Review: Rascal’s Deli

Photo“I went to this great deli for lunch today. I almost called you to come down here, but then I realized I didn’t want to have to share.”

I love my coworkers. Ever since that conversation, my coworker John has been cajoling me to try out Rascal’s Deli in Blue Ash. We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time together lately due to travel, and I swear that every third day he asks, “Have you tried Rascal’s yet?”

We tried to go one Saturday without realizing it was Yom Kippur. So we popped in the next weekend when they were wide open and ready for business.

PhotoRascal’s Deli specializes in all sorts of traditional Eastern European treats: pastrami, corned beef, knishes, smoked fish, pickles and pierogies. They also have some less-familiar foods like kasha varnishkes (buckwheat groats), schmaltz and gribenes (rendered chicken fat and the crispy leftover bits when you render the chicken fat), and throw in all-day breakfast, too. It’s a big menu with choices for everyone (even vegetarians).

We were greeted promptly at the door and escorted to a seat, and were offered pickles: sour pickles and pickled tomatoes that are made in-house. They were crisp and sour with a pronounced dill flavor.

Unfortunately, once our waiter started to serve us (and not the man who I realized later was the owner), the service slowed. There were long gaps between drinks and orders, and an even longer one to get our order (the advantage of a deli being that you generally get your food quickly), but it was easily forgiven once we got our orders.

Terry selected a simple pastrami sandwich. Their pastrami (though no Katz’s), is excellent: beautiful dark edges, richly marbled, rosy interior and subtle spiciness make a pretty perfect pastrami experience. He chose potato salad as his side, which was a good, mustard-based potato salad made with red skinned potatoes and bits of carrot and pickle.

PhotoI picked the Reuben, which is your choice of pastrami, turkey pastrami or corned beef on marble rye with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. It’s a deli classic, and this one is good– incredibly filling, but not so overstuffed that you make a mess of sauerkraut and Russian dressing. A half a sandwich was more than enough, particularly when paired with the half-dollar sized latkes (I still prefer Izzy’s potato pancakes but these are more than competent) and a tiny container of Red Hot-flavored cinnamon applesauce. This was the stuff I had as a kid, that was more candy-flavored than cinnamon flavored and was a fun addition to the sandwich.

Rascal’s is as close to authentic New York deli as you’ll get in Cincinnati, and I’m looking forward to trying other dishes there– particularly a “killer” mac-and-cheese that my coworker said we should try. My only concern is service: for a truly authentic deli experience it should be quick and efficient.

Rascal's NY Deli on Urbanspoon

  • http://www.eatwithflourpower.com Becky Schlosser

    It’s one of my favorite restaurants in Cincinnati, period. I still prefer Rascal’s latkes, I think Izzy’s are garbage.  Next time you are there try any of their sandwiches on challah bread. It’s magical.

    • finnitastic

      I tried a sandwich on challah and it was stale and dry. This place stinks.

  • Cappypcap

    Not sure how anyone can recommend this place. If it were as good as a C- grade deli in NYC, I’d be there three times a week, even if the service was bad. Well, the service is dreadful, and the food would not rate a D in NY or a C in Cleveland for that matter. I was cringing when I saw that you wrote the review, hoping you would not mention Katz’s. The pastrami at Rascals is not only not as good as Katz’s, they don’t deserve to have their name in the same article. Ugh.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      Cappy, I had quite literally been to Katz’s the week before I went to Rascal’s, so they’re fresh in my mind.  Favorite deli in NY, hands down, and though Rascal’s wasn’t it, it filled the void until the next time I could get there.  You’re right, the service is their biggest problem, but I thought the pastrami was fairly solid.

      • Cappypcap

        Have you been to Russ and Daughters down the street? Hard to believe two such amazing places are on the same block.

        • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

          Yes! I love their halvah and smoked, well, anything.

    • Nate

      Every time new york does something, a certain segment of the population automatically assigns that version gold status – no matter what. It’s getting old and it makes your friends roll their eyes when you’re not looking. I’ve been to Katz – it was fine. Fine.

      The over analysis of meat on bread is weird.

      • Cappypcap

        What the hell are you talking about? A) If you don’t like talking about sandwiches, you are lucky to have any friends, and what friends you do have are probably dreadful, dull, beasts. B) New York City has a thousand delis, some of them deserve gold status, some don’t. C) Like it or not, NYC has the best food in the country, and the certain segment of the population that gets all Cincy-provincial and defensive about mentions of them make this small town even smaller. D) I bet you love LaRosa’s and Montgomery Inn, and I hate you.

        • Nate

          Ouch.
          A) hmmm…
          B) so pretty much just like everywhere
          C) Agree to disagree. I’d put Chicago over new york.
          D) Hate larosa’s. Montgomery Inn is gross.

          You certainly have the G.I.F.T.

  • finnitastic

    This place is highly overpriced and each time I’ve convinced myself to try it again they have screwed up my order. If you want a deli sandwich just go to Blue Ash Chili next door. You’ll get twice the sandwich for half the cost and they will do it right.

  • John

    Man….this place is so not New York….How can you even compare this to Katz’s….?

    Up until recently, their only hot dog choice was a “Chicago Dog”….really….check the name of the establishment…

    Please quit reviewing!!!!

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      Reading is your friend: I said it was “no Katz’s” but it is fairly close, IMO, to a new york deli.. particularly for outside of New York.

      It’s not very nice to tell me not to review because you don’t agree with my opinions, now is it?

  • Kallah1

    Don’t bother….the food is of the poorest quality and the service is even worse! We tried giving constructive feedback about a recent catering order to no avail. Both owners, Mike and Morris, were defensive and rude. Don’t waste your money here, folks!