First Look: Zinsky's Delicatessen & Catering

Zinsky's was hoppin'.

On one of its first days of service, the New York-style deli from Mark Brezinski (Pei Wei, Bengal Coast) and Liz and Jim Baron (Blue Mesa Grill) was packed with businessmen, grandmothers herding broods of kids and folks from the surrounding North Dallas neighborhoods. We even saw a priest.

It seems that nobody could wait for a cup of chicken soup, a pastrami on rye or a big plate of matzo brie for breakfast.

Stepping into the shotgun-sized space, a cacophony of voices and music bouncing back and forth between exposed brick walls added to the big city feel of this new spot. Servers seemed to multiply before our eyes, each bearing plates of food, bags of bagels to go or large carafes of coffee for refills. Mr. Brezinski was also around, a bit distracted and maybe even a little nervous. His eyes darted here and there, taking in every bustling detail from his six and a half foot vantage point.

Once we were seated, however, all the cheerful chaos faded into the background. That's a neat trick--and not one that many restaurants are able to pull off. But Zinsky's does it well.

Like many of the traditional delis it's patterned after, Zinsky's manages to feel both active and anonymous. One can either sit in peace and grab a quick bite, or schmooze the room, kissing cheeks and greeting friends and neighbors. We saw plenty of people doing both. After culling through the countless options on the menu, we settled (here's to you, Big Guy) on pastrami on an onion roll ($9.50) and a half corned beef sandwich and matzo ball soup combo ($7.25).

Despite the crowd, our plates arrived quickly, but we must admit to disappointment at the comparatively meager portions in light of our trip to Roaster's last week. Yes, prices are a little lower at Zinsky's, but not low by any means. The Chicago cabbie (again along for the ride) deemed his serving of pastrami "skimpy", though he remarked on its high quality as well. The pile of corned beef on our sandwich was also on the smaller side, its silky texture and classic cured flavor satisfied in the taste department. Matzo ball soup featured a rich, cloudy homemade broth with tiny chunks of carrot and celery. At first blush, the dumplings themselves looked dangerously dense; they were, in fact, tender, moist and well-seasoned...though we still prefer our Aunt Joyce's version, flecked with parsley and fluffier than a down pillow. Oy. Potato salad on the side was Yankee style: mashed and bland.

We're thinking this is one area where Zinsky's should make an exception to authenticity for our clearly superior Southern rendition. It's also worth mentioning that the complimentary pickles are perfection...Roaster's, not so much.

We ended the meal on a sweet note with a slice of fresh, creamy cheesecake on a buttery graham cracker crust we'd have enjoyed much more were it not doused in Hershey's-type chocolate sauce. Next time we'll get it plain.

All in all, we're thinking the crowds speak for themselves in this North Dallas deli face-off. And even though we did find a couple of things to kvetch about, we have to agree. At the very least, Zinsky's has no menu items named for our least favorite former prez, and that alone would get it our vote.

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Lisa Petty