Written by Scott Joseph
I would go to Brown’s New York Deli for the pickles alone. They’re half sours, just like you’ll find in any delicatessen in New York, but which for some reason are as scarce in Central Florida as are, well, delicatessens. Even better, the pickles are served as part of a complimentary tray that includes creamy coleslaw. That’s just one of the bits of authenticity and nostalgia that owner Lauren Brown has brought with her full-service Maitland restaurant.
It’s an homage to the great delis of renown, and the walls are decorated with vintagely black-and-white photos of such places as Katz’s, Lindy’s and Ronnie’s. The latter, of course, is the long-gone and still lamented deli that occupied a space near the corner of East Colonial Drive and Bumby Avenue.
Brown’s isn’t nearly as large a restaurant as Ronnie’s, and it doesn’t have any of the strict rules that Ronnie’s customers had to endure (the door through which you entered was determined by the size of your party; and don’t even ask for another pat of butter for your roll). But what Brown’s offers is a chance for Central Floridians who long for the foods of an authentic kosher deli to satisfy their cravings. As my companion on my recent visit said, it’s wonderful just to read the menu.
Indeed, on my drive to the restaurant I could think of little else than a bowl of matzo ball soup, so that was the first thing I ordered, right after eating two of the half sours. The matzo ball was just as the menu promised, big and fluffy. And the chicken broth it displaced was as clear as consomme. It also had carrots and celery and wide noodles. All it needed was a couple of shakes of salt to bring out the flavors a bit.
The chopped liver was wonderful. Perhaps in an effort to make what is essentially a brown blob look more appealing, it was served on lettuce leaves, which only got in the way. But I scraped every last bit of it off and enjoyed it with the bagel chips.
The latkes were the way I prefer them, thick and dense with a beautifully crisped outside. They were served with both applesauce and sour cream, however this being a kosher restaurant the sour cream was nondairy.
The sauce that was served atop my stuffed cabbage rolls was so good that it wouldn’t have mattered what was under it. It was thick and pulpy, a tomatoey wonderland. The cabbage rolls themselves had lots of ground beef and rice. I had a side of kasha varnishkas, bow-tie pasta noodles tossed with buckwheat groats. They were fine after another dash of salt.
Servers were efficient, and the ambience is appropriately spartan and bright. Brown’s is a wonderful addition to the local dining scene.
Brown’s New York Deli is at 1201 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland. Is is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-690-6999.