The people: Owner Jeff Manas, a self-proclaimed “loud New Yorker,” spent 35 years operating restaurants and delis in Maryland, and is known as “Long Island Louie,” after the deli he operated in Rockville for eight