November 29, 2012
The Montgomery News
During Superstorm Sandy, Jenkintown’s newly opened Schmooze Deli surely lived up to its name. According to co-owners Jeff Kalinsky and Mark Harris, who is also the restaurant’s executive chef, Schmooze never lost power and quickly became the community’s safe haven, offering guests free ice and shelter from the storm.
Sipping coffee or tea and ordering burgers, pastrami sandwiches or homemade blintzes from the deli menu, the residents of Jenkintown gave thanks for Schmooze’s accommodating warmth and open arms.
Aside from the ravages of the storm, which no one could have predicted, Kalinsky and Harris were pleased that Schmooze could be the community center that had been sorely missing since the departure of Murray’s Deli, so successful at this same location until it closed in 2006. By all accounts, a worthy successor has been found!
Chef Harris said, “When we renovated the site, we wanted our architects to create a warm, open space where people could come to meet their friends and relax for a while.” That’s why they chose earthy colors — light orange and peach — and vintage black and white photos of delis and bakeries throughout the region, not to mention comfortable booths and tables in an airy, spacious setting.
Kalinsky, who handles sales for the restaurant, said, “The name ‘Schmooze’ came from Mark and his wife. We envision this as a neighborhood place for friends to get together and, well, schmooze.”
When asked what makes the New York-style deli so special or distinctive, Harris is quick to respond, with a wry laugh, “My food. My menu,” followed by Kalinsky’s quick retort, “and a great staff. Our guests have been schmoozed and ask for specific servers when they come back.”
There’s no denying that the host of regulars who keep popping in each week since Schmooze opened two months ago have no end of choices on the deli’s extensive menu. And the partners — Kalinsky, originally from Pittsburgh, now living in Jamison, and Harris, originally from Northeast Philly and now living in Elkins Park — have worked together in the business, with Betty’s Catering, for 20 years. Harris has also studied at the Culinary Institute of America. So they surely know their stuff.
The menu is a healthy and hearty blend of traditional Jewish favorites and some sparkling additions that beckon for repeat visits. In fact, says Harris, “Our breakfast-all-day fits the needs of the area perfectly. Schmooze has somewhat of a diner feel.”
The deli offers, for example, traditional items such as warm, sliced-to-order corned beef and pastrami (already the biggest seller), home-style cooked brisket, boneless barbecued glazed short ribs, matzo ball soup, hand-sliced smoked salmon, homemade blintzes and a vast array of other deli items, homemade cakes and other desserts.
One big seller is Reuben’s and Rachel’s ($13.99), your choice of corned beef, pastrami, kosher salami or roasted turkey breast, piled high with Russian dressing and melted Swiss and served on grilled rye with french fries, cole slaw, potato salad or house tossed salad. The Reuben, by the way is served with sauerkraut, the Rachel with cole slaw, and you can have it open-faced or stacked.
Salads include the likes of Herb Crusted Mango Salmon Salad ($14.95), a meal in itself, laden with chilled baby lettuces, tomato and fresh mango and salmon in a balsamic vinaigrette; Chinese Chicken Salad ($12.95), grilled chicken, sliced water chestnut, scallions, red peppers, snow peas and crisp won ton skins served with sesame soy vinaigrette; and the popular Trio Salad ($12.99), your choice of any three of the deli’s classic salads — albacore tuna, chicken, chopped liver, egg, whitefish, chopped herring, potato or cole slaw — served over mixed greens, tomato wedges and cucumbers.
Stacey Schwartz Henken, a visitor from the Chicago suburbs who has seen her share of great delis in her hometown, declared, “This is the best whitefish salad I’ve tasted anywhere. I wish we had a Schmooze back home!”
