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Leo’s Celebrity Deli

Judging a Jewish deli starts with the bagels—are they dense and doughy with a crust that fights back, or simply another form of round bread. Good fresh bialys are another bonus…a real test of the real deal in Jewish baking. Then I critique the cream cheese….is it light in texture and dense in taste? Anything resembling a Philadelphia brick brings immediate point deductions…next survey the salmon. Is it thinly and expertly sliced, with a flavor of salmoness not salt? And do the half-sour pickles and the slaw have tang and freshness….or are they straight from the shelves of smart and final?

The pastrami should be peppery and well trimmed of fat and the corned beef should make you weep. The brisket pride should be shown in the soups, starting to those pillowy meat dumplings called kreplach….

Others must haves are mighty soft matzohs and plenty of pictures of celebrities. Somehow I feel better devouring a whitefish platter with Joan Rivers (looking like she was photographed through a mayonnaise jar) staring down at me.

The celebrity deli has all of these things and more…including a much needed sprucing up and an owner who seems to finally care what his customers think of the place. The sign outside says under new management and they’re not kiddin’. Everything about the celebrity deli—now called Leo’s—is much improved over what it was, and only the over-dry brisket failed to meet my standards. Is it the best I’ve ever been in? Not in a long shot…for an east side deli lunch, Leo’s Celebrity is hard to beat.

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And while we’re at it, did you hear the one about the bad Jewish restaurant? Not only was the food terrible…but the portions were really really small. (Cymbal Sound!)

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