It used to be that if a New York City transplant asked for the best corned beef in Boca, everybody knew where to send him. Sure, the Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House on Glades Road didn't have the character of the original Wolfie's on South Beach, but there was still that corned beef, thin-sliced and wrapped into a ball, served always on rye.

Then came the hubris of 2005 real estate development, when the building's owner evicted the deli to make way for a higher-paying seafood joint that never came. Without Wolfie's, southern Palm Beach County lacked a corned beef king.

So that's why, on a recent Sunday, we embarked on a trip through the trifecta of Jewish delis in southern Palm Beach County to finally find a replacement for Wolfie's. Here, where Yiddish is the unofficial second language, there has to be a place where the pastrami rivals meat from the boroughs.

A hit: Ben's hot pastrami sandwich.
A hit: Ben's hot pastrami sandwich.

Location Info

Map

Ben's New York Kosher Delicatessen

9942 Clint Moore Road
Boca Raton, FL 33496

Category: Restaurant > Deli

Region: Boca Raton

Flakowitz Restaurant & Deli

7410 W. Boynton Beach Blvd.
Boynton Beach, FL 33437

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Boynton Beach

Zinger's Deli

7132 Beracasa Way
Boca Raton, FL 33433

Category: Restaurant > Deli

Region: Boca Raton

Details

Ben's New York Kosher Delicatessen, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. 9942 Clint Moore Road, Boca Raton. Call 561-470-9963.

Matzo ball soup, $4.49

Stuffed cabbage, $15.99

Pastrami sandwich, $9.99

Corned beef sandwich, $9.99

Flakowitz Deli of Boynton Restaurant, 8 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. daily. 7410 Boynton Beach Blvd., Boynton Beach. Call 561-742-4144.

Blintzes, $11.45

Rachel sandwich, $12.95

Brisket sandwich, $12.95


Zinger's Deli, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 7132 Bercasa Way, Boca Raton. Call 561-826-7323.

Matzo ball soup, $3.99

The Rachel sandwich, $12.99

Hot corned beef sandwich, $9.99

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First stop was the relative newcomer, Zinger's Deli, in a nondescript strip mall off Palmetto Park Road. Actually, the place is a revamp of Pastrami Queen, which closed in '09. Owner Gary Zinger's new place opened last year and looks more like a bistro, with a long banquette along the south wall facing the dominant deli counter on the other side of the restaurant. There are flat-screen TVs and a swirly texture on the walls that hints Zinger was hoping for a higher-end look.

The ladies at the next table fit the central-casting stereotype, wearing tennis outfits and the windblown look of retirees who have taken in a few decades of Florida sun. They ordered breakfast — simple fare of fried eggs, omelets, and bagels, scooped and toasted.

But a Jewish deli won't be judged on breakfast alone, so this test began with the requisite matzo ball soup. Here it's a ball that barely fits in the small cup, swimming with bits of overcooked chicken and carrots. One too many bullion cubes ended up in the broth, as salty as ocean water and with all the home-cooked flavor of a can of Campbell's.

Zinger's scores better with its sandwich meats. The pastrami on the Rachel was flaky and oozing drippings, lightly seasoned and dominated by the sauerkraut. The corned beef was so tender that it almost seemed chopped instead of sliced, served simply on rye.

Sides — simple hand-cut fries, a knish that's more potato than pastry, and flavorless coleslaw — show that the emphasis at Zinger's is on that slow-cooked pastrami and corned beef. It's the Jewish-deli version of that barbecue joint where the meat shines and the sides seem forgotten.

The best of the Jewish delis needs more than just meat, so our quest led a few blocks north to Ben's New York Kosher Delicatessen on Clint Moore Road. This is the only Ben's south of the Garment District, and New Yorkers who earned points on their rewards cards back home brag about cashing them in at the Boca location, which opened in 2004. Ben's is full-on Boca glitz, with a rope line leading to the hostess stand. The deli counter runs the length of the wall along the way, overhead lights shining down on meats and smoked fishes as if part of a religious shrine. The walls are all murals of New York scenes and kitschy slogans like "They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat." It all seemed too slick for a deli, too corporate to be able to roast a good corned beef.

