Monday, 2 March 2009


(Grand Central New York Deli has now CLOSED * RIP)

Every once and a while a great food event occurs that gets people excited and buzzing. A few months ago here in Ottawa, a new restaurant was going to open, and the city came alive. The message boards lit up on the Internet about a new deli that was going to be serving smoked meat. Now smoked meat is a big deal in these parts, so close to Montreal and their famous wet cured brisket. But this was going to be a New York Jewish style smoked meat, dry cured, and you thought it was the time of the second coming for some.

Grand Central New York Deli opened and with great fanfare. Critics loved it, foodies loved it, and I sat in eager await to sample this exciting fare as people I knew or read had been and raved. And then I went and I liked it. It wasn't cheap, but it was quality and quantity both. And I never brought my camera to officially review it. And I still am not. Why? Because the last time I was there I had wings.

Yes, I have a sickness that says I have to have wings everywhere I go, in the chance that some place's wings are going to be the best. Sickness. But anyway, here's my thoughts on the establishment and some of its food.

Grand Central New York Deli (I will refer to it as GCNYD from now on) is situated in a small plaza that contains the formerly reviewed Nando's. The location was previously a fish and chips joint that I had wanted to try, but saw close down. I eagerly awaited to see what would replace it, and when I saw Deli, not only was I disappointed it wasn't a wing joint, but also thought there was no way a 'deli' was going to survive here (boy was I wrong, but also uninformed about what kind of deli it was going to be).

The inside is clean, open and a little chic. Brown wood, leather and paint against white/creamy background with various photos of New York. Lots of families were out for weekend brunch, but my last time here showed that demographics mean nothing when it comes to smoked meat - everyone loves it young and old.

Service was very friendly, with not only our waitress looking after us, but the hostess, another waitress, and owners also walking around checking in on everything. Customer satisfaction is very important at GCNYD.

My dining companion went with their brunch options, going for the waffle and fresh fruit. And it was all that it presented itself to be (although a side of extra whip cream was needed for this monster mound). Melons, strawberry, pineapple and more made up for the fruit cocktail on top, and a great waffle filled out the bottom.

We ordered a side of Smoked Meat (3 oz) and it was great. So tender, so tasty. The first time I had been to GCNYD I had their signature Empire Smoked Meat Sandwich, a extremely thick sandwich with homemade fries, crunchy sour dill pickle and creamy coleslaw. It was all good. Made better with Hebrew National mustard on the side.

If you've had Montreal smoked meat, you can see the difference (let alone taste the difference) between the two - this is a crispier, almost smokier, but I can't say I prefer one over the other. Smoked meat is just plain good no matter how you cure it.

They also had one of my faves - deep fried pickles. Served with ranch dipping sauce.

Crispy, juicy, hot - everything a deep fried pickle should be. What more can I say?

But back to that sickness of mine, I may not have had a giant sandwich this time, but I did have a healthy dose of wings (did anyone else kind of snicker after reading healthy and wings in that last sentence?).

I know what many people are thinking - why would you have the wings when the smoked meat is so good? Simply, my obsession to find the perfect wing. But to many its obvious that wings are going to be an after thought at any restaurant that specializes in something (ie Deli, burger joint, Italian etc). But I just have to try.

The wings came out and they looked good. Some care into their preparation. It smelled good, but not spicy. And again, as is the case with Ottawa, a sour cream dipping sauce. I mean, it was a nice, thick sour cream, but still.

The wings weren't big, but not too small either. A nice medium. The wings are lightly dusted, then deep fried. The skin was crispy, and you could hear that crisp when you bit into them. Perfect skin. Crunchy.

The meat was nice and tender, moist, but unfortunately tasted like they came from frozen. Maybe it was just the chicken itself, but that was the big negative here in these wings.

One of the reasons I thought the wings might be good here were the sauces. They didn't seem like your typical 'lets just throw some bottle sauce on them' . Maybe I was just a sucker for their written propaganda. I ordered mine with 'Buffalo' sauce, and it was a competent clone. Nothing spicy by any means, but it tasted like a bottle hot sauce. A lot of the sauce had soaked up into the wing itself, but there was still sauce drizzled around that allowed me to taste it on its own. Afterwards, I kicked myself for not ordering a side of one of the other sauces to compare.

FINAL SCORE: The wings were a good attempt. Again, they looked right, the texture was right, they were sauced well. But the sauce was not hot enough for my liking, and the taste of frozen chicken would probably prevent me from getting wings there in the future. Maybe. But the smart move is to stick to the Smoked Meat. And the dill pickles. 4.5/10

Grand Central New York Deli
1463 Merivale Rd, Ottawa

Check out Ottawa Food Critic Ron Eade's article on the establishment before it opened for more info about GCNYD's process and philosophy.


Chris said...

The meat looks incredible. I've always had my pickles fried as chips, not spears. I'd like to try those sometime.

Lord of the Wings said...

Chris -I've heard of the pickle being done in a chip but equally have never tried but would like to.