Zinger’s Deli in Boca Raton: go for the pastrami

Hot pastrami on rye (photo courtesy Jason Perlow)

The smoked meat sandwich at this Jewish-style deli with a New York pedigree is worth the wait

The peak-season lines at dinner time at Zinger’s Deli in Boca Raton can be frustrating. The wait can be considerable and the eatery’s tiny vestibule has no where for waiting diners to sit, nor are there seats outside.

That, however, doesn’t deter mostly older fressers, who are waiting for a better deli experience than can be found at such area competitors as 3G’s , Ben’s, Flakowitz and TooJays, to name a few.

Zinger’s exterior

Hanging salamis

Zinger’s dining room

Zinger’s, a 60-seat sit-down restaurant in a sprawling strip center off Powerline and Palmetto Park Roads, can be worth the wait, if you’re in the mood for a hot pastrami sandwich. Zinger’s has a genuine New York pedigree. And, the proof is in what’s on your plate, if you’re chowing down on that  pastrami.

The pastrami at Zingers is not manufactured by one of the mammoth purveyors, i.e., Hebrew National or National Deli, the brands sliced at most other Jewish-style delis throughout South Florida. The pastrami served here is privately produced, made to the specifications of Zinger’s, whose predecessors include Pastrami King, a now-closed landmark in Kew Gardens, Queens, and Pastrami Queen on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Zinger’s, descended from Pastrami King in Kew Gardens, NY

Zinger’s has been around since 2011, following by two years the opening of Pastrami Queen in the same center (It closed, reportedly after a family spat). Pastrami Queen’s owners, including Gary Zinger, previously owned Pastrami King in its waning days and Pastrami Queen, before it was sold to its current owners. Pastrami King’s lineage traces back decades to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, according to the New York Times.

Often these days, you’ll find Gary Zinger, a former commodities trader in the deli business since1997, observing the scene at his eponymous Boca eatery. During one visit, I engaged him in conversation about the 2015 documentary film “Deli Man.” He told me,he’s gotten to know some of the nation’s most famous deli owners featured in the film.

In any event, while waiting for a table to empty you can eyeball the Jewish-style delicacies in the showcases, among them bulging knishes, baked and fried; all sorts of salads; black and white cookies; rainbow cookies, and more. Whole salamis are suspended from the ceiling, drying out for those who may order hard salami.

Or, you can gaze across the modern dining room filled with granite topped tables, wishing some of those still dining would hurry up and vacate their seats. You can also watch one of the large flat-sheen TVs on the wall. Zinger’s is more comfy than its sprawling diner-like competitors.

Once seated, a server will drop off a bowl of crunchy sour and half sour pickles, along with a few green sour tomatoes. There’s also a complimentary bowl of coleslaw. The menu offers the entire litany of Eastern European Jewish-style cuisine. And a chalkboard on the wall lists daily specials (some only available lunchtime).

Forget the specials and most of the menu. Roast beef can be overcooked and veiny. Potato latkes are doughy and redolent of onions. Fried kreplach, aka Jewish wontons, are big and crunchy and doused in fried onions, but overly battered and not something I’d re-order. The coleslaw is inoffensive.

Soups are haimishe and filling. Zinger’s signature dish, Mosh Soup, a combination matzo ball, kreplach and kasha varnishkes, however, was disappointing on a recent visit, though quite steamy. The matzo ball, so soft, disintegrated in my mouth, the kreplach was soggy and the kasha a tad cold, while the broth could have benefitted from more salt. A perfect dish for those with dentures and high blood pressure!

Brisket on potato latkes

Potato knish

Signature Mosh Soup

Brisket is tender and moist, a rarity these days in many delis. Corn beef also is tender and flavorful. French fries, or tater tots, latke tots here, arrive at the table in a mini-fryer basket.  A baked, potato knish, apparently nuked before serving, was light on the outside, but it’s dried-out filling suggested overcooked baked potatoes,

The lean, moist garlicky pastrami at Zinger’s is the prime reason to visit. It’s smoky and dark ruby red and best had between two slices of crusty rye bread or on a club roll.

Service at diner time can be excruciatingly slow.  Often there may be just one or two servers catering to 60 diners. You may have to ask twice for your beverage.  Yes, there’s Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic. And, if your are there at a time when a worker is out sick, as once were, you may see dirty dishes piling up on a nearby empty table.

I can forgive those things because the pastrami at Zinger’s (maybe not as good as Katz’s, or The Pastrami Joint in Miami), is good enough for me to make the 20-minute drive for a quintessential sandwich.

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