Among the burgers, sandwiches and wraps on the menu are Lexi’s Healthy Burger ($8.99), a vegetarian black bean burger with sautéed onions and Schmooze special sauce, served on a soft brioche roll; Roast Beef, Turkey, Swiss Cheese and Turkey Bacon ($17.95), served with horseradish sauce; Roasted Vegetable Wrap ($8.99), a selection of roasted peppers, marinated portabella mushrooms, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato, served with a caramelized onion and feta cheese spread; Lisa’s Hot Brisket of Beef ($13.99), served open-faced with your choice of french fries, cole slaw, potato salad or house tossed salad; “The Wallerstein” ($15.95), homemade chicken salad with walnuts, grapes and apples, served on a French baguette; and Jeff’s Special Sandwich ($18.95), two homemade potato pancakes with corned beef and pastrami, topped with cole slaw and melted Swiss cheese.
Kalinsky and Harris are proud of their corned beef, pastrami and brisket, cooked in their brand-new combi oven, which steams the meats, sealing in the moistness and natural flavor and creating a lighter feel than usual. They think that Schmooze is the only deli in the world to use this process.
Something you won’t see anywhere else is “The Schmoozenator” ($8.99), a world-class jumbo hot dog wrapped with cheese and pastrami and served in a puff pastry with french fries.
Breakfast lovers will surely find bliss in dairy items such as 3 Home Made Cheese Blintzes ($11.95), served with sour cream and fruit sauce, and Old-fashioned Potato Latkas ($8.95), served with sour cream or homemade apple sauce, and breakfast sandwiches such as Folded Egg with Monterey Jack, Guacamole and Tomato ($7.95) on a whole wheat wrap; Scrambled Eggs and Corned Beef on Rye Toast ($6.95); and the unannounced special, Breakfast Quesadilla.
The bakery is another special place at Schmooze, where sweet treats such as Key Lime Pie, Red Velvet Layer Cake, Pecan Pie, Blueberry Crumb Pie and more are there for the tasting — not to mention Junior’s Cheese Cakes, brought in directly from the acclaimed Brooklyn eatery.
Schmooze, which seats 150, also has a terrific catering operation that can handle anything from small business lunches to huge holiday family gatherings. The deli also offers a coffee bar, takeout counter and weekly specials.
Chef Mark Harris has been at it in the kitchen since he was 18, shucking oysters in a casino hotel. Since then he has worked in various country clubs, caterers and restaurants. He says the secret ingredient to all good cooking is something no one can learn in any culinary school — and that is, simply, “passion.”
Harris and Kalinsky are clearly having the time of their lives entertaining and feeding their guests at Schmooze.
Harris says, “Guests may order anything from our breakfast, lunch or dinner menus at any time of the day. We want them to come together here to eat, drink and enjoy each other’s company in an unhurried atmosphere — to schmooze.”
1595 The Fairway
Baederwood Shopping Center
Jenkintown, PA 19046
Open seven days a week,
7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
All major credit cards.
Facilities for handicapped.
By Frank D. Quattrone Ticket Editor
February 15, 2013
To everyone in Northeast Philly/Eastern Montgomery County who has suffered through years of mediocre Jewish deli food - cold, stuck-together sliced corned beef, greasy latkes, and matzo ball soup so salty, it tastes as if Lot's wife had bathed in it - you have to try Schmooze in Jenkintown.
First off, its contemporary, vaguely industrial motif looks nothing like the glaring-lit, drop-ceiling delis of yore, including Murray's, its predecessor in the shopping center on the Fairway next to the Whole Foods.
Second, it's clear that care is taken in the food from chef Mark Harris, who like his business partner Jeff Kalinsky, is a veteran of Betty the Caterer. (Betty is kosher; Schmooze is not.) They also sell Junior's Cheesecake.
Besides the signature matzo ball soup, try the open-faced Reuben "sliders" of corned beef, pastrami and turkey, where potato pancakes serve as the bread.
Schmooze, 1595 The Fairway, Jenkintown, 215-885-2600.
Schmooze Deli1595 The Fairway
Jenkintown, PA 19046 Phone: (215) 885-2600 Fax: (215) 885-0100
Deli & Coffee Bar