslaw? Really? I'm not knocking the quality at can tell the ingredients are solid. The problem is when you bring it together, and the sum of its parts is less than the individual ingredients themselves. As I said, they're just making the coleslaw too busy, here, and it takes away from the overall sandwich.

Russian dressing: B. Nothing really out of the ordinary here, to my taste buds. It wasn't overly sweet, but didn't seem to be tangy, either. I'm not too fussy on this one.

New pickle: D-. This was lousy. It was, it was...unexpectedly weird, almost medicinal or soapy in taste/nature. Donna told me that she thought they tasted very much of cucumbers, and I about fell off the table! While I did eat the thing, I wouldn't get another one...ever. It was one of those "Am I really tasting these flavors, here?" moments, and I'd just as soon never taste them like that again.

Overall, I'd have to give the sandwich a C+, maybe a B-. Much of that is due to that oh-so-fantastic bread it came on. I'm honestly taken aback as to why local folks worship at the altar of Z's corned beef. It's certainly edible, the texture is very nice...but that flavor both isn't really strong, and isn't really "correct" to my taste buds. With the coleslaw being pretty much a turn-off, and the pickle being a total loss, the whole thing would *normally* leave me a bit put out.

But, oh...the service. The bread. The quality of the food. The attentive employees. The myriad choices I'll have when I go back. The sampling...OH MY GOSH, THE SAMPLING! Truly, that is the way to run a food emporium. Go ahead and charge me the prices you're asking...if I don't like something I've paid a large sum for, it's *my fault* for not trying it!

While I wouldn't get a corned beef there again, I will *definitely* go back and try other things and sandwiches, and I'll spend my own money there. Those Rick's Picks have my name on 'em, and I want to support a place like this.

Thumbs *way* up, here. They deserve the accolades they've received, and mine as well.

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  1. Thx for another fun read, Sir.
    I pick at Z's but I'd hate the day they ever disappeared.
    ps--My keyboard is messed up but I have a short Neehee's report coming, soon, I hope. :-)

    1 Reply
    1. re: vtombrown

      VTB, let's hear it on Neehee's! Which location, FH or Canton?

    2. I believe it is Sy Ginsberg's corned beef, and I've found it variable in quality. Sometimes it's great, but it's temperamental. One personal fave: the Hot BLT (has hot pepper but is spicy rather than blazing hot). The Turkey Reuben, which is one of their trademarks, is also great. For a classic deli meat, I think the brisket sandwiches are the best.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jim M

        Jim, actually, the next time I go, I'll probably be having a brisket sandwich. Either that, or if they have an honest-to-goodness real roasted turkey, I might do that. As I said, the fact that the corned beef wasn't "all that" really didn't have the power to bring out my bad side against the place...there's just *so much more to love*, that a slight disappointment won't be that big a turn-off. Since I don't like cheese (except on pizza), a Reuben really won't be my thing, but I'm absolutely sure that I can find something else that will fit the bill.

      2. I had my first visit last fall. I too really loved the place.

        I have to disagree with you on the corned beef. I'm not a huge corned beef guy (I used to hate it as a kid) and I felt it was milder than most so it was great for me. That said, JM points to inconsistency so maybe yours was an off batch.

        Not sure if we had the same pickles or not. I loved mine. Nice and sour.

        There's a bit more and pictures on my blog


        6 Replies
        1. re: Davwud

          Dav, "mild" corned beef is pretty much heresy to me. I like a full-flavored corned beef, no matter if it's being prepared Jewish-style, Irish-style, or whatever...I want that meat to *sing*. If you grew up not liking corned beef, then I'm sure that it's right up your alley. As Jim alluded to, perhaps this corned beef wasn't the best batch ever, but there's absolutely no way that this sandwich is going to displace the top dogs of corned beef in the Detroit area. Now, if I could somehow manage to get said sandwiches served on Zingerman's *that* would be foodie heaven to me.

