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DGS Delicatessen in Dupont Circle - Report

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Expensive, but this is going to be a major destination in Washington. $13 got me a pastrami sandwich (no mixing of meats, so no combo pastrami/corned beef). A gorgeous, smoky sandwich, a bit too salty which is why I prefer a combo to straight up pastrami. Bread is excellent.

Also got a side order of the kasha varnishkas. It is a Mediterranean preparation with a tomatoey and spicy sauce with olives. Excellent.

And just for the purpose of research, also got the noodle kugel for dessert. Too expensive, but excellent as well.

This is more 'deli as a culinary treat' than a regular occasion for me. But a great treat nonetheless.

I believe they take reservations, which I predict will be necessary for dinner before long.

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  1. Thanks for this report! DGS is one of the new places I've been hoping to try, and you just bumped it up the list.

    Patrick
    New Restaurant Reviews @ www.firstbitedc.com

    1. Wow, I wish I could have had your sandwich - i just got back from there and I thought it was awful - the pickles were limp and mushy, my Rueben was so greasy the bread was falling apart, and the corned beef was mealy and tasteless. Even the kraut was bland.
      However, the one bright star in the meal was the Matzo Ball soup, tasty broth with a light and fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth ball, simple yet elegant. The staff were attentive and pleasant.
      On my way out, I saw another sandwich on the counter that looked better than mine, they may have consistancy problems (wouldn't explain the corned beef, though) - I would have stopped and spoken to management but I was already running very late (not their fault, mine!)

      1 Reply
      1. re: tommyskitchen

        I feel a bit bad about the report above, but call them as I see them. So when co-workers decided to order from DGS yesterday, I was anxious to give it another try.

        I was tempted to order the soup again as it was so good the first time - But ended up starting with the chopped liver, which was really, really nice - the flavor was spot-on, savory and a tad sweet, the liver shining through but not overpowering. The texture was a but creamier than I was used to, not as chunky as most, and was served in 'cups' of raddicchio with somewhat boring toasts.

        I also ordered the pastrami sandwich - I was not going to chance the Reuben once again! The meat was delicious, not at all mealy as before and was a very nice sandwich - HOWEVER - the bread still sucked, as it fell apart while eating even without being soaked with grease as before. A minor quirk was that the pastrami was cut very thickly, in chunks, and while I prefer it sliced thin on a sandwich, the flavor was so nice that it didn't matter as much to me.

        The pickles were crunchy and not mushy like before; I tried both slaws and neither were anything to write home about.

        All in all, a positive experience - there are some consistency problems that they need to work out and hopefully those will be resolved in time, but my new go-to light lunch just might be an order of chopped liver and a bowl of Matzo Ball soup....

      2. Is this joint carry out in addition to dine in? Nothing like some great pastrami.

        1. On my second visit, I got a terrific whitefish salad sandwich (Highly recommended), a Tunisian-style knish -(very delicious), and a bowl of borscht that was more precious than hearty. The kind of borscht that might appeal to someone who doesn't like beets. I would not get the borscht again. But the other items were big winners.

          They have already started to do carryout.

          23 Replies
          1. re: Steve

            I can't even begin to imagine a borscht for someone who doesn't like beets. They should serve that at the steakhouse for people who don't like red meat.

            1. re: monkeyrotica

              Borscht for someone who doesn't like beets is called schav. 8<D

              My great-aunt Pearl also made a borscht out of green beans, but I haven't seen that in 40 years.

              1. re: Bob W

                Schav is not an alternate name for borscht. Schav is green and it is made out of sorrel.

                http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles...

                http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/3860/S...

                1. re: Just Visiting

                  You missed his joke - but he did include a 'funny' emoticon for those who might not get it.

                  1. re: Steve

                    I got it but then again, I am one of those who knows what borscht and shav are. I wrote that for the many people who wouldn't have a clue. Which is probably 99.9% of the people who read it.

                    1. re: Just Visiting

                      Then you should have phrased your response differently.

                      1. re: Just Visiting

                        Then there is the percentage that don't care. Save a few points for us.

                2. re: monkeyrotica

                  You have caught the real problem: this is not a true deli. It is a melange of deli like things. It is not kosher, they use fusion, like Tunisian knish, and Tunisian spices, and they don't know how to cut the meat. It is over priced, trendy nonsense. It will no doubt have its run and flame out.

                  1. re: law_doc89

                    Again, when you say a true deli is kosher, I'm not sure what you're talking about.

                    In NYC, of the big name delis, only Second Avenue is kosher.

                    1. re: DanielK

                      Should be kosher style at this point, originally kosher. My bad.

                      Anyway, DGS is a joke, and should be billed as fusion, it is not even remotely deli. So, Daniel, do you have any idea what I am talking about in the cutting of the meat?

                      1. re: law_doc89

                        DGS features corned beef and pastrami sandwiches surrounded mostly by Sephardic Jewish cooking. They purposely said they did not want to recreate a standard Jewish Deli that featured heavy foods. Their goal was to have a Kosher-style deli, which specifically has come to mean no shellfish and no pork.

                        I ate at two Sephardic Jewish restaurants in Andalusia that were excellent, and these flavors and items would fit in perfectly with what I had at DGS.

                        Meanwhile, in a separate thread on Chowhound you offer Loeb's as an example of a Jewish Deli:

                        "Loeb's downtown does remind one of Katz' in NY, for instance."

                        Link:

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8682...

                        A place where you can get, of all things, New England Clam Chowder, Lobster Rolls, and all your favorite Jewish Deli shellfish favorites. Want bacon or ham on your breakfast special? No problem!

