World-famous places such as New York’s Katz’s Delicatessen and Carnegie Deli define what we consider the quintessential American deli. Their appeal begins with great food but goes well beyond sustenance to creating a sense of community for their customers.
With these great delis in mind, Randy Harmsen has opened the 9th South Delicatessen in Salt Lake City’s 9th and 9th neighborhood, hoping to evoke that same feeling of belonging, centered around food classics such as pastrami on pumpernickel, Reuben on rye, knish and matzo ball soup.
Located in a converted home, 9th South offers cheery colors, wood floors and lots of windows. This backdrop creates a welcoming environment for a relaxing breakfast, lunch or early dinner over diner-style tables. Outside, large patio tables and umbrellas entice diners to linger.
Customers can browse for local goods such as Rimini coffee and Slide Ridge Honey, or try specialty bottled drinks, gourmet chocolates and taste-test flavored salts in addition to offerings from the deli case and kitchen.
Quality ingredients have been carefully selected. For example, Harmsen conducted a nationwide search for the perfectly spiced pastrami for the pastrami on pumpernickel sandwich ($8.95 half/$12.95 whole). He eventually found it at Southern California’s RC Provision, which also supplies to Langer’s Delicatessen in Los Angeles. Kathie Chadbourne, the general manager/partner of the deli and former owner of Avenues Bakery, worked with Pierre Country Bakery to create the recipes for the pastrami’s pumpernickel, in addition to the rye and farm breads used for the deli’s other sandwiches.
Unfortunately, the costs of those top-notch individual ingredients are passed along to diners. Given the price, more than a few of the finished dishes leave something to be desired.
The mac and cheese side ($4.95) contains béchamel and cheddar cheese, but the noodles were overcooked, rendering the final dish reminiscent of the paste I once ate in kindergarten. The panzanella salad ($8.95) contained too much bread and too few tomatoes or cucumbers.
The Reuben ($8.95 half/$12.95 whole) has a decent amount of corned beef and an excellent Russian dressing but the rye bread was untoasted, leaving the Emmentaler cheese unmelted and my last bite soggy.
9th South Delicatessen’s four soups don’t disappoint in taste — or price. The matzo ball soup ($3.95) features a house-made matzo ball in chicken schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) that’s transformed into a filling, homey broth. Hearty chunks of chicken and vegetables with thick egg noodles in the chicken soup ($2.95) produce a soul-warming success.
Bubbe’s basil with tomato ($2.95) is perfect for dipping the cheesy Siegel Brother’s grilled cheese into ($7.95 half/$10.95 whole), offering a meaty tomato bite and hint of paprika. The daily soup (a creamy porcini mushroom and red pepper bisque on two recent visits, both for $2.95) include ingredients taken directly from store shelves and prepared in-house.
The savory knish ($3.95), made with garlic mashed potatoes, green onions and sour cream wrapped in a flaky puff pastry, is served piping hot with a side of spicy mustard. For comfort food at its finest, the Thanksgiving Feast sandwich ($7.95 half/$11.95 whole) combines all of your holiday favorites of turkey breast, stuffing, cranberry sauce and sweet potato on farm bread for a celebration for your taste buds. And don’t overlook the pickle spear served with every sandwich — it’s cured in-house and each bite ends in a crisp snap.
In addition to the daily vegetable and meat quiches ($5.95/$7.95), breakfast choices include the egg and pumpernickel sandwich ($4.95), kugel ($4.95/ $6.95), yogurt ($3.95) and assorted pastries. Bagels and lox ($8.95) are available on Fridays and Saturdays. Dessert offerings range from a basic carrot cake ($4.95) to a decadent chocolate croissant ($2.95), plus a uniquely delicious molasses and black-pepper cookie ($1.45).
Counter service is friendly and knowledgeable, although cashier service isn’t very efficient yet, as employees don’t seem to know menu prices.
My biggest complaint overall is that the small sandwiches and accompanying tiny cup of unremarkable macaroni salad don’t equate to a good value. While I might expect to spend $33 for lunch for two in New York City, it came as a shock when two half sandwiches, a salad and a cup of soup at a deli cost as much as lunch at Pago just down the street.
Overall, 9th South Delicatessen has all the ingredients for success but with prices that feel more at home in New York City than Salt Lake City.