The matzo ball soup changed our opinion, though. It's a simple affair here, served in a wide bowl with broth, vermicelli noodles, and a lonely matzo ball. You might wonder where they hid the bits of vegetables and chicken until you take a spoonful of that broth, which boasted the richness of the schmaltz and the savoryness of chicken marrow. The ball was nothing but matzo meal, no herbs or onions that might mask the flavor of this broth. We asked our waiter for extra spoons and instead he brought three more bowls, all outfitted with soup spoons and ladles.

We imagined someone's grandmother was back in the kitchen making that soup, and if so, she might have also been responsible for the stuffed cabbage leaves. They came swimming in a sweet tomato sauce that complemented the sour cabbage and the slightly spicy sausage inside.

The pastrami and corned beef also were of Wolfie's quality, both with just enough sourness and pepper and running juices. The rye bread they came on was spongy in the center, crisp on the edges, and thick enough to catch the jus.

All of those successes made Ben's failures seem so strange. For instance, the potato pancakes came looking stamped from a machine, all three the exact size. The onions and potatoes were far too kneaded until they had the texture of a Boboli pizza dough. (Later by phone, general manager Michael Ross balked at the idea of a machine spitting out the pancakes. "No way," he said. "Our latkes are hand-scooped every day.")

The kugel also came out looking like it had been made on the industrial scale, a square so perfect it too could have been stamped out by machine. It tasted of nothing but egg yolk and undercooked vanilla extract, the alcohol still wafting off the noodles.

So we carried on our hunt, north to Flakowitz on Boynton Beach Boulevard. The place has been in southern Palm Beach County for 50 years, first as a bakery, then as a bagel shop, and now as a full restaurant for the past 12 years. The late Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House once threatened to sue Flakowitz for allegedly stealing recipes ("Sue for Your Supper," October 7, 1999), so it seemed like a fine contender for new deli king.

Flakowitz has none of the bright lights of Ben's and instead was decorated with worn carpets, aging wooden booths, and Spartan furnishings like an Ebbets Field street sign and a couple of large mirrors. We had little hope of finding a Wolfie's replacement from looking at the menu, which seemed more diner than Jewish deli, with melts and triple-decker sandwiches.

But then we took in the scene. The maître d' worked the early-bird crowd of retirees, leading the "beautiful ladies" to their tables and urging on the gentlemen. He was maybe early 60s, the youngest guy in the house. "Take care of this group," he said to our waitress. "It's their first time."

Dinner starts with a basket of bread baked in-house that could feed these people for a week, with rye, white, sweet nut, and a shiny challah roll that was soon pulled apart and slathered with butter. Everything comes with a free fountain drink or coffee.

A framed Guy Fieri poster bragged about a visit from TV's most annoying food-show host, so we ordered what he had: the Triple D, matzo ball soup, stuffed cabbage, and a knish. The soup wasn't as high-end-looking as Ben's, but the broth was slow-simmered, bits of carrots and celery collecting against a fluffy matzo ball. The stuffed cabbage tasted mostly of the sauce, too sweet from honey and brown sugar, leaving it tasting like Chinese duck sauce. The knish was flaky and a bit sweet, stuffed with buckwheat and potato and disappearing quickly on an overstuffed table.

The brisket was a bit overcooked and dry unless drenched with the side of jus, as if the kitchen realized its mistake. But the pastrami on the Rachel sandwich was peppery enough to combat the bite from the sauerkraut, all drenched in a couple of slices of American cheese and between bread slathered and toasted to cracker-crisp.

The only thing on the table not immediately devoured were the blintzes, served like four tiny burritos grilled on two sides. Some of my party loved the filling, but to me, it tasted like a jar of Fluff.

Our server didn't know what was inside, so she asked another. "The cheese in the blintz? Well, it's ricotta and three others. I don't know what the others are." (Later, co-owner Robert Pirozzi said the filling is a cream cheese, which still doesn't explain that marshmallow texture.)

