Welcome Rye, the Forthcoming Minneapolis Deli

I’d heard that Tobie Nidetz, the famous local restaurant consultant (who helped develop Ike’s, BLVD, and countless other restaurants here and in Chicago), was opening a Montreal-style deli in the old Auriga space with business partner David Weinstein. (Auriga was on Hennepin Avenue, just north of Franklin Avenue, on the edge of Kenwood in Minneapolis.) Now they’ve announced the final name: Rye Delicatessen & Bar. I called him up to get the inside scoop, and learned first and foremost, it is not a Montreal-style deli.

“It’s really not a Montreal deli,” Nidetz told me. “Someone took the ball with that and kind of ran with it in the wrong direction.” Well, what is it then? It is, Nidetz tells me, a “Minneapolis-style deli.” Which means what? “I don’t know yet,” Nidetz laughed.

“We’re just in the stages of trying to figure out what that means. I don’t want to try to create a New York deli in Minneapolis, or a Chicago deli, or any other deli. Minneapolis can have its own flavor.”Nidetz  told me he’s experimenting with grass-fed local brisket to see if it can be turned into good corned beef and pastrami, and he’ll also be working with local produce in season to make Rye’s house-made pickles, which will be cured in the traditional way, with only salt and spices, not with vinegar.

Nidetz said he thought that the Montreal rumor got started because he’ll be making pastrami the way they do in Montreal, using beef brisket instead of beef plate, and not smoking with wood, but instead letting the meat drippings burn off and provide the smoke. Rye will also be using the whole brisket, which consists of the fatty top, the “deckle,” and the leaner lower part, called the “flat.” So you’ll be able to request your sandwich as all-deckle or all-flat, if you’re so inclined. This, by the by, is delicatessen insiderness on par with being able to name the starting line-up of the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, and betokens one truly serious deli. Much more serious than anything else we’ve got around here, it seems. That all-deckle pastrami will be served with your choice of egg cream, cocktail, noodle or potato kugel (a traditional casserole-like baked dish in the same general ballpark as an egg bake), matzoh ball soup, kasha-varnishkas, potato knishes, potato pancakes—in short, the works. It also will be deliverable to your house, if you live in the area, or deliverable to your party; Rye plans to eventually do a lot of catering.

And what if you’re catering for a non-pastrami eating crowd? Nidetz tells me that there will actually be an extensive number of vegetarian options, some in the old deli tradition, and some in the new deli tradition of Middle Eastern, Israeli, and Sephardic foods. Rye is scheduled to open (if construction goes well) in October; they’ll serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner counter-service style, in the way of French Meadow and Common Roots. And they will be making bagels and bialys! Bialys, of course, are the flat onion-filled bagel cousins which are not boiled, and are thus more tender than bagels. Heretofore, the only good ones in Minnesota have been at Nick and Eddie on Loring Park. What will it mean to Minnesotans to have two bialys to choose from? I don’t know, but I am thrilled to get to do that choosing.

Now it looks like the only question is: Which of the following top Minnesota delis will get knocked out of the top six? Here’s my list of the best delicatessens in the state, with a brief reason why. I have two criteria for great delis, by the way: First, great food; second, a coursing bit of soul that animates the place. There’s no such thing as a good soulless delicatessen.

1. Brother’s
The soft and spicy pastrami at downtown Minneapolis’ weekday breakfast- and lunch-only Brother’s is legendary, just right, and delicious. The old-school office-worker vibe and retired guys coming down for lunch and good-natured grumpiness just adds to the charm. thebrothersdeli.com

2. Be’Wiched
Locavore, chef-driven, delicious! It’s hard to focus on the pastrami at this Loop stalwart only because their specials are so excellent, but this outstanding spot proves that young whippersnappers love pastrami as much as those who saw Sinatra in his prime. Also, good news for downtowners: Be’Wiched now delivers to downtown offices for lunch. Check their website for details. bewicheddeli.com

3. Cecil’s
St. Paul represent! This classic St. Paul deli is hard to describe if you’ve never been there; it’s a little like a perfect 1971 suburban kitchen, trapped in amber, happily. No one ever has to describe it because every single person in St. Paul has been there. Right? Tip: The cold beet borscht is great on a hot day. cecilsdeli.com

4. Mort’s Deli
A brand new and yet totally classic New York deli. How New York is it? They get their bagels from H&H and their pastrami and corned beef from the Carnegie Deli. morts-deli.com

5. Crossroads
A lot of people in Hopkins know the Crossroads simply as the best casual family restaurant in town—but a lot of pilgrims from all over the state know it as the source of the best matzoh ball soup in town. crossroadsdelicatessen.com

6. Northern Waters Smokehouse
This is not a delicatessen! But I felt compelled to include it anyway, because this smokehouse has extra portions of soul—albeit Duluth, legacy-of-Lake-Superior-fishing soul. The pastrami from this smokehouse is also the worthiest pastrami I know of north of Larpenteur Avenue. Unless there’s something great in Winnipeg? northernwaterssmokehaus.com