          My pickle was, indeed, pretty sour, but it was the medicinal/soapy taste that really put me off. That, and (along with the corned beef) I have somewhat of a preconceived idea as to what a new dill "should" taste like. Deviate too far from that expected idea, and it may result in disappointment from me. I understand that it's subjective, and I'm not saying that the pickle wasn't made with the highest quality ingredients; I'm just saying that it didn't work for me.

          1. re: boagman

            Give the Montreal Smoked Meat a try too.


            1. re: boagman

              I'm trying to understand why anyone would 'finish' a D rated pickle. Especially with soapy tastes, I might have asked for a different pickle, maybe some of Rick's Picks ;)

              1. re: Markcron

                That's a fair question, Markcron. Let me just say that it was a matter of a couple things: 1. I was hungry enough, and 2. It was just *weird*, and I kept thinking "I *must* be wrong about it...". I wasn't.

                I thought about asking for a different pickle, but ultimately decided against it because I know I'll be back and will know better for next time, and I also considered that I'd been able to sample a great many things gratis, and so I wasn't going to make a fuss about the pickle. I just know that I'm not ordering that again. I'm also trying to eat more at mealtimes so that I don't snack in between meals, and that pickle was part of the meal. I'm down 13-15 pounds since the beginning of the year, so I must be doing something right!

                Next time I go, though, the Rick's Picks will be *mine*! Considering that it's $8 for a 24 oz. jar, and the Ozark Pickle Pantry pickles I love are $6.50 for a 16 oz. jar, they're actually not a terrible ripoff or anything. That bread, though...wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Best I've ever had, and I still *love* the stuff that Star Bakery puts out locally. Still, Zingerman's was better.

                1. re: boagman

                  You may enjoy Zingerman's Bakehouse, where you can pick up the breads where they're made. Food selection is limited to soups (two per day, from OK to excellent, cheaper than at the deli, includes a piece of bread), small sandwiches in a cooler ($4.95-$5.95), and pastries, including cupcakes. You can get the rye pretty much straight out of the oven, and they have specials that are sometimes old-world breads that are hard to find around here. This weekend they're having chernushka rye, which has these sort of nutty-bitter black seeds. The bacon farm bread is also really good if you heat it up slightly. Small amount of seating in a nearby building. Kind of hard to find (in an industrial park with unsigned streets), but directions are here:


                  Zingerman's Bakehouse
                  3711 Plaza Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48108

                  1. re: Jim M

                    Jim M, Hopefully Boagman won't mind if I borrow a little of that advice you posted for him. (re: Z Bakehouse)

          2. I think Sy Ginsburg's corned beef is great no matter where I get it! Have you never had it before???? IT's sold everywhere around here....the corned beef you get at the Stage Deli is probably it....

            I've never had a "new" pickle at Zingerman's....I think the ones I have gotten there are the old school fermented kind which are my favorite kind of pickle. If you like the bread, right when you walk in the door at the deli, on your LHS, there is a basket. That's where the day old bread can get a great deal on it. Also, it is sold at many stores in the Metro Detroit area, including Busch's.

            As an Ann Arbor local, I rarely go to Zingerman's Deli....too many tourists and the parking sucks....but if I do go, I get some of the bread and select my own deli meats and make my own sandwiches. They have great deli meats. Also, they have a great selection of cheeses, too.

            1 Reply
            1. re: momskitchen

              While most of the great places do use Sy Ginsburg's Corned Beef....many times each venue will tweak it by the methods they use to warm it up. Some may bring it up to temp in a Brine and I even know of one place that roast his.


            2. Agreed, parking is miserable, service is cheerful and competent, and the food is fabulous and well worth the occasional splurge. I'm crazy about their chocolate cherry bread. The dough part is chocolate-flavored but not very sweet, and it's loaded with juicy dried cherries and chunks of fabulous, silky dark chocolate. I've had a few people tell me, "I don't 'get' that bread" -- because it's somewhat like a dessert, but not exactly, and they don't know how to categorize it. It's amazing!