Editor’s Note: Rye is now closed.
Run down a list of the top delis in the Twin Cities — in no particular order, Be’Wiched, Cecil’s, Crossroads, Mort’s, Brothers — and soon you realize you’ve run through pretty much the entire list of delis in the Twin Cities. (I say “pretty much” because as soon as one uses absolutes like “entire” on the Internet, one is cosmically guaranteed to have left something out.)
Plot those delis on a map and there are some gaping holes. Notably, all of Minneapolis outside of downtown — even food-centric Southwest Minneapolis and the old seat of Minneapolis Jewry on the Northside. (For purposes of this discussion, Clancey’s Meats and Fish in Linden Hills doesn’t qualify as a deli. Yes, they cure pastrami and make a great sandwich, but no matzoh balls=no deli.) Really, what does a gal have to do to get a pound of good cured meat, a matzoh ball, and a decent half sour around here? Drive to the ’burbs?
Well, it used to be so, but no more. Last week, Rye Delicatessen and Bar opened on Franklin in Hennepin, in the old Auriga space, that bright yellow building you need GPS to guide you to even as you’re driving right past it. With that, the list of the Twin Cities “best” delis has grown by one and Minneapolitans can now get a pound of good cured meat, a decent half sour, a warm and homey meal, and, in very un-deli-like fashion, a decent cocktail.
Rye’s been building buzz for a few months with the promise of Montreal-style smoked meat: brisket cured in salt and then hot-smoked until it is tender and flavorful. Rye (like Montreal smoked-meat emporiums) slices their meats a quarter-inch thick, as if to show off: “We don’t have to shave our meats so you can get a tooth through them.” And tender it is, though not overwhelmingly smoky.
But even beyond the smoked meat, there a slew of other menu items you just can’t find easily anywhere else in Minnesota: kugel (sliceable casseroles), kishka (a rustic sausage), tzimmes (sweet braised carrots), kasha varnishkes (farfalle with mushrooms and buckwheat), and matzoh brie (scrambled eggs with matzoh), to name just a few.
The deli case has just a few prepared dishes, but many of these are also filling some hitherto under-met needs, like whole smoked whitefish in all its bronzed and flaky glory, “health salad” (which is a roundabout way of saying vinegar-based coleslaw), a truly old-school macaroni salad, and a creamy Israeli-style hummus.
Sandwiches are minimalist and not outsized, served, if you like, on a slightly sweet soft rye with plenty of caraway tang. The Reason for Rye combines corned beef, smoked meat, and chopped liver spread, but once you’ve tasted the much more tender and flavorful smoked beef, it’s actually hard to comprehend the reason for the corned beef. It’s a little dry and underseasoned.
The Knife and Fork Reuben is served open-faced, with your choice of corned beef or smoked meat (again: smoked meat), and it is quite good. The grilled salami will make you wonder why you don’t eat hot salami more often. (This comes on a bialy, which is a flat onion roll like a bagel, except it doesn’t have a hole and it isn’t boiled, which makes it really not like a bagel at all, except it is, trust us.)
The matzoh ball soup comes with a rather surprising price tag — $5.99 for a cup! Think back to the last time you made matzoh balls. Oh, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Because making those suckers come out just right — dense enough to hold together, but fluffy enough to make your Bubbe proud — takes a lot of babying along. The matzoh ball we got, well, let’s say that particular one was more than a bit dense in the center. But the broth! That golden, rich broth most assuredly started life as chicken parts in a pot in Rye’s kitchen, not in a Sysco bag. Ditto the Sweet and Sour Cabbage Borscht, with generous bits of brisket throughout. It’s too sweet for my taste but somebody’s babushka definitely makes it that way.
Breakfast includes housemade bagels. While these wouldn’t have taken the blue ribbon in our bagel tasting, they probably would have placed. The crust needs a bit more chew to distinguish it from the soft center, but the bagels still make excellent vehicles for generous lox or egg sandwiches. While you can get omelets and French toast any day of the week, the really fancy stuff, like Cheese Blintzes and a Smoked Meat Benedict on a bialy, is only available on the weekends.
For sweets, there are big homey slices of babka (a swirly coffee cake — usually yeasted, but at Rye it is a quick bread), ultra-dense cheesecake, and excellent rugelach — two-bite pastries made with delicate cream cheese dough, in this case rolled around a cinnamon-cardamom-apricot filling. Somebody at Rye has apparently mistakenly priced these labor-intensive sweets at $4 a dozen. We just might buy them out daily before they realize their error. That’s $0.35 apiece!
After several trips to Rye, there are still plenty of things on the menu we’re eager to try, like the poutine (a Quebecois specialty, involving layers of fries, cheese curds, and gravy). We actually watched someone at another table lean close to his poutine as it arrived, take a discreet sniff, and smile broadly. And, big knish fans, we can only imagine that good things will happen when the classic potato pastry is turned into a pot pie.
And it will be a real pleasure to revisit Rye, because it’s a lovely, comfortable space, with big windows and a long bar that I predict will become the worst-kept secret among Uptown drinkers looking for a quiet place for a nightcap.
Now, if they only made pastrami, we wouldn’t have to drive to the ’burbs at all.
