Relish, located in the newly-renovated building that used to be Tin Lizzy’s, already has a handle on the food deal. As one walks in the senses are instantly put on alert that some fine deli tidbits are coming their way. Relish just smells yummy. The sensory overload extends to the visual—the deli counter itself is laden with various deli meats (tongue, anyone?), fancy sodas, and cakes and cookies that look delicious. The persimmon-red and sherbet-yellow walls, vintage photos of deli’s from the ’20s and ’30s combines to make Relish funky and fun.
The place is fairly intimate, not a ton of room—especially in the opening days when Relish’s long lines snaked out the door. If nothing else, this proved just how much the area craved a Jewish deli (closest one before Relish was Sherman’s in the Coachella Valley). On the day I was there a baby shower was taking place in the section where the booths are, so space was really a smidge tight. I sidled up to the counter and waited with the others. No one seems to care about a slight lack of space or a 10-15 minute wait at Relish. Why? Food’s that good.
For soup, it’s always borscht, kreplach or matzo ball at a good Jewish deli—I started off with the matzo ball soup, a pretty simple dish but a nice indicator of what else might be on the menu. I can safely say the matzo here is up to snuff. The soup stock is sublimely delicious, full of taste and yet remarkably unsalted. The matzo ball itself—the size of a healthy tangerine—is a sensation, tasty and firm even after sitting there for twenty minutes or so. Strands of dill, bits of carrots, and potatoes complete a soup that when ordered by the bowl could be (and often is) its own meal.
I had foolishly chosen to take on the Rueben Ultimo though; if their was a Godzilla of Jewish deli sandwiches it would be the Ultimo, a staggering affair roughly five inches high and crammed with more high quality meat than you shake a dradle at. Think pastrami, corned beef, and brisket piled on top of each other, each cut not only delicious but Kate Moss-lean. If you’ve ever had overly fatty pastrami you need to give their Rueben Ultimo a try just to buck the notion. Lording over the cuts of meat sits some amazing sauerkraut which I topped off with their Beaver Brand Horseradish sauce that, when combined with their real Russian dressing at the bottom, achieves something damn near perfection. Be prepared to take half the sandwich home (which is another Jewish deli tradition; making six sandwiches with the leftover meat).
The new Jewish deli in Riverside is only going to get better and better as it settles into the neighborhood. The service is great—they went out of their way to accommodate insane crowds when they first opened—and they even serve up breakfast, an entirely different menu which is a whole separate column waiting to happen (eggs-n-lox!). Relish is a bright new star on our culinary landscape.
Relish Delicatessen, 3535 University Ave. Riverside, (951) 682-7011. AE, MC, V