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Kenny & Zukes delicatessen - Portland, OR

Kenny & Zukes delicatessen - Portland, OR
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  • Kenny & Zukes delicatessen - Portland, OR

    Post #1 - August 25th, 2008, 10:33 pm
    Post #1 - August 25th, 2008, 10:33 pm Post #1 - August 25th, 2008, 10:33 pm
    I know this might be a controversial statement but if Kenny & Zuke's were in Chicago, it would be -- by far -- the best deli in Chicago. Nothing in the Chicago area comes close, or even tries to. Imagine a deli where meticulous attention is paid to every detail. Imagine a deli where nearly everything served is made in-house, from scratch. Imagine a deli that is owned and operated by a passionate food-lover who wants to share his passion for great food. Well, if you lived in Portland, you wouldn't have to imagine it. You could eat there everyday.

    I've had the pleasure to meet Nick Zukin (aka ExtraMSG on the internets), the owner of Kenny & Zuke's, a couple of times over the past few years, as he steamrolled through Chicago on hardcore eating tours. Several months ago, he mentioned that he would soon be opening a deli in his home town of Portland and when my family and I traveled to the PNW last month, the deli had been open for about 9 months. We couldn't wait to visit and our high expectations were not only met but completely obliterated . . .

    Image
    Kenny & Zukes Delicatessen is located at 1038 SW Stark Street in Portland, OR

    During our 4 days in Portland we ate a lunch and a dinner at K&Z's, and both were nothing short of phenomenal. Here are pics of just a few of the things we tasted during our visits . . .

    Image
    Pickles
    Nick was kind enough to send out this awesome plate of pickled gems, all of which are made in-house. And yes, that is okra!


    Image
    Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls
    That's really chicken soup, not beef soup. It's made in-house to a hearty and delicious specification. The texture of the matzoh balls was nicely balanced between fluffy and dense, with a great mouthfeel.


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    Pastrami Fries
    A fantastic platter of decadent deliciousness. Needless to say, the pastrami at K&Z's is made in-house. More on this below.


    Image
    "Burnt Ends of Pastrami"
    Our timing was perfect and we got to try these unbelievably delicious meaty morsels. They are not on the menu but they should be!


    Image
    Pastrami, Corned Beef and Chopped Liver Sandwich on Rye
    Every component of this glorious sandwich was made -- you guessed it -- in-house. Not only were the pastrami and corned beef spectacular but the liver and the rye bread were among the best I'd ever tasted. The corned beef and pastrami are, unquestionably, the best restaurant versions I've ever had.


    Image
    Turkey Sandwich on Rye with Lettuce and Tomato
    Another delicious sandwich. Aside from condiments and beverages, turkey, roast beef and salami are about the only things not made in-house at K&Z's but the brands served are competely respectable commercial versions. Even the great takes on cole slaw and potato salad that accompany these sandwiches are made in-house. Not pictured in this post are rugelah and macaroons that were as good as any I've had.


    Image
    Potato Latkes
    Crispy exteriors and tender, flavorful interiors, these latkes were senstational. They're served with sour cream and sweet-tart apple sauce, the latter of which is made on premises.


    Image
    Gravlax
    This fantastic cured salmon is made in-house and the fish used to make it was several cuts above what one might typically expect. Unfortunately, local laws prevent K&Z's from making their own cold-smoked salmon, which I'm sure would be sensational.


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    Toasted Sesame Bagel with Chive Cheese
    A delicious bagel with a remarkable depth of flavor that lasted all the way through the chew. All bagels served at K&Z's are baked in-house.


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    Assorted Beverages
    In a great deli tradition -- and further proof of Nick's obsessive attention to detail -- dozens of types of pops are offered. Many of the offerings are turned out by small, regional producers (Jackson Hole Soda Co, Hotlips, Pop Shoppe, Crater Lake, to name a few) and the range of flavors is exceptional. I think I counted no less than 7 caffeine-free diet options alone on the extensive list of beverages. Great varieties of beer and wine -- many of them locally-produced -- are also offered.

    I so badly wish that we had a place like Kenny & Zukes in Chicago. It's a total shame that we don't. Unlike some popular spots here in Chicago, the depth of greatness on K&Z's menu runs well beyond 2 or 3 headline items. From top to bottom, this menu is filled with great versions, many of which are among the best I've ever tasted. It seems that virtually no opportunity to delight the diner is left untaken.

    Maybe someone with the same dedication to the craft as Nick will someday take the leap and try to pull something like this off in Chicago. But it won't be easy. Beyond an obessive love of food, this kind of establishment also takes skills that, frankly, are not that easy to come by. For food lovers in Portland and those who visit, this is an incredible mecca of foodiness that simply must not be missed.

