Never mind what used to live in this building. The folks behind Nosh have done what they can to change the feel inside. The decor is black-and-white and there's a takeout counter in front of the kitchen. Most importantly, the food is no longer burgers and fries but smoked whitefish and pastrami. Well, maybe more importantly: it's good.
Now, I can't pretend to be an expert in this type of food, except in that I know I love it. Growing up where I did in Northern California, I didn't even know the word locks had a homonym. I went to college in L.A., supposedly a great deli town; I did go once to Jerry's Famous Deli, but probably ordered a Buffalo chicken sandwich.
Larry David: Fan of Jerry's Famous Deli
My proper deli education didn't start until I moved east. Alongside the Lady K, a native of northern New Jersey, I sampled a little deli food in Pittsburgh, and we hit up a couple Jewish delis in Cleveland. These places were fine, but the delis in Cleveland tended to slice their pastrami thin. It was lean, too, which means one thing: less flavor.
It wasn't until two summers back when I discovered the real thing. Visiting New York, staying in Brooklyn, just before the end of our trip we headed down the street to the Mile End Deli, a Montreal-style Jewish deli. I could write an entire post on this place; for now, I'll just say that the pastrami at the Mile End must be coated with the dust of a thousand rainbows. Something illegal and Canadian. That's how good it is.
Moving to Albany, I figured there might be a decent deli here. Cleveland-level at least. And if nothing else, there would be ample opportunity to finally get to Katz's and the Carnegie Deli, and return to the Mile End. Then I read about this Nosh place opening in Guilderland, and the minimal details were promising. A trip to Crossgates Mall beckoned, and what better sustenance for that than a pile of pastrami?
The menu at Nosh contains most anything you might expect, although they didn't have K's first choice, the liver--the waitress said something about how they're trying to get it right before they serve it. Hard to argue with that logic. So she got a half pastrami on rye with a cup of matzah ball soup. I went with a full pastrami on rye and, because it was on the menu and why not, a Brooklyn-style egg cream. It was the first egg cream our waitress had made, satisfying its own weird way, made with the traditional Fox's U-bet syrup.
The first thing noticeable about the soup was that the broth tasted like--get this--real chicken. A simple thing, you'd think, but it's amazing how few restaurants go above and beyond food service ingredients. So there's our first good sign. The second was the complimentary pickle, a half-sour with great snap. (I'll add here that the potato salad on the side was fairly nondescript, but that's potato salad.)
None of this would mean anything, though, if the pastrami wasn't good. And it was: thicker than what those fakers out in Cleveland sliced, and fattier, too. I got the regular size sandwich ($9.95) and it was properly plump, pieces of meat falling out; I see no need to pay a few more dollars for another quarter pound of pastrami. The rub was noticeable and meshed well with the fat. The rye was soft and standard, a good vehicle for the meat.
It's hard to complain when a small, independent operation like Nosh comes through with a performance like this just a week after opening. Judging from other, less-favorable reviews out there, it's clear the people behind Nosh have worked hard to get everything, from service to food, ironed out in a hurry. It probably wouldn't be wise to eat at this place every week, but it's certainly nice to know that when the craving strikes, Nosh is a local and reliable option for Jewish deli fare.
Nosh Delicatessen is located at 1645 Western Ave. in Guilderland, NY.