As I approached the counter, I had a flash from the past. I was a bat mitzvah girl again, just thirteen, reading my speech to the congregation while my eyes were transfixed on the back of the room. I watched as caterers cleared out the morning spread of bagels, lox and cream cheese and set up an afternoon array of deli sandwiches, whitefish salad and pickles. I could hardly wait for the rabbi to stop talking so I could hit the lunch line. Fifteen years later, there I was, standing at the deli counter at Letzer's, staring in awe at black and white cookies the size of my face and a lunch menu that made me feel at home.
We each ordered something different from the menu. The pastrami sandwich ($7.95) is one of my favorite items. Customers can add lettuce, tomato and cheese, but I recommend the unadorned route: pastrami on rye with deli mustard. This simple sandwich puts the focus on thinly sliced, peppery pastrami, sliced to order and piled impossibly high between two slices of freshly baked rye bread with a smear of deli mustard to give it some kick. The corn-crusted bread is freshly delivered from Rockin' Daves Bistro. Half a sandwich is plenty for me, but I have seen my co-workers (who shall remain nameless) scarf full sandwiches on more than one occasion. It's so good that it's hard to stop. Letzer's serves full sandwiches with a choice of potato salad or coleslaw, both of which are fairly straightforward.
A great option for lighter eaters is the half sandwich and soup or salad combo ($6.50). On two subsequent visits, I have ordered the half sandwich and matzo ball soup - a great value and a great, quick lunch. Matzo ball soup, like its cousin chicken noodle, is the perfect cure for a winter cold. The soup is made with chicken broth, mirepoix, chicken, garlic and salt, and features a large, round dumpling. Once you try it, you may never look at chicken noodle soup the same again. I also recommend grabbing a Dr. Brown's soda, the traditional soft drink companion of a New York deli sandwich. Letzer's cooler is stocked with varieties including cherry, cream, and cel-ray (celery) soda. I was thrilled that Letzer's took the authentic route with these hard-to-find canned sodas.
For an added $1 you can also make any sandwich "sky high," which gets you a thick layer of coleslaw and Russian dressing. I recommend the "sky-high pastrami." There are also meat combo sandwiches. You can choose any two meats to make a sandwich for $9 to $10. Letzer's serves all sandwiches with some of the best pickles north of Los Angeles. The pickles are crunchy with just the right amount of garlic and vinegar flavor to cut through the richness of the sandwiches. The presence of pickled tomatoes is one more sign that this deli is the real deal.
I enjoy being in the know about Letzer's and the new out-of-the way location keeps it that way. However, it's about time this place landed on the radar of downtown Bend diners. I know that by outing Letzer's I risk creating lines that stretch out the doors, a scene that's typical of great delis from New York to L.A., but this place has my seal of approval and deserves to be shared.