Cafe Society

Lox of Love

Laura does not eat breakfast out. Ever. She’s one of those people who dreams of someday living in a hotel penthouse -- not for the housekeeping or the views or the glamour of being the sort of person who lives in a hotel penthouse, but just for the room service: bowls of cereal and coffee and platters of pastries appearing outside the door every morning as if delivered by magical kitchen elves.

I, on the other hand, am one of those people who dreams of food. And on Saturday night, I did. Knishes and chicken soup. A hot-plate special of kosher salami and scrambled eggs. Blintzes topped with a fall of shiny red cherries in syrup. Long before I fell asleep, I was imagining standing in line at the Bagel Deli & Restaurant -- reconstructing from my somewhat foggy recollections a rattletrap relic of other days and other places, a strip-mall operation that’s part market, part lunch counter and mostly Jewish deli, renowned for its tenacity, its salt bagels, its matzo brei, lox, chopped liver and bottles of rendered chicken fat knocking around its dark coolers.

And what I imagined was pretty much what I found when, the next morning, I was back at the Bagel Deli -- a place I’ve loved, on and off, since I first set foot inside five years ago.

Between visits to the Bagel Deli, I stopped by the East Side Kosher Deli to take another look at one of the strangest kosher menus I’ve ever seen -- a bizarre conglomeration of Jewish, Mexican, American, Chinese and Louisiana Cajun cuisines served at a restaurant that’s a dead ringer for one of those old-fashioned Woolworth’s lunch counters where I used to eat grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches when I was a kid.

When not dallying at a deli, I collected a lot of news from restaurants trying to beat the holiday crush – trying to get past their openings, their chef changes, their menu updates or whatever before the last of the New Year’s Eve parties scheduled and the scads of holiday shoppers vanish. After that, things should get very quiet until spring. – Jason Sheehan