BEST BET: Get the grilled salami — it’ll make you wonder why you don’t eat hot salami more often.
Rye Delicatessen and Bar
Deli in Uptown Minneapolis
1930 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403
OWNERS: Tobie Nidetz and David Weinstein
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Ask
ENTREE RANGE: $8–17
what are the drinks like?
You mentioned Bewitched Deli in the opening of the review so why drive to the suburbs for your pastrami?
Nice piece, Tricia. I’m more intrigued by Rye than by any TC restaurant opening in a long while. As far as “fancy” delis that serve cocktails, I think the Lincoln Del used to fill that niche here, and I recall similar places in Connecticut and on Long Island, visited with the Jewish grandmother of a college friend, that were also of that type. Sort of a “Hebrew brasserie,” if you will (hoping that’s not an offensive term; none intended). The brunch fish plate at Rye has my name written all over it. Thanks~ Brett
They do have pastrami, only they call it “smoked meat”. After-all, pastrami is corned beef which is peppered and hot smoked, so, here at Rye it’s called Smoked Meat. All their meats are wonderful. Full of flavor. Thick hand sliced and fatty, yes, but juicy.
I have tried to tell David and Toby about the new book, Inside the Jewish Bakery, which would help them with some items, so, they would not have to reinvent the wheel. Too busy at this time.
This spot is a neighborhood gem. Needs a little polishing, but, still a gem. I ordered a half dozen rugalach and the lady at the computer did not know what I was saying and they were right at her right elbow. They need to learn the words.
Rye is getting shredded on Chowhound.
No, it’s not getting shredded. More like being subjected to pinking shears. There are positives mixed in there with the disappointments.
Have been there three times and I would recommend it. You have to understand it is not a type of restaurant where you sit down and wait staff comes and takes your order. You order at a counter from someone at a computer terminal who puts your order into the computer, gives you a number and you sit at a table and when your order comes up it gets delivered. You get your own drinks. It’s like a Panera or some of the Famous Dave’s. It’s done that way. I found the corned beef flavorful and yes, fatty, but, that carries a lot of the flavor. The corned beef and smoked meat (think pastrami) is never dry because it comes out of a steamer keeping it hot and it’s sliced to order right from the steamer. The lox, eggs and onions were very good. The hash browns were not brown but very well seasoned and I would order them again. Bobka was classic and good. The rugalach were as good as any you could find anywhere, made with cream cheese dough and just the right amount of filling and the filling flavor could not be more perfect! Nice place. I wish them well.
The corned beef and smoked meats were terribly tough. Tough like get my money back and leave on an empty stomach tough. Chopped liver was good, latke was burned, knish was OK but the potatoes had a refrigerator smell.
Swung through tonight around 8:15 and they had great mojo. Deep blues and a fat, hand carved Corned Beef sandwich. Sure, it didn’t come out wafer thin, but it was hand carved, not sliced and just what I’d expected. The bride had a Knish Pot Pie that was juicy and loaded with chicken and veggies. The cup o’ soup with matzoh was light and maybe a bit underseasoned, but the bartender told me that they’ve gotten it handed to them with waaaay more business than they could have anticipated on their opening week, and being their second Monday, are now able to take a breath to tweak and refine. We’ll bike back anytime the fridge is lacking.
Check out Zimmern’s review on MSP mag. He is spot-on. This place has no chance of making it. Sorry, Constance.
LOVED LOVED LOVED THE PLACE and I’m a jew AND from Manhattan. Don’t listen to someone who obviously has a bug up his ass about someone….it’s his standard operating policy to shred people he has a bone to pick with (it’s been done several times over the years). Good luck. (And no, I have no idea who owns the place.)
Very disappointed. We really wanted this to be a great new Deli. Two sandwiches,a cup of soup
and two iced teas for $33. is too much. The bread was stale on one sandwich and merely dry on the other. The soup was a cup of broth with undercooked noodles and a piece of carrot. The chicken in the chicken salad sandwich was dry. The meat in the other sandwich was tender but not remarkable flavor wise.
However, we enjoyed the little cup of cole slaw that came with the sandwiches. For a Pastrami
sandwich and all other deli fare we will continue to go to Be’wiched and Cecils.
Now that Zimmern has torn the place to shreds, plenty of his followers will do the same (blindly) instead of making their own judgements.
Frankly, I just don’t understand why he doesn’t open his own perfect deli – he sure does have the cash and the know-how,
Sorry but I’m a Jew too AND from Manhattan too (although frankly
I think if you’re looking for good deli bragging rights you might deserve more props if you were from Borough Park Bklyn or the Five Towns) And in my therefore expert opinion on all things both Jewish and deli (NOT) the counter service at Rye was horrendously slow and clueless. Not an issue cause the bagels were profoundly mediocre. I say this with true disappointment because it is in walking distance from my house and I would love if my kid could grow up with the same walking up to the bagel store (H&H)on a Sunday morning and then sitting down with the spread and the paper. I hope they get it together since the place would be a great addition to the neighborhood
The Heavy Table needs to get a fucking spine, Rye sucks.
… wrote the anonymous Internet commenter without the testicular fortitude to sign his or her name or advance any kind of an argument whatsoever.
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