I think the new incarnation of Brother's was open for about an hour before I got my first e-mail from a reader alerting me that the bagels have never tasted better.
"Yippee!" I thought, and then immediately retracted it, realizing "yippee!" isn't a suitably cosmopolitan response for a worldly critic such as myself. So I went into the bathroom and practiced for a bit, saying things like, "My, what a marvelous development," and, "Brilliant, guv'nor," and, "What do you mean it'll grow back?"
Oh, Brother's Deli. How that name comes up mixing memory and desire. Remember when current owner Jeff Burstein's grandfather ran the kosher restaurant, Mike's Cafe, in downtown Minneapolis in the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties? Remember when Jeff Burstein's father and uncle opened the first Brother's Delicatessen, and the expansion to several locations, and the contraction, and the one remaining Brother's that was in the Firstar Building? And how I used to sneak out of my temp job and take hourlong detours on the way to the supply room for a knish? And remember all the Best Deli and Best Pastrami Sandwich and Best Bagel and such awards that have been showered on the place? Oh, those were the days, when cats cost a nickel and every running board sported a pot of flowering azaleas. Alas, the world just keeps on improving: Brother's has relocated to the skyway level of the new Dorsey & Whitney building on Sixth Street.
"You haven't been here yet?" asked Jeff Burstein, when I talked to him on the phone the morning he opened. "It's really nice. We've upgraded the décor, we've got really nice tables, we upgraded the desserts." Whereupon he rattled off a dozen, like cookies, streusel bars, and vanilla-bean cheesecake. New additions also include a couple of vegetarian sandwiches, more salads, and a pickle barrel near the door, so customers can use tongs to pull out a pickle while they wait in line. But no more knishes. "Nobody was ordering them," says Burstein. "We'd make ten on Monday, and throw away eight on Friday." Well, that is terrible news.
But dry your eyes: There's also new pastrami and new corned beef! Wait a minute, who authorized that? Don't worry, says Burstein. "It's better. Really. Better. We felt the Carnegie [Deli in New York, Brother's former supplier] was having problems with their quality control. So we found a place in the Bronx, a nice Jewish kid--he makes great stuff. The corned beef is pickled longer, and there's not as much salt in the brine, so it's a little milder, but has really good flavor."
It's better? Yipp--oops, I mean, my, what a marvelous development.