By Laura Shunk
By James A. Foley
By Billy Lyons
By Laura Shunk
By Eve Turow
By Scarlett Lindeman
By Robert Sietsema
By Lauren Mowery
Gottlieb's interior is a museum of smudgy '50s-style Formica, green Naugahyde, and the kind of high counters that made you feel smaller as a kid. Like many of New York's greatest Jewish delisKatz's, Jay and Lloyd'sthe restaurant prides itself in deferring its face-lift. Within easy walking distance of hipster Williamsburg, this ancient and obscure kosher restaurant thrives in the midst of the Satmar Hasidic community, a sect that has distinguished itself with startling anti-Zionist views (see www.jewsagainstzionism.com), and an 18th-century costume that features knee britches, powder-white stockings, and buckled slippers.
352 Roebling St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
The menu incorporates none of the modern fripperies like wraps, Buffalo wings, and Israeli salads that self-consciously modern delis have added. Instead, the window beckons with its display of chicken cutlets, moist homemade kishke, and two types of potato knishes, and there's a solid menu of what our waiter playfully termed "Jewish soul food." This includes chopped liver, gefilte fish, cold tongue, matzo ball soup, particularly good Hungarian goulash, several egg-meat combos, and, especially, the manifold permutations of beef brisket. While the pastrami and corned beef are just so-so, the brisket sandwich ($7.50 regular, $9 large) shines, made with a roasted cut of meat that sports a nice caramelized edge and effusive juiciness. Request gravy. Those chicken cutlets lolling in the window are also superb, pounded thin and only lightly breaded.
While offering nothing modern, the menu does have its odd byways. When I spotted Irish beef stew ($3.50) I was flummoxed. Would it be the usual chocolate swamp of meat and potatoes? What appeared was a saucer of sweet sauerkraut with tidbits of smoked meat. Then the significance struck methis is what early Jewish immigrants must have seen their Irish neighbors eating, and copied it. Note that the celebrated corned beef and cabbage never existed in Ireland, but was, according to NYU prof Hasia Diner, invented here when Gaelic immigrants added Jewish deli meats to their meager dinner of boiled cabbage.
Also in evidence are a handful of dishes that probably reflect the state of Chinese cooking when the restaurant was founded. Though the chicken chow mein ($3.50 appetizer) is a soggy mess, it's worth considering for scholarly purposes. Chicken cacciatore and meatballs in tomato sauce are the restaurant's Italian borrowings. Think of it as yesterday's fusion cooking.
But when it comes to placing your orderstick with the brisket sandwich, french fries, and cole slaw.