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    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    New York Deli & Diner brings a bit of Manhattan to Groton

    Buttermilk pancakes and crispy bacon in front of a mural of Manhattan at Groton’s New York Deli (Rick Koster/The Day)
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    Corned beef sandwich with partial of Deli King #1 (Rick Koster, The Day)

    Points of civic or regional pride are probably most often associated with sports franchises. The Boston Red Sox. The Dallas Cowboys. The Alabama Crimson Tide. The Fanville State Fighting Dr. Peppers.

    If you think about it, though, similarly fervid points of proud reaction come from types of food. Philly cheesesteak. Chicago deep-dish pizza. Louisiana gumbo. New England lobsters. Hell, there’s an ongoing Crusades-style battle for superiority between Texas- and Kansas City- and Carolina-style barbecue!

    In that culinary spirit, then, if you’re going to advertise your restaurant as typifying cuisine indelibly associated with a place, you’d better be on your game.

    Consider a new Groton restaurant called New York Deli & Diner.

    The idea of a something like Katz’s or Carnegie Deli in our neck of the woods is pretty enticing. While we admittedly have the very fine Junior’s in Foxwoods, that’s a destination, or a place to eat when you’re going to see a show or spend an evening gambling, rather than someplace you drop by on your way home or for a quick lunch.

    On the prowl for an authentic experience

    Regarding my own deli experiences, I was fortunate to eat at the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan before it closed — and successfully managed to eat a sublime corned beef on rye as tall as a Scottish deerhound. But in no way do I consider myself an expert on New York deli-ness. So, in order to gain proper perspective in reviewing Groton’s New York Deli & Diner, I thereby invited two pals whose ties to New York and the city’s deli-ness are substantial. Let’s call them Deli King #1 and Deli King #2.

    We met for last week for lunch at New York Deli and Diner and, despite its location is a strip center, the interior is impressive and alluring. It’s a modern industrial space, with black and light gray walls, bare bulb pendant lighting, cocoa faux wood flooring, and photo murals or vertical framed images of iconic NYC scenes. The room is long and narrow and divided between a dining room proper and a bar area with a large flat screen television.

    Our waitress, who had a Russian or eastern European accent, was witty and welcoming. The menu includes all-day breakfast options and the requisite deli staples such as sandwiches, salads, and lox and bagels. There’s no matzo ball soup, potato salad or sour pickles, which the Deli Men found odd, but as there’s also a “Diner” in the name, the menu includes pub-style appetizers, burgers, heroes and Italian and Greek specialties. New York IS a melting spot, after all.

    All hail Manhattan chowder!

    Deli King #1 happily noted the availability of Manhattan clam chowder ($5 small, $8 large; no New England or Rhody versions) and was well pleased with the results. He said, “Manhattan clam chowder is really the unappreciated step child of the clam chowder family — especially in these parts — and gets full props. It might be worth the trip itself. There’s lots of tasty morsels and even ...” he held up a spoon holding a large mussel “... so this is a delicious soup, and far from a broth-only experience.” It was, he added, also served with “tasty” toast pieces ideal for sopping up remnants.

    We also split a fried shrimp basket appetizer ($14), which contained a half-dozen fresh, large and delicately battered crustaceans atop a bed of serviceable fries.

    Deli King #2 pointed out that a fruit cup — which I’d heretofore associated with a recurrent Woody Allen source of humor — should be part of every self-respecting deli menu. Indeed, it was available, and Deli King #2 ordered one ($6). The bowl was stuffed with grapes, blueberries, strawberries, banana slices and cantaloupe, and Deli King #2 ate it with relish (not literally).

    Essential to the experience

    Deli King #1 insisted that a quality corned beef sandwich on rye with mustard is THE item by which all other deli items should be compared (interchangeable with pastrami). And that’s what he ordered. “No cheese!” he told the waitress. “I don’t want to ruin it!”

    While it lacked “a few pounds of meat like you’d get in Manhattan,” the sandwich was nonetheless pronounced delicious and authentic, with lean and tasty beef, the tangy splash of mustard, and fresh rye that slowly softened over the course of consumption.

    Deli King #2 threw a curveball by trying a chicken sandwich ($14). Huh? When did we get to Appleby’s? But the bird was lightly grilled and juicy, bolstered by roasted peppers, pesto and fresh mozzarella, and it made him happy. Frankly, I wanted more deli authenticity from the fellow, but why complain?

    Myself, I tried an open-faced hot turkey platter ($18). A huge heap of fresh sliced turkey breast was mounded on a piece of white toast, lathered in a homey brown gravy and circled by foothills of smooth mashed potatoes. The item description promised a side vegetable that didn’t show up, but there was more than enough on my plate.

    Morning fare

    On a subsequent weekend breakfast stop, my wife Eileen tried an egg burrito ($12) and enjoyed a huge flour tortilla stuffed with two scrambled eggs, black beans, fresh avocado, piquant pico de gallo and melted cheese. The ingredients all blended perfectly, and she was able to take home a portion for dinner that night.

    I had two large buttermilk pancakes ($7), expertly prepared with griddle marks on the perimeter and served with warm butter and rich maple syrup. I threw in a side of extra crispy bacon ($3 extra) and, if I felt more as though I was having a meal with an Arkansas farmer, it was damned good.

    Worth noting: The place slowly filled up during breakfast and it looked as though the servers were having a hard time keeping up with demand. Hopefully, this means the popularity of New York Deli is already growing — and that the proprietors will add the requisite waitstaff.

    New York Deli & Diner

    770 Long Hill Rd, Groton

    Phone: (860) 326-5596

    www.new-york-deli-and-diner.com

    Cuisine: Select classic deli items with a broader menu

    Atmosphere: Very nice, with appropriate and atmospheric touches.

    Service: Pleasant — even funny — but a large Sunday morning crowd threatened to overwhelm the waitstaff

    Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun.

    Prices: Reasonable

    Handicapped access: Street level entry and plenty of floor space

    Credit cards: Yes

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