I was in the area, meeting up with friends, etc. -- so I got the entire group to go over to Irving's. It was super. I had been there many times and always enjoyed it very much -- both stay there and take out. The best part is that I've been in the city a lot and recently have gone to my "big three" -- Katz's, Carnegie, and Stage (yes, I know there are others), so I had a recent and "fresh" comparison.
This is very much like a "best steak" discussion. I think it's no different than ice cream -- some like chocolate, some vanilla, and so on. That's what Baskin Robbins has "31 flavors" so to speak. I also think much of it is the experience. There is nothing like walking down the street and walking into Katz's, Carnegie or the Stage Deli in NY, waiting for a table, the ambiance (or lack thereof, LOL), the aroma, and everything that goes along with the experience. It's conditioning and enticing to the senses, at least for some of us, LOL. NY deli's are very much about the experience. NY is NY and that says it all. If you only like NY deli's, because of the experience, you will probably not find a deli outside of NY that can duplicate that.
Anyway, Irving's was super. Everybody got everything -- pastrami, fatty, lean, brisket, corned beef, a combo, knishes, hot dogs, you name it -- we got it. I tried a little of everyone's, OK, a lot of everyones. Everything was excellent. In my opinion, this is a great deli for NJ. I am not saying it's better than the "big three" or worse for that matter. It's different. But in my opinion, it's an excellent deli. The pastrami I had, my own and others, was super. Flavorful, tasty, a full bodied meat that hit every tastebud. The fatty serving was just the right amount of fat to add the flavor you were looking for. The leaner version was cut so well that you felt you were getting more flavor even though there wasn't a lot of fat. Sure, it's in your head to an extent, but that's part of the experience. The corned beef was excellent too -- it was cut well, wasn't overpowering, but full of flavor.
Of course there are other deli's, some very good deli's, a very few excellent deli's. It's about what you like, don't like and so on. If we are using the best NY deli's as a comparison, some will think Irving's and perhaps a couple of others in NJ are "as good" comparitively speaking. Others might not think so. To me, Irving's is an excellent deli, period. Food -- yes, the food is excellent. I like it. Some people like Luger's and some people like S&W. Steak and experience. Irving's is a NJ deli so it's different than the big three, primarily from an experience perspective. Food though, to me, it's in that category. Not better and not so much worse that you think it's second tier. Just different. Bottom line, Irving's is an excellent, top category, highly ranked, have a great time deli.
Go there, try it. Enjoy.
Edited by ELA, 24 December 2009 - 12:22 PM.