Jewish grandmothers around the world, avert your eyes. Here comes a “Jew” Cuterie Board sporting pastrami rillettes mashed with bacon fat. Wash it down with a Manischewitz daiquiri to find yourself at the intersection of Jewish deli food and Portland’s zeitgeisty cocktail scene, where Kenny & Zuke’s Deli Bar is making a new name for itself. The North Portland outpost offers pastrami sandwiches, fresh bagels and a creative, well-executed cocktail program, but also a new deli-bar fusion that still needs work.
Alongside K&Z classics—thick sliced, house-cured pastrami and matzo ball soup—is a strong bar initiative developed by part-time Ox bartender, Jamal Hassan. His eccentric 12-piece cocktail menu does a great job of matching the deli profile with drinks like the Cel-Ray Collins, a classic New York soda of celery bubbly spiked with gin and lemon juice or the loganberry Manischewitz Daiquiri with dark rum and lime in a tropical Swizzle slant. If anyone can turn this universally abhorred kosher wine into a smart cocktail, it’s this guy.
The disconnect happens with the bar menu—a short list of deli-themed bites that work well in theory but lack the execution to stand up to their clever cocktail counterparts. The “Jew” Cuterie Board, whose kosher “charcuterie” includes an unforgivably salty pastrami rillette, with big chunks of rock-solid bacon fat mixed in, and a thick stack of dry, oily kosher salami is little more than cold deli meat on a plate. Don’t be tempted by the bowl of tater tots either; smothered in pastrami gravy and cheese curd, it’s a gut-bomb not worth the coronary anxiety.
But inside the former Pix Patisserie space, K&Z fans can find the popular list of deli staples plus a blown-out menu of new bagel sandwiches for breakfast, a lineup of classic subs, and a lit-up display full of pies, cheesecake, and sundaes. The weekend brunch, stocked with challah French toast and baked ratatouille and eggs looks like a solid alternative to the Tasty N’ Sons breakfast hotspot next door. As a sandwich outpost, Deli Bar is a welcome addition to North Williams’s budding food scene.
Deli bar is making some brash moves with their vision, and with a closer look at what makes deli food booze-friendly, and tighter execution, the concept could work. Although all of this begs the question: Is there an untapped market for sweet, sippable cocktails with a hulking cold-cut sandwich or a Bloody Mary with a thick swizzle stick of congealed pastrami in the first place?
Kenny & Zuke’s Deli Bar
3901 N. Williams Ave.
Mon- Thurs, 7 am to midnight; Friday, 7-1am; Sat, 8am-1am; Sun, 8am to midnight