After we polished off the table, our server came by with a dessert tray crammed with cheesecakes and custards. She recommended the babka, baked in the shape of a muffin, exploding upward with a swirl of chocolate and crumbles. "It's like Entenmann's but better," she explained. She could've boasted more about that babka, a flaky and tender crumb cake that proved this place has a full-on bakery.

The maître d' was working the crowd at the bakery counter as we left. He shook our hands and urged us to come back and try the black and white cookies. "I'm not the owner, but I love it here," he said.

Sure, Flakowitz doesn't have the shiny look of Ben's, and there are far too many references to Guy Fieri on the menus and servers' shirts. But its pastrami, its babka, and its Jewish-deli friendliness will make you forget about a little place called Wolfie's.

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11 comments
kellirose13131
kellirose13131

My husband has had gastric bypass & can literally only eat certain foods/portions. He asked to have a small amount of chicken salad as his meal. The waitress argued they are not allowed to do that as deli items can't be in the dining area (odd rule). She offered the platter or sandwich which he can't eat half of the items, let alone the amount of food. He explained it's a huge waste of food. 
The manager then came over & proceeded to argue with my husband that it's against their policy to have any deli items in the dining room. My husband advised him of his issue & he refused to accommodate at all. So my husband left. We had a full table & he felt it was worth losing customers over this. We even offered to pay separately at the deli counter then have him rejoin the table. The manager said he'd be asked to leave.

We have always liked this place before but, now will never return. 
I'm going to be sure to let everyone I know in Boca to NOT come here to Zingers.

RichNT
RichNT

Part 3 of 3

 

 

Flakowitz

 

You are absolutely right about the Maître d, he is great, but the corollary isn’t, if someone else is watching the house, watch your back.

 

Your dinner rolls with a free drink sound great, I’ll be right over, what I can add is the breakfast’s come with free pound cake.

 

Your review of their menu, which seemed more extensive than the prior 2 stops, did not get me all warm and fuzzy?  Further stating that a smothered with other ingredient pastrami tasted ok?

 

Flakowitz has a gold mine in Boynton, because they were there first, not because of the cuisine. Management has a tough time ‘catering” to its customers, but Boynton is growing fast and putting the customer first will either become a top priority or other new establishments will benefit.

 

BTW, The bakery is top notch!

 

 

 

General thoughts;

 

 

Although you make the proper play to compare each restaurant’s dishes like the Matzo ball soup, not comparing straight out Pastrami and Corner beef sandwiches may have been a mistake. A Rachel is the kitchen sink of sandwiches that makes it very tricky to comment on a particular ingredient from the sandwich as it is being influenced by the other players and handicapping Pastrami cannot be taken lightly, if you are going to eat deli.

 

Matzo ball soup is prepared best at Toojays, if these 3 joints would check this competition out, the game could become more enjoyable. …

Toojays also hits a home run with their rye bread, best in town.

 

On an editorial point, pointing out likes and dislikes are what reviews are all about, by the way you presented each establishment, I don’t feel tempted to try any of them. I hope I have given you some ideas on how to not only please the readers, and please the targets, but possibly also be pleased with potential advertising your concern wouldn’t mind having as an outcome.

 

RichNT
RichNT

Part 2 of 3

 

 

Ben’s

 

You lead into the Matzo ball soup with a comment stating the place seemed too corporate to produce good food, and then say, the soup changed your mind, but I feel your comments were not complimentary on the soup?

 

You stick to the broth being the soup’s biggest feature, I still contend it is the matzo ball in the dish called matzo ball soup and it’s presentation. You say the matzo ball looked lonely and I agree. It is a wide bowl and the presentation looks bland. Although the staff is not opposed to giving you a slice of rye bread to give the matzo ball some company, it isn’t provided and the absence of a wolfie’s similar basket of assorted rolls definitely comes into to play here.

