The online reader comments that followed a recent Salt Lake Tribune review of 9th South Delicatessen floored me. As a firm believer in civil discourse and disagreement, I can never quite get my head around the vitriol that too often accompanies food reviews. It’s food—not war, not politics. But, such are people’s passions, I suppose, for topics such as tacos, pizza and deli fare.
One of the online debates surrounding 9th South Delicatessen is whether or not it is a “Jewish deli.” Let me forestall any brouhaha here by saying up front that it is not. I asked Kathie Chadbourne—who runs 9th South Deli—the question point-blank: “Is this a Jewish deli?” She quickly responded that no, it is not a Jewish deli, nor have they ever called themselves a Jewish deli. That debate is for the public. The folks who run 9th South Delicatessen clearly know who and what they are: a terrific, small, independent neighborhood deli and market, serving and selling excellent food.
Then there is the debate as to whether 9th South is a true delicatessen. Maybe it’s unfortunate that they chose the word “delicatessen” over “deli,” even though the latter is simply a shortening of the former. But “delicatessen” means something particular to certain people. It means a place, among other things, where you can buy meats and cheeses to take home—you know, a place with a deli counter and a guy or gal slicing up cold cuts. However, “delicatessen” actually comes from the plural of the German word delikatesse, which refers to fine foods or delicacies—something 9th South Delicatessen has in spades.
Since it’s not a Jewish deli, you won’t find certain foods like gefilte fish, chopped liver or kreplach. Nor is it kosher; there is a great ham sandwich on the menu, just like you might find at some of the country’s best delis—like Langer’s, Stage Door and Carnegie Deli. This is not Ratner’s, nor Katz’s. So, now that we’re clear on what 9th South Delicatessen is and isn’t, let’s move on to the tasty stuff.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better pastrami sandwich in Utah than the one made at 9th South Delicatessen. Sandwiches come in whole and half sizes with a pickle (made in-house) and small salad and range in price from $5.95 to $8.95 for halves and $7.95 to $12.95 for whole sandwiches. The W. Weinstein’s Wow Pastrami is $12.95/$8.95 and worth every penny. Yes, these are pricey sammies. Some people have said 9th South Delicatessen charges New York City deli prices. Well, sometimes you get what you pay for. In this case, the pastrami comes from R-C Provisions in Los Angeles, which is where Langer’s (also in Los Angeles) sources its pastrami. Many have judged Langer’s pastrami to be the best in the United States. You’re getting the same thing when you buy a pastrami sandwich at 9th South Delicatessen, served on scrumptious pumpernickel bread with a smear of Dijon mustard. It’s a simple, sublime sandwich.
The Reuben, too, is otherworldly: deliciously juicy corned beef prepared in-house, on house-baked rye bread with high-quality sauerkraut (not the canned stuff), Emmentaler cheese and Russian dressing. The salads accompanying the sandwiches seem to be selected at random. I can’t quite figure out the logic, but they’re all good. My favorite is probably the Rabbi Moses P. Jacobson’s Bowtie salad, made with farfalle pasta, red and green onions, sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and paprika. There’s a nice beet salad, too, for folks who love beets, and an excellent potato salad. As mentioned, salads are served as sides with sandwiches, but they are also available to purchase by the pound.
I do have one complaint about the pastrami and Reuben sandwiches: They are not “overstuffed.” If you’ve ever eaten in a New York-style delicatessen, you know that it’s usually hard to get your mouth around an overstuffed sandwich, with meat piled high. That’s not the case at 9th South Delicatessen, where the sandwich stuffings are a tad on the skimpy side for the price. The tuna sandwich was an exception, featuring generous mounds of albacore tuna salad with big chunks of tuna throughout, a judicious amount of Hellmann’s mayo, along with a hint of Dijon, minced celery, sliced red onion, sea salt and black pepper, served on that irresistible homemade rye bread.
Who doesn’t love a grilled-cheese sandwich? Well, the one here has greatness written all over it. It’s a four-cheese concoction with provolone, English cheddar, fontina and Asiago on hearty farm bread. And, for veggie lovers, there’s another tasty sandwich, also served on farm bread, with avocado, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, coleslaw and cucumber.
Of course, I couldn’t visit without trying the homemade matzo ball soup ($3.95), which is a steaming bowl of homemade chicken broth with schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), carrot chunks and homemade matzo balls. I thought the soup needed a little salt but was otherwise delicious and authentic. Another hit from the kitchen is the noodle kugel: egg noodles with fresh ricotta, vanilla and cream from Winder Farms, spiked with apple pieces and currants. If you’d never had kugel, it’s a wonderful sweet and savory treat. The latkes and knishes at 9th South Delicatessen are killer comfort foods, reminiscent for me of the wonderful meals I’ve enjoyed at Jewish friends’ houses in The Big Apple.
9th South Delicatessen also features a small market selling an eclectic array of items ranging from Nu Nooz pasta and Dr. Brown’s sodas to Israeli couscous and big containers of matzo meal. Before you take your leave, though, you must treat yourself to a molasses and black pepper cookie. It’ll rock your world.
9TH SOUTH DELICATESSEN
931 E. 900 South