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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
8.8
8.0
$15
Sandwiches
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 7:00am–8:00pm
Fri 7:00am–9:00pm
Sat 8:00am–9:00pm
Sun 8:00am–8:00pm

Features Kid-friendly
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Accepted

www.kennyandzukes.com

Downtown
1038 SW Stark St.
Portland, OR
(503) 222-3354
Kenny & Zuke’s Deli
A faithful rendition of New York deli classics, with one of the city’s best non-alcoholic drink lists

Right next to the industrial-chic Ace Hotel and scenester heaven Clyde Common, Kenny & Zuke’s is an unassuming and bustling New York-style deli that is, well, just what it should be. The walls of exposed brick and floor-to-high-ceiling windows give a bright, airy feel to the place, and the fontage is fun and playfully retro. It’s thankfully resisted the temptation to shove images of Manhattan down patrons’ throats, resorting instead to a credibility that is stuffed between slices of bread.

The best sandwich order here has got to be “Ken’s Special”: pastrami, chopped liver, and cole slaw. The cole slaw is sweet, but not like “it’s cabbage—let’s cover it up!” This is a much more grown-up version, with layers of earthy cabbage flavor and vinegary tartness. The hot, tender pastrami is quite smoky around the edges, reminding us of Texas’s famous barbecued brisket. Its saltiness is absorbed beautifully by ferrous, creamy chopped liver. The Reuben is also very good, piled high with smoky, tender pastrami, melty Swiss, and crisp, tart sauerkraut. Even the dressing manages to stay inside the toasted bread, which is an impressive feat in itself. But we’re disappointed by the rye bread. It’s authentic (in that in NYC you often don’t get good rye at delis either), but why not do better?

German-style potato salad, that staple side dish of any deli worth its salt, is excellent, with balanced acidity coming from a bit of lemon. And the pickles that come with every sandwich are delightfully sour. The selection of sodas here is as astute as a top-notch wine list would be at a French bistro: Mexican Coke and Pepsi; Sioux City Sarsparilla; Boylan’s Birch Beer; and totally NYC-authentic Dr. Brown’s (pastrami is to Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda as rack of lamb is to Bordeaux).

Bialys, knishes, and bagels are terrific, and you can also get your rugelach, noodle kugel, and challah on here. The menu is dotted with helpful asterisks to guide vegetarians through the tower-of-meat choices. Pints of draft beer are only $2.50 during happy hour (3–6pm on weekdays), which is almost a redundancy here. After all, Kenny & Zuke’s is a case study in making people happy.

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