    =R=

    Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen
    1038 SW Stark St
    Portland, OR 97205
    503 222-3354
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #2 - August 25th, 2008, 11:36 pm
    Post #2 - August 25th, 2008, 11:36 pm Post #2 - August 25th, 2008, 11:36 pm
    Next trip: Portland.

    Man those pastrami fries look like the best food ill ever eat at 3a, except I would eat them all day, I already know their great just by looking at the pictures...and yes I already know that it would indeed be the best deli in Chicago, also by just looking at the pictures. The hotlips pear soda looks very very intriguing, im a big fan of the regional bottled pop and also love pears, is that a west coast based company? great stuff, thanks for the heads up except now im going to be thinking about this place all week and I cant thank you for that.
  • Post #3 - August 26th, 2008, 5:32 am
    Post #3 - August 26th, 2008, 5:32 am Post #3 - August 26th, 2008, 5:32 am
    Ron,

    My 1976 Farrah Fawcett swimsuit poster has been replaced by your photo of Kenny and Zuke's Pastrami Fries. Ellen sends her thanks.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #4 - August 26th, 2008, 5:50 am
    Post #4 - August 26th, 2008, 5:50 am Post #4 - August 26th, 2008, 5:50 am
    I am weeping my friend.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #5 - August 26th, 2008, 9:03 am
    Post #5 - August 26th, 2008, 9:03 am Post #5 - August 26th, 2008, 9:03 am
    Nick, tremendous work (and Ronnie too for sharing). If pictures don't lie, it seems fairly obvious that K&Z would also be the best deli in LA and, quite possibly, NY -- in terms of food. I won't discount history and atmosphere, but the chopped liver looks really spectacular.
  • Post #6 - August 26th, 2008, 11:14 am
    Post #6 - August 26th, 2008, 11:14 am Post #6 - August 26th, 2008, 11:14 am
    Pastrami Fries and gravadlax in the same meal...wistful sigh...one can dream....
  • Post #7 - August 26th, 2008, 11:19 am
    Post #7 - August 26th, 2008, 11:19 am Post #7 - August 26th, 2008, 11:19 am
    Thanks everyone. Hey, Ronnie, don't forget my partner, Ken Gordon, most of the recipes are his.

    Honestly, I don't think it'd be that hard to have a deli have really good food from top to bottom on the menu, but I think it will continue to be rare. While it's certainly difficult to find someone that cares enough, the bigger problem is the cost associated with making good food. We can't charge fine dining prices nor do we get the wine and alcohol sales of a fine dining restaurant. Yet we're making our own charcuterie, our own breads, our own pickles, etc. And we're doing so with largely local and sustainable products. That means our labor and food costs are higher than average. And while we do charge a little more than the other delis in town, not enough to cover those costs entirely. I sat down and ran through the numbers once and we could be making a lot of money -- enough to triple our salaries -- if we were buying product off the Sysco truck and ordering in pastrami. But our goal was never to be just another deli. It was to try to make a damn good deli and make it work, even if we didn't get rich doing it.
  • Post #8 - August 26th, 2008, 11:27 am
    Post #8 - August 26th, 2008, 11:27 am Post #8 - August 26th, 2008, 11:27 am
    Greetings from Portland.

    Hot Lips is based right here in Portland--owned by a nice fellow named David Yudkin who started in pizza and has expanded to local fresh fruit-based soda.

    Co-owner of K&Z is Ken Gordon--New York Jew, expat, classically trained w/ long ago stints in Paris and elsewhere--who is the BoH master at K&Z. He deserves a huge share of the credit for the deli's success.

    --mcz
    --mcz
  • Post #9 - August 26th, 2008, 11:45 am
    Post #9 - August 26th, 2008, 11:45 am Post #9 - August 26th, 2008, 11:45 am
    My mouth is just watering, those fries, my god those fries. The latkaes look amazing, the bagels look great. Well it all looks great, and the fact that it's all made in house is pretty incredible.

    I really need to get out to Portland.

    Anyone want to road trip out to Kenny and Zuke's and then north to Salumi?
  • Post #10 - August 26th, 2008, 12:35 pm
    Post #10 - August 26th, 2008, 12:35 pm Post #10 - August 26th, 2008, 12:35 pm
    Certainly didn't mean to slight Ken Gordon. I knew that "Kenny" figured in somewhere in the Kenny & Zuke's equation! :wink: Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to meet him while we were in Portland.

    Keep up the great work, guys! :)

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #11 - August 26th, 2008, 12:51 pm
    Post #11 - August 26th, 2008, 12:51 pm Post #11 - August 26th, 2008, 12:51 pm
    Too bad an owner has chimed in here. My first name is Kenny (suprise, surprise), and my last name sounds very much like Zuk. I was planning to take credit for this superb-sounding operation. Oh well.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #12 - August 26th, 2008, 8:30 pm
    Post #12 - August 26th, 2008, 8:30 pm Post #12 - August 26th, 2008, 8:30 pm
    Here's a slideshow of photos from my visits to K&Z's earlier in the year. You haven't lived until you've eaten their pastrami burger. (And you may not live long after eating it, especially if you add an order of the pastrami cheese fries. But what a way to die!)

