Who's your Bubby? Our Gourmet knowsDecember 01. 2015 11:51PM
Bubby's N.Y. Style Delicatessen241 Hanover St., Portsmouth; 373-8981; www.bubbysdeli.com
Hours: <./strong>Tuesday through Sunday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cuisine: Jewish deli for breakfast and lunch
Pricing: Breakfast dishes $5-$15; sandwiches $10-$16; salads $9-$13.
The scores for Bubby's
Some weeks ago, a food critic at a prominent Boston newspaper had a hankering for a hot pastrami sandwich. He set out to review some authentic “New York style” delicatessens in New England.
One establishment was presented from each of the other New England states, but the best that the writer could do for New Hampshire was to preview what was planned for a new deli in Portsmouth.
Now, just a couple of weeks after opening its doors, Bubby’s N.Y. Style Delicatessen on Hanover Street can take its place among any other that New England has to offer, and it is probably better than all the others. It rivals the New Yorkers, too.
Boasting a menu and an authenticity steeped in New York tradition, Bubby’s delivers on all counts — even including on the menu a fairly comprehensive Yiddish glossary of terms that lots of people hear but many perhaps do not know well — such as nosh (to eat a little bit), rugelach (a Jewish pastry similar to a strudel, but cut into bite-sized pieces), gefilte fish (ground carp or whitefish or pike, usually served with horseradish), and bubby, (“a Jewish grandmother, or simply someone you love or adore.”). The list in the glossary goes on and on, and describes a good deal of the food on the menu.
But however you phrase it, the food is terrific and the idea of such a place in New Hampshire is long overdue; if there is another deli in the Granite State that approaches Bubby’s flare, we are not aware of it.
On the walls are photographs of famous New York delis — Katz’s, 2nd Five, Carnegie’s — and an authentic 8th Avenue Subway sign. The dining room has about a dozen tables, and a counter offers half a dozen stools — a great place to read the morning paper, have a coffee and nosh a bagel.
The tables are sharply topped in a gray-white-black decor, with black wooden chairs; the refrigerated product case near the front door displays fish and salads and bagels and other items; and the whole place is in a freshly renovated office/commercial building just off Hanover’s corner with Maplewood Avenue, a block from Islington Street and across the street from one end of the new Portwalk development.
But it’s the food that stars here, from “Jewish Penicillin” (chicken soup with a large matzo ball, $5.75 a bowl), to fish plates (nova lox, gefilte fish, whitefish filet, herring in cream sauce with onions, smoked sable), to piled-high hot and cold sandwiches, bagels, more than a dozen specially crafted egg dishes, griddle standouts (Jewish French Toast and Bubby’s Blintzes), kosher hot dogs, knishes, breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches and half a dozen creative salads.
We fressed (“To eat a lot, especially with enthusiasm,” says the glossary) on a breakfast-brunch for two of us, and our friend ordered a sandwich, then we ordered another sandwich, to go, for sharing at our next meal.
For a truly NYC-style breakfast, try this: An everything bagel, lightly toasted, with Nova Lox and Cream Cheese ($8.50), with side orders of Herring in Cream Sauce ($4.99) and a Potato Latke ($1.99). The lox-and-bagel comes with sliced tomato and onion, the latke (a potato pancake) is large, crisp and thick, and the herring in cream sauce with sliced white onion is to die for. It’s all good, in fact it’s great, and it’s real.
Or try, as my companion did, Eggs Florentine ($11.50), a large assembly of poached eggs over sautéed spinach with hollandaise sauce and sliced tomato. Hot, tasty and saucy, just like it should be.
Bubby’s hours center on breakfast and lunch, and there are enough choices that downtown Portsmouth people could eat here for six months and not repeat an exact meal even once.
The Mediterranean Chicken sandwich ($14.99) was a standout. A nicely grilled chicken breast was loaded between slices of grilled sourdough with roasted red peppers, spinach, red onion, muenster cheese and hummus, and came with a small side of coleslaw. It was a hot, messy, delicious concoction of goodness. Superb.
A great reason to order a sandwich at Bubby’s is to enjoy a half-sour pickle with it. At some New York delis, there are bowls of half-sours on each table, but they draw flies, and other diners handle them, etc. Deli pickles at Bubby’s ($3.99) are worth the upgrade if they do not accompany your meal. They are a signature New York-style accompaniment.
Of course we had to try a Hot Pastrami Sandwich ($13.99). Oy, what is a visit to a New York deli without that? It was a classic, too, easily two inches thick with layer upon layer of pastrami, and comes with sliced tomato and onion for the asking, along with deli mustard and a half-sour pickle and a side order of choice.
We couldn’t pass up a shot at Rugelach ($4.99, a Jewish pastry similar to strudel), and the cinnamon and brown-sugar variety available this day was, simply put, sinfully good and delicious. Thick, sweet, tasty and solidly recommended. We enjoyed that long after our day was done, with a nice cup of tea, and it was a treat.
All told, we simply did not have the time or the stamina that Bubby’s could inspire, in those who love deli food, to fress like fools. Return visits, several of them, will be necessary. Portsmouth is a bit of a hike from our home base, but this is the time of year when the Port City shines, and a great outing will be breakfast at Bubby’s, some shopping in the city’s fine stores, and then a leisurely late lunch — at Bubby’s.
We are confident that the quality of the food and the remarkable variety of the menu — in all of its New York authenticity — this new restaurant will quickly become a Portsmouth favorite. Their T-shirts and ads all ask “Who’s Your Bubby?” One visit and the answer is obvious.