Shortly after I moved to NYC, I started dating a wonderful Jewish guy. We were together for about 8 years, until we eventually broke up amicably. He was pretty much a perfect boyfriend, but once it was over, what I missed most about our relationship was the delicious Jewish food I enjoyed so very much when we visited his family for the holidays. As a matter of fact, I am still not over it. Because Jewish food is the bomb.
Fortunately, for those who crave authentic Jewish home cooking but either don’t have a Jewish Mother/ Grandmother, or just don’t want the fuss of maintaining a committed relationship, there is PJ Bernstein Deli, where you can eat like you are a member of the tribe every day of the week. Founded in 1965, one visit to PJ Bernstein will show you why celebrities flock to this place, and families trust them to handle all their holiday catering.
Recently, my foodie friend Anne and I visited PJ Bernstein for dinner, where we indulged in a multi-course feast of nearly every Jewish delicacy I have been missing since the onset of the pandemic. Get ready for your mouth to start watering, because I have pictures of everything we ate, and we ate everything.
We started our culinary journey with a bowl of the house special Triple Delight Soup. As Stefon from SNL would say, “This Soup Has Everything” — Tender chunks of roast chicken, fresh carrots, tiny noodles, kreplach (small dumplings filled with ground meat) and a fluffy matzo ball, all nestled in a rich and flavorful chicken broth. OMG, I am not fronting when I say this is the best soup I have ever tasted.
Chopped Liver is not a dish I am going to make myself, but when I mentioned to the restaurant manager Juan, (who was so friendly and accommodating) that it was one of the foods I missed from my days of Jewish-boyfriend having, he brought me a little plate. This chopped liver is so rich and tasty that even this small serving was enough to share. Get some for the table!
There is not much (if anything) that I love more than a plump, fried pierogi. Anne and I shared a small Pierogi Combo, including both potato and beef brisket varieties, which we were able to get half fried (for me) and half boiled (for her). Not every restaurant will do that, but PJ Bernstein is happy to ‘serve it your way’ as the saying goes.
In the above photo, you can see how crisp and delicate these homemade pierogis are, with generous fillings that are perfectly seasoned. PJB’s also does the accompanying fried onions in a neat way: slicing purple Bermudas and sautéing the rings until they are caramelized. You could easily make a very hearty meal out of an order of pierogis and bowl of any of PJB’s fine soups, and leave feeling very satisfied.
Although we did not order them, I wanted to mention that there are daily specials, which are a great bargain.
Next up: A traditional Latke (potato pancake) served with sides of sour cream and apple sauce. The mix of shredded potato and onion is served up crispy and golden on the outside but moist and tender inside. Simply irresistible.
Did we have a Knish? Sure we did! There are several different fillings on the menu, but we wanted to be a bit different and chose to share the Kasha-stuffed knish, which was huge! These taste especially delicious with a dab of spicy deli mustard. And look at that golden crust! It’s a work of art.
Are we done eating yet? Not even close! No visit to PJ Bernstein is complete without a sampling of their world-famous slice deli meats, which come with a stack of homemade soft rye bread, pickles and Cole slaw, so that you can make yourself a proper overstuffed sandwich!
OMG, look how lean and mean those meats are. What a sandwich! I added a generous squirt of tasty Russian dressing, because that is how I roll.
It is a rule that when Anne and I dine out, dessert is a must, no matter how stuffed we are, and PJ Bernstein did not disappoint with their selection of homemade desserts and cakes. Anne chose a slice of indulgent Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, which I snuck a bite of, and can recommend.
I don’t know who I was fooling though because I could only eat a couple of bites of this freshly-baked Iced Lemon Pound Cake (my favorite!) before I surrendered and asked to have it wrapped to go, so it could be the next morning’s breakfast. I am not sorry I did that.
PJ Bernstein Deli is Located at 1215 3rd Ave (Between 70th and 71st Streets), New York NY 10021. Hours are 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM Daily, and until 8:00 PM on Sundays. Visit Their Website at This Link and Phone 212-879-0914 for Take Out.