I was born and raised in the “borscht belt” of Los Angeles. I graduated from Fairfax High School, just steps away from one of the more famous deli’s in the United States – Cantor’s -. It is impossible to tell you how many times I ate at Cantor’s; and even now I frequently have them send me some of their raisin pumpernickel bread.
When we moved to San Diego in 1966, the only Jewish Deli around was “Ross-Sands”, located in the old Sav-On shopping center off of Rosecrans in Pt. Loma. When they closed, it left an emptiness of traditional deli’s for quite some time, even though one of the sons – Myron Ross – went to work at the deli at Fed Mart for a few years. (Interesting to note that Myron is now a musician, having played for George Gobel, Buddy Greco, Andrew Sisters, Kay Starr, and many Las Vegas type shows, Ben Blue Review, Frank Sinatra Jr., Frankie Laine, Earl Grant, Tommy Noonan, Jane Russell, Connie Francis, etc. He has lost most of his vision but still continues to play and draw crowds.)
For a long time, there was not a deli of any quality in San Diego until 1980 when Debi and Zvike Akin decided to move from Los Angeles to our area and open up a restaurant for “starved delicatessen lovers.” They were committed to using good old fashioned recipes and worked many long hours in making their restaurant a success.
I remember the first time I went to “D.Z.’s”; it was in a very small shopping center between College Drive and 70th Street on Alvarado Drive. The seating area was limited, and almost from the beginning people stood in line for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. Debi sat at the hostess desk just inside the door, and pretty much seated all the diners herself. Gradually, over the years, the businesses on either side of the deli closed down and Debi and Zvike took them over. The restaurant today is large; always filled; and boasts a deli counter, a bakery, and a gift shop in addition to the restaurant. All of the items are made fresh and they have some of the greatest dill pickles in town.
Having a coupon from “Living Social” I asked my friend Reuven if he would like to join me for a meal today. He agreed it would be fun, and so we met at 11:00am – before the lunch crowd and after the breakfast crowd and were seated immediately. Reuven and I share a similar background so it was no surprise that we both ordered the same thing – a bowl of Matzo Ball soup and we shared a Chopped Liver Appetizer with fresh Rye bread. We both ordered Ice Tea.
As we were reading over the extensive menu – pages long – I mentioned to Reuven that the “pickle jar” was missing from our table. Without saying anything to our waitress Jenn, she arrived at the table carrying an enormous jug of dill pickles, and we could hardly wait until she left the table so we could “dig in.”
I am sure that my critics will have something to say about my review of the soup. In fact, I am sure that my daughter, who had been at D.Z.’s the night before for some “Jewish Penicillin” because she was feeling ill, will also disagree, but I was disappointed this time. It was served with cooked carrots, that were cooked perfectly but lacked taste; thin noodles that also had no flavor; and the matzo ball, although light and fluffy, needed seasoning as well. There was no evidence of chicken, nor was there any chicken flavor. I imagine I could have – should have – added a little salt to the soup, but I didn’t and although I finished the carrots and matzo ball, I left much of the broth.
The Chopped Liver Appetizer plate was beautiful to behold: (I have to confess that the picture attached is a “recreation” of the actual platter, because we had already begun to eat it before I remembered to take the picture. I made the picture up from the leftovers that we took home.) There were many cucumber slices; many sliced carrots; and many more tomatoes.
All in all, the Chopped Liver was good. I would have liked to have a few more onions mixed in with the finished product, and I add hard boiled eggs to mine but I was not the chef and was happy with what I was served. It was moist and there was a lot of it.
The service was good; Reuven had to ask for a refill of his ice tea, but we had already had 2 refills during our meal. Jenn was personable and friendly, which only added to our enjoyment.
This meal, though, was, in my mind, rather pricey. The two bowls of matzo ball soup – it only comes in one size – were $6.95 each; the chopped liver appetizer was $10.95 and the two tea’s were $2.95 each for a total of almost $34. That, coupled with the tip, cost us close to $40, a rather hefty amount for lunch in my opinion. If we had each had a sandwich and ice tea the total amount would have been pretty much the same price. With the economy what it is, it is surprising to find that almost every table was filled and there was a waiting line for our table. I was glad we had a discount coupon.
(Just a quick word about the other well known deli in San Diego county. That is Milton’s deli in Del Mar. They didn’t open until 1995, and they are as pricey – if not more so – than D.Z.’s. Their menu is similar to D.Z.’s and they also offer a deli and a bakery.)
Going out to lunch at either of the San Diego deli’s is not an economic move, but it does satisfy!
6930 Alvarado Rd.
San Diego, CA 92120