When I first came to Philadelphia forty years ago, I went looking for a good Jewish deli. When eastern Europeans emigrated to America a hundred years ago, why did they open delis in New York but not in Philadelphia? Maybe, because Philly already had hoagies and cheese steaks, they decided it didn't need a deli.
While on my way to a show yesterday afternoon, I was walking down Locust Street after getting off the High-Speed Line, and what do I see? Schlesinger's Deli. It looks like a real deli ... it smells like a real deli ... I think I'll have to try this place. So, after the show, that’s where I went.
Schlesinger’s has very authentic-looking décor – artificial pressed tin ceiling tiles, art deco covers on the fluorescent lighting fixtures, photos of mid-twentieth century street scenes on the walls. I see lox and Jewish-style deli meats in the long refrigerated display case. Checking the menu, I found that, while not as outrageous as at some of the better known New York delis, Schlesinger's is a little pricey.
I order a corned beef special and a potato knish. They both arrive hot and steamy. The sandwich was adequately stacked with corned beef, but only a little bit of cole slaw on top.
A highlight of eating at Schlesinger's is the pickle bar, stocked with pickles in three different degrees of sour-ness, pickled tomatoes, cabbage salad and other specialties. Apparently, Schlesinger's space used to be occupied by another deli, and Schlesinger's retained it when they took over.
Schlesinger's has a very pre-packaged franchise look to it. Speaking with the waiter, I found that its actually a joint venture between a well known Philadelphia real estate magnate and a well known Philadelphia restauranteur. The name comes from the magnate's mother's family ... his grandfather used to own a deli named Schlesinger's in West New York, New Jersey in the 1930s, and this Schlesinger's is an homage to it.
Overall, on the plus side, the look and feel and ambiance is great. Schlesinger's says they make and bake everything in-house. On the negative side, the corned beef was a bit tougher than what you would get in one of those famous New York delis, and could have used a few more hours curing.