Since it’s the holidays, which is a sentimental time for most of us (what do people want more around the holidays than comfort food?), I thought I’d review a couple of my “old favorite” places. These places aren’t fancy, but they have good, honest food at good prices.
As a kid, I used to go with my dad to Izzy’s. He’d get an Izzy burger (yes, they have burgers) with cheese. At the sixth street location, the guy behind the counter would go on about how when HE was a kid, there was NO cheese on the burgers, or on Reubens, and that’s how you’d eat it, and you’d like it. Nothing like Deli attitude. I remember once saying something along the lines of, “Well, don’t tell Izzy!” and the guy said, “Sweetie, it’s an awfully long distance call to talk to Izzy in Heaven!” Cute.
Izzy’s isn’t a Kosher deli anymore, even if there’s a Star of David on Izzy’s paper cap. It’s certainly Kosher-inspired and its “Famous Reuben” is appropriate for the city that gave us the Treif Banquet (which is a great story for another post!). Cincinnati is the home of Reform Judaism, after all, and not all Reform Jews keep kosher.
Anyway, don’t let me babble about Cincinnati Jewish culinary history here– I really ought to do a second post on it. Izzy’s is famous for its corned beef, and even more famous for its Reuben. Though the Reuben is alternately attributed to Reuben’s Delicatessen in New York and Blackstone Grill in Omaha, the results are tasty: corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing on grilled or toasted rye bread. Izzy’s is a little different in that it doesn’t toast or grill the bread unless you ask them to. Their corned beef (and pastrami) are excellent on their own– rich and flavorful. It’s not as good as Katz’s, but it definitely helps ease the hunger pangs until I get back to New York.
Sides are great here, too. The standard side is the potato cake, which is by far my favorite. I swear, the perfect meal would be an Izzy potato cake with a Katz’s pastrami sandwich (as Katz’s potato cakes are not so great). They’re crispy and greasy and savory, without being too mushy or underdone. They’re perfect. They also have crisp, salty dill pickles and sauerkraut at the table. There are other sides as well, but to be honest, I’ve never bothered trying them since the potato cake is so good.
Beverages, depending on location, range from soda to beer, but my favorite is Dr. Brown’s soda, a real classic from New York. The diet black cherry is my choice, Terry gets diet cream soda.
The service is friendly and laid back– there are no tickets, so you pay on your way out the door by memory and the honor system, which seems to work pretty well.
I suggest if you can agree on a sandwich that you should split one– they’re huge– and add on a potato cake. No one should have to split a potato cake. Check out the “specialty” sandwiches, named after local personalities, like the Jeff Ruby (Cole Slaw, Roast Beef, Rye Bread Roasted Turkey, Chopped Liver, Thousand Island Dressing, on Rye Bread.) or the Andy Furman (roast beef topped with coleslaw and a pinch of seasonings served on Pumpernickel). It’s a great place to take out of towners, too, for a little taste of Cincinnati history that isn’t Skyline or La Rosa’s!