Reflections on Stripmall Eating

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Jewish Dining Conundrum

Name: Murray Delicatessen
Location: 285 Montgomery Avenue, Bala Cynwyd
Personnel: Jesse, Bethany, Me
What We Ate: Challah French Toast; Whitefish Salad on a Multigrain Bagel With Cucumber, Tomato, Olives and Cream Cheese; Salami and Eggs With Homefries and Whole Wheat Toast; Coffee
Condiments: Kraft Syrup in packets; Heinz Ketchup
Bill Total: $28
Observations: We Jews will loyally patronize any restaurant that serves matzoh ball soup, even if the matzoh balls are sinkers and the broth is watery and flavorless. In a cuisine that relies heavily on margarine, the bar tends to be pretty low. That's the only way I can explain the ongoing competition between the two Bala delis, Murray's and Hymie's. Neither are particularly great. My grandmother used to take me to Hymie's because she thought it looked cleaner but we have since concluded that the smoked fish at Murray's is better. So nowadays, when I do the suburban Semitic brunch thing I go to Murray's. There's usually a crowd at both places with a sprinkling of middle-aged regulars who seem to know one another. (When our server asked us if everything was all right, one patron chided her, "In a Jewish restaurant you should ask, 'Is anything all right?'" She responded by passing him a photo album of her children.) That familiarity goes a long way towards establishing an authentically kibbutzy atmosphere. Even so, the food is really nothing to kvell about. The salami and eggs were ample and fluffy but greasy. The challah French toast, which Bethany ordered because it was boxed on the menu and looked like a specialty, was thin and flavorless. I also learned that the blintzes, which we didn't order, are frozen. (For shame!) However, I'd still assert that the whitefish salad, a gigantic mound of feathery fish and mayo, was superior. And I'm pretty sure I'll go back there sometime. It's just a Jewish thing.