I know a thing or two about delis. I grew up in one. My grandparents owned Weinstein’s delicatessen in Pittsburgh. When I was growing up, my mom dropped me off there to do my homework, help behind the cash register and deli counter and learn how to make matzah ball soup and strudel. Delis have changed since then, but they still remind Jews of our cultural heritage, creating nostalgia for the comfort foods we grew up with—chicken soup, brisket, corned beef, pastrami sandwiches and cheesecake. These are the staples of most kosher-style or kosher delis, and you can find them in Montgomery County at three that I visited recently.
The lights are bright, framed photos line the walls and customers are ordering food or looking at menus when I arrive at Heckman’s Deli on Cordell Avenue in Bethesda. It’s a weekday about 1:30 pm, and there’s background noise that includes waiters taking orders and TVs tuned to a sports channel. The restaurant has a full-service bar and a chalkboard listing items and prices. In the back is a seating area with a big window and counter revealing the small kitchen. There are a few tables for outside dining.
One member of the staff, Serge, a talkative guy who has known Ronnie Heckman (one of the owners, along with his father, Eric) since high school, kibitzed with me until Ronnie came in. I got some insight on the best and most popular sandwiches, which include the Reuben, Copperman’s delight (Pastrami, slaw, Thousand Island and muenster on grilled rye) and the cheesesteak, in that order. Why a cheesesteak at a Jewish deli? Because it rhymes with cheesecake? No. “We want to make sandwiches for everyone,” Ronnie said, “Our cheesesteak, made with ribeye, is the best there is.”
Heckman’s is kosher style and unlike some area delis, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “It’s a place you can come to in your sweats and order breakfast for dinner or have a bite with a glass of wine after work.”
The number one reason to come to Heckman’s? “A great sandwich; we have 14 or 15 specialty sandwiches.” Ronnie was pushing the “Swizz”—brisket, grilled roast beef, coleslaw and Thousand Island dressing on a Kaiser roll. But I went for the classic junior (5-ounce) Reuben. I liked the flavors of the juicy yet lean corned beef that wasn’t overpowered by the toppings. “Yes, that’s the junior,” Serge said as he put the huge sandwich in front of me.
240-800-4879, 4914 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda, Monday–Wednesday 8 am–8 pm, Thursday–Saturday 8 am–9 pm. Not kosher.
Definitely a family-run establishment, with sports-themed banners and photos lining the long mirrored wall, Ize’s is well known to the neighborhood. Set in a bustling strip mall on the west side of Rockville Pike near Nicholson Road, Lee and Angie Greenberg have been there since it was Manhattan Bagel and converted it to Ize’s in 2005. What’s with the name? It stands for Isabelle, Zach and Emily, their children.
“We’re an icon in the neighborhood. People come in for our world-famous chicken salad and the homemade bagels,” Lee said with pride. The place isn’t big, and when I visited, many people were coming for takeout. A middle-aged woman and her friend were eating bagel sandwiches. “You can’t go wrong with the poppy bagel,” the longtime patron told me. “I usually get the bagel and lox, but today I’m trying Veggie Supreme—it’s really good.” (I can confirm that the lox and cream cheese are pretty darn good.) Her young companion, who now lives in London, was enjoying the blueberry bagels she loves here, which she paired with savory toppings. Something for everyone, I guess.
Ize’s claim to fame? Gold medal Olympic swimmer Katie Ledeky’s mom always bought breakfast for her after swim practice. They’ve named an omelet after her: the Katie Gold Medal omelet, of course.
301-231-0771, 11622 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Monday–Friday 6 am–4 pm, Saturday 7 am–4 pm, Sunday 7 am–3 pm. Not kosher.
There are three Goldberg locations. The largest is on Boiling Brook Parkway right next to the Goodwill store where they cook all of the bagels and food in a strictly kosher kitchen. It’s different from many other delis, Vincent, the owner, told me. “It’s not just kosher…it’s even higher than kosher,” he said. He means glatt kosher. At Goldberg’s there is no meat of any kind—it’s all dairy. On Friday afternoons, they’re especially busy delivering orders for Shabbat.
When I stopped by, some children were ordering the Half Pizza Bagels, two gentlemen were chowing down the white tuna salad on bialys (I tried it on their homemade sesame bagel, and it was very good), an NIH contractor first-timer was taking out a broccoli knish and a few people were opting for the wraps. In addition to bagels and wraps, Goldberg’s offers soups, schmears, fish platters and pasta entrees.
“How many bagels do you think we bake on Sundays?” Vincent asked. My guess: 1,000. His answer: 6,000! They start baking late Saturday night, baking in shifts all night long. Many of the managers have worked there for years, like Joe, the one I spoke with, who was friendly and patient with the customers.
301-816-9229, 4824 Boiling Brook Parkway, Rockville, Sunday–Wednesday 7 am–3 pm, Thursday 7 am–4 pm, Friday 7 am–3 pm. Kosher.
240-450-4177, 9328 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, Sunday–Wednesday 7 am–3 pm, Thursday 7 am–4 pm, Friday 7 am–3 pm. Kosher.
240-403-1210, 7731 Tuckerman Lane, Potomac, Sunday–Wednesday 7 am–3 pm, Thursday 7 am–4 pm, Friday 7 am–3 pm. Kosher.