Rye Delicatessen: A first look
The neighborhood must have been watching closely: It seems the moment the doors opened to the new Rye Delicatessen, the crowds moved in. On the morning we visited, the poor girl working behind the counter had a glazed-over, slightly panicked look in her eyes. It seems the night before, the counter had been swarmed and they'd basically run out of everything.
Lucky for us, they have staff working 24 hours a day brining and baking to keep those deli cases full. Though the cash register was being a bit buggy, our tasting crew was able to order a wide array of dishes and dug in.
Our tasting panel assembled included local stand-up comedian Dan Mogol, also a self-identified Jewish person; cookbook author and baking celebrity Zoe Francois; and Stephanie Meyer, food blogger and gluten-free eater. It's a tough crowd, but we weren't there to judge, just taste. We ordered the hash, eclairs, cheesecake, rugelach, chopped liver, smoked meat hash, the "Deli Debris," and somewhat illogically, poutine.
Unfortunately for the elcairs and cheesecake, they're kept in the same deli case as the smoked whitefish, lox, cucumber onion salad, and chopped liver. There was a faint but present residual flavor--a little cucumber in the cheesecake crust and a bit of onion in the eclair. Our server explained that one of the owners used the cheesecake recipe from the Plaza Deli, and we were assured that the shared case is only temporary. They will soon be separated from the savory items.
The owners take the deli business seriously, having sampled some of the best Jewish delis from around the world. It was on a trip to Montreal that an excited Tobie Nidetz, one of Rye's owners, tasted a style of smoked meat he was excited to share with Minneapolis. The local media then reported that this would be a "Montreal-style deli," which it apparently is not. Good thing, since no one knew what that meant anyway. The owners' goal is to make this a Minneapolis deli, using what they learned and tasted at delis the world over, which they then brought home and made local, including touches such as using Hope Creamery butter and Peace coffee.
The rugelach were the runaway hit on the table. Flaky, tender-crisp crust was wrapped around chopped, dried apricots, currants, and walnuts dusted with a bit of cardamom. They were delicious.
The liver reviews were mixed. Mogol lamented that it could use more schmaltz, that it didn't have that great, clean, chicken fat flavor that schmaltz adds. Meyer found the liver flavor a bit strong, exclaiming she had, "liver nose." Meanwhile, a nearby table of ladies were all happily munching on their chopped liver sandwiches, proclaiming it, "Good! Really good."
The Deli Debris arrived with sliced garlic bagels (made in house) covered with cheese and smoked meat and topped with spicy vegetables. "It's like Jewish nachos!" proclaimed Francois, who is also a member of the tribe. The pickled mix of peppers was hot and vinegary, the garlic-powder-spiked bagels were smothered in gooey cheese and studded with the "smoked meat," a brisket made in-house pastrami style but not as peppery.
The hash was a mix of hash browns, more smoked meat, and over-easy eggs, the yolks breaking and creating a creamy sauce for the hash browns. The addition of the table mustard added a welcome bite to the dish. If a deli is to be judged on its mustard alone, this is a bell-ringer.
The poutine might have been an odd thing to order at 10:30 a,m. The fries were fresh, fried golden with brown, crispy edges and a fluffy interior. Topped with smoked meat, fresh cheese curds, and a simple brown gravy, they begged to be paired with a beer. The cheese curds arrived cold, but we're guessing it's not an entirely common breakfast order.
Rye has a full bar and is open until 2 a.m. The space still has the bones of the former tenant, Auriga, but the interior is gleaming, clean, and new. The bar area is still in the back, but the room is now wide open, allowing for plenty of morning light to stream through the windows.
1930 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Hours: 7 a.m. - 2 a.m. Daily
Rye Deli website
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