 

You next mention the 2 balabusta-ing deli meats of Pastrami and Corned Beef. Your lead to the article said, where do I suggest people go for corned beef since Wolfie’s is gone. Your comment about Ben’s meats, “Wolfie’s comparable.”

 

Whether you know it or not, you said a “mouthful.” Ben’s offers the best Pastrami in south Florida, no ifs ands or buts, kind of the answer to your quest.

Although I felt you happen stanced their reference within your story, you hit it on the head by putting a picture of Ben’s pastrami in the article saying it is a “hit.”  

 

Your final comments center around Ben’s failures, Potato pancakes, now this is a subject for a book to be written. If you ever had them made by your grandmother, anyone else’s would have a tough time living up to that memory. That said, I find most deli’s do not pay attention to the delicate delicacy potato pancakes are supposed to be. Such a sad commentary.

 

No matter how much Ben fails and I agree that it does, their pastrami is to die for, did I already say that?

 

I believe the establishment’s short comings are derived from 2 areas.

 

These are New Yorkers and they aren’t interested in your opinions. Although they don’t have to be from NY to have that marvelous trait. And,

 

What you left out that may get them a small class of devoted customers is, the restaurant observes Kosher cooking. Many many recipes cannot be duplicated on premises. This is not to say Kosher cooking is bland, but when you have to compensate for this specialty, more attention needs be included in the preparation of their dishes, ie their Matzo ball soup dish. Challah for one is basically only offered on Friday, yet if placed on the table daily, the rigid failures would have an easier time becoming culinary day dreams.

 

PS:  I just discovered maybe the best waiter on this planet, he handles tables that are situated surrounding the hostess, good luck.

RichNT
RichNT

Part 1 of 3

 

First you are right, every spot has it’s short comings and long suits. Most likely no way can you find out the hidden treasures or hidden disasters in one sitting.

 

 

 

Zingers

 

You take on Zingers with your first meal. The matzo ball soup comment could have been phrased as such, “The Matzo Ball was large enough for a full meal and dominated the cup it came in and because the broth was salty, it gave the Matzo Ball great flavor. I will spend an extra penny next time and try ordering a Bowl, which I expect to share.”

 

You made a point to harp on the broth and never mentioned the number of qualities a matzo ball has, Zingers does a good job in the kitchen and the Matzo ball is no exception.

 

Your Rachel comment spoke highly of the pastrami and corned beef.

 

Spending money to eat at a deli doesn’t need to go further than, I liked the pastrami and corned beef. Your story title speaks of this importance. If you would have mentioned that the sides seemed plain first, and that you enjoyed the meats last, your readers would be more inclined to try Zingers and you would have gotten your point across just the same.

 

What you left off about Zinger’s is this,

 

1. The portions are healthy sized.

2. The lunch specials include 3 different wraps on 3 different wrappings with a beverage, best taste and deal to be enjoyed. And a brisket sandwich with beverage is often a part of the lunch specials.

3. Not on the menu, half sandwich and cup of soup, good choice.

4. Ask for your Pastrami lean, mmmmmmmm good.

5. Their TV’s do add to the lack of atmosphere

6. As you mention on the fringe, there is an undercurrent of expertise and desire to get the main dish right, not often mastered at many eateries.

 

 

If management pays a bit more attention as you eluted, when mentioning the sides, and to its customers, this joint can go from an undiscovered belly pleaser into a line waiting out the door kind of success.

 

 

freakerdude
freakerdude

GaryC = Brad = that troll guy! hahaha

Robby
Robby

 @freakerdude Must be, since you're the only NT reader left. And probably an employee.

chucks3
chucks3

First you are right, every spot has it’s short comings and long suits. Most likely no way can you find out the hidden treasures or hidden disasters in one sitting.

GaryC
GaryC

This writer knows nothing. Pastrami isn't sour.

Traci
Traci

Where these written before he left, or did they hire him to do reviews?

freakerdude
freakerdude

I tried the Ben's Deli location in Woodbury NY when I was there and the pastrami was awesome!

Brad
Brad

I'd bet that a blank page would draw as much interest as a Barton review. 

 
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