    Scott
  • Post #13 - August 26th, 2008, 8:38 pm
    Post #13 - August 26th, 2008, 8:38 pm Post #13 - August 26th, 2008, 8:38 pm
    Scott--DFW wrote:Here's a slideshow of photos from my visits to K&Z's earlier in the year. You haven't lived until you've eaten their pastrami burger. (And you may not live long after eating it, especially if you add an order of the pastrami cheese fries. But what a way to die!)

    Scott

    Yes, please . . . no one here is allowed to tell my doctor about this thread! :lol:

    BTW, great shots, Scott!

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #14 - August 26th, 2008, 8:48 pm
    Post #14 - August 26th, 2008, 8:48 pm Post #14 - August 26th, 2008, 8:48 pm
    Scott--DFW wrote:Here's a slideshow of photos from my visits to K&Z's earlier in the year. You haven't lived until you've eaten their pastrami burger. (And you may not live long after eating it, especially if you add an order of the pastrami cheese fries. But what a way to die!)

    Scott


    Oh my good gosh. I submit to the kugel overlord.

    Scott, I hope you had someone to help carry you home. That there's a lot of food.
  • Post #15 - August 27th, 2008, 5:02 am
    Post #15 - August 27th, 2008, 5:02 am Post #15 - August 27th, 2008, 5:02 am
    Chicken Fried Pastrami? Nick you're a madman. I can't wait for my next Portland visit.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #16 - August 27th, 2008, 8:05 am
    Post #16 - August 27th, 2008, 8:05 am Post #16 - August 27th, 2008, 8:05 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Yes, please . . . no one here is allowed to tell my doctor about this thread! :lol:


    I think it is safe to say that with regards to anyone telling anyone else's doctor anything that "What happens on Lthforum.com stays on Lthforum.com"
  • Post #17 - October 31st, 2008, 7:23 pm
    Post #17 - October 31st, 2008, 7:23 pm Post #17 - October 31st, 2008, 7:23 pm
    This is unspeakabley cool:
    http://www.kennyandzukes.com/about/images/groening.gif

    I'm heading to Portland in about 2 weeks and am super excited about a visit(s) to Kenny & Zukes. Is there any more recent news I should know?
  • Post #18 - January 23rd, 2009, 2:24 pm
    Post #18 - January 23rd, 2009, 2:24 pm Post #18 - January 23rd, 2009, 2:24 pm
    I just got back from my (rather gluttonous) trip to Portland and my stop at Kenny & Zukes was quite the highlight. Unfortunately I was too overcome by the onslaught of tasty morsels to remember to take many photos, but I did manage to snag a shot of the house pickle plate and pastrami cheese fries before they were devoured.

    Image

    On the pickle plate are cucumbers, olives, bell peppers, carrots, green tomatoes, capers, cauliflower and butternut squash. This was the first time that I've had pickled winter squash and it was fantastic! I'm going to have to find a recipe and try making a batch.

    -Dan
  • Post #19 - November 1st, 2009, 7:58 am
    Post #19 - November 1st, 2009, 7:58 am Post #19 - November 1st, 2009, 7:58 am
    anyone know what the deal is with Kenny & Z delis? I found Kenny & Ziggy's while researching what to eat in Houston. Is there some explanation for why my first name and last initial make for the perfect deli name?
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #20 - November 1st, 2009, 9:44 am
    Post #20 - November 1st, 2009, 9:44 am Post #20 - November 1st, 2009, 9:44 am
    Destiny calls, Kennyz. Destiny calls.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #21 - January 27th, 2014, 8:44 pm
    Post #21 - January 27th, 2014, 8:44 pm Post #21 - January 27th, 2014, 8:44 pm
    7 comments Kenny & Zuke's plans 'major change' to signature pastrami

    For the past seven years, Kenny & Zuke’s pastrami has been prepared using the leaner first cut of brisket, instead of the plate cut, a fattier, more-traditional slab taken from the belly.

    ...

    "I've felt for a long time that our pastrami was too lean," Gordon wrote in an email to The Oregonian. "Good, sure. Sometimes great, depending on the vagaries of the particular piece of beef. But classically, pastrami was made with the plate cut -- the equivalent in the cow of bacon."

    But now, Gordon has finally found his steady plate cut supply and has already begun testing the fattier cut, finding the results to be "probably twice as juicy" as the restaurant's current pastrami.


    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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