                        1. re: Steve

                          I have not been to Loeb's since it moved and have no idea of any new menu, the old Loebs (first time in 1960) was very much like Katz, and it was fun to talk to guys there who could say that it was their fathers who probably served my father.

                          Oh well, I am sure the hipster hoard will be happy for another trendy place. Trick in DC is finding something of quality through the haze of the trendiness that dominates here.

                          1. re: law_doc89

                            The 'trick' is making kasha varnishkas and knishes that enough people will actually pay you money for. I make traditional KV, as did my grandmother. It's good stuff, but do I believe anyone will pay for it? No.

                            So here I find these wonderful dishes made from a different tradition with great unique recipes, and I am happy for it. I can now have a great dinner downtown that is not crazy expensive.....just expensive.

                            The serious downside of all this is that reservations will be necessary.

                            1. re: Steve

                              Yeah, and Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery has only been doing it for 120 years. You need a clientele that has some modicum sophistication and adventure. You prove my point, DC has a superficial, conformist, hipster culture that makes it hard for good stuff to break through. When some melange of stuff is passed off as a style, or authentic, and the clientele don
                              't know enough to spot it for what it is, that is sad.

                              DuPont Circle perhaps represents poor taste in food more than any other area of town.

                              And DC area is the place that invented sous vide, has L"Academie de Cuisine; we can do better.

                            2. re: law_doc89

                              Loeb's, when I last visited about 5 years ago, was closer to Subway in quality than a Jewish-style deli, except in price. If that's your standard, than I'm not sure we're on the same page.

                              I'm not often downtown, so not sure when I'll be able to try DGS, but my current standard in the area is Brooklyn's Deli in Potomac. They "properly cut" the meat, as you say, and have the best rye bread around.

                              But I am a bit offended by your easy dismissal of Sephardic Jewish cuisine. I'll remind you that what you describe as Jewish deli is a 20th century creation of NY Jews, and Sephardic cuisine has roots more than 500 years old.

                              1. re: DanielK

                                Where did I say anything bad about Sephardic cuisine? Try reacting to what I actually wrote. I am trying to highligh poor sophistication, not Sephardics. This restaurant is inauthentic fusion, and the dodge for their in authenticity is to say they are using Sephardic recipes or some such. I was attacking the dodge, not Sephardic cooking.

                                I repeat:

                                DuPont Circle perhaps represents poor taste in food more than any other area of town.

                                And DC area is the place that invented sous vide, has L"Academie de Cuisine; we can do better.

                                1. re: law_doc89

                                  You still haven't answered - authentic as compared to what?

                                  Or, even better, what are they claiming to be that they are not delivering?

                                  Here's what they claim:
                                  "DGS is a next generation Jewish delicatessen and restaurant ...The delicatessen was born in Eastern Europe. It traveled with the wave of Jewish immigrants to America ... DGS is a nod to the mom-and-pop District Grocery Stores that lined street corners in DC at the turn of twentieth century. DGS plans to honor this rich legacy. Chef Koslow’s menu revitalizes the craft of Jewish cooking and brings it forward for 21st century diners."

                                  Sounds like they're not trying to replicate the "authentic" NYC deli, but create their own thing. Still not sure what you're railing about.

                                  1. re: DanielK

                                    Here's a 10 minute trailer for Deli Man. It's a pretty good quick history of the New York delicatessen.

                                    http://vimeo.com/53381762

                                    1. re: DanielK

                                      I don't get the railing either - if it's good, and its customers are happy and plentiful, who cares?
                                      It's not billing itself as a Jewish deli circa 2nd Ave.

                                      FYI, I just ate at Hymies in Philly. Grilled cheese with bacon, anyone? But the wait is long, the customers leave happy, and it's an institution where I grew up. I'm sure someone, somewhere (other than the hassidic community nearby) is railing about how it isn't authentic. But the pickle bar makes everything better.

                                      DC restaurants always piss people off because they think DC is a second-rate city in many levels. I find it interesting that most talk about how great NYC is, yet don't make an effort to continue living there. The food in NY is great, but with 8 million people on manhattan alone, it better be! DC has improved SO much since I moved here, it's amazing.

                                      Can't wait to try DGS and NOT compare it to the Jewish delis of my youth!

                                    2. re: law_doc89

                                      Well I _did_ eat there, and I thought it was the most expensive, smallest, and by far the BEST pastrami sandwich I've had, especially in DC. Whitefish was very good too, although I didn't love the knish.

                                      And now, plonk (no, I'm not talking about wine).

                                      P.S. and I'm soooo not a hipster.

                                      1. re: noamb

                                        In Washingtonian, Todd Kliman makes the highly perceptive comment that the pastrami takes its cue more from the Canadian deli staple of Montreal Smoked Meat than it does from the standard NYC version.

                                        1. re: Steve

                                          Oy, aren't we all mispacha?

                                          Seriously, though, I just caught wind of this place a week or two ago, and it reminded me of the restaurant concept that Sheldon had on Top Chef - refined, reimagined Filipino cuisine. Isn't that what they're doing - taking some of the homiest elements of a homey cuisine (Ashkenazit Jewish), and reimagining it with flavors and traditions of other branches of Jewish and American cuisine. Or like Raskia is to Indian (just about to post my review from there).

                                          1. re: edub

                                            And who fights like mishpacheh? Including how to spell mishpacheh?

                                            To me, this is like the blueberry bagel discussion. It may be good, but it ain't a bagel.

                                            I am a Katz's loyalist/traditionalist when it comes to deli, notwithstanding the lousy bread, and so I doubt I would enjoy DGS, but to each his own.

                    2. The original comment has been removed