While I may always have a soft spot for the Bagel Deli (see review) with its cramped displays of Jewish deli essentials (Dr. Brown's soda, bagel chips, Halvah and schmaltz), those looking for a wider variety of sundries could do a lot worse than the East Side Kosher Deli. Open for eighteen years and owned by Michael and Marcy Schreiber, this large and well-stocked kosher oasis just north of Mir Park on the outskirts of Leetsdale Boulevard's Little Russia stocks everything from candies and snacks to Hanukkah candles and kosher ramen. There's a bakery, a very busy deli counter (complete with an old-fashioned plastic-number dispenser to keep an orderly flow in front of that counter), a fish department (specializing in lox, natch) and, all the way in the back, the kind of small, add-on restaurant that I haven't seen since my days hanging out at the Woolworth's lunch counter back in Rochester.
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There, behind the smoked glass, is a bastion of kosher dining that focuses on deli sandwiches, blintzes, knishes from the bakery, herring salad and chopped liver, sure, but also offers short ribs (beef, of course), fish tacos, fish and chips, Louisiana gumbo, North African lamb stew and "Oriental specialties" like sweet-and-sour chicken and beef stir-fry. But at East Side, I stick with the basics: a cup of tea, toast with margarine (the only time I let that foul stuff cross my lips), maybe a bowl of chicken and matzo ball soup, or eggs scrambled with salami and killer onion-and-pepper home fries. The breakfast menu is fairly standard, the dinner menu large and remarkable mostly for its breadth of influence (taquitos, tongue sandwiches and blackened ahi with wasabi don't often share space on a menu).
This is a strange little restaurant, incredibly friendly, very quiet during most hours of the day and just the spot to satisfy all your Jewish comfort-food cravings — particularly if they're kosher.
East Side Kosher Deli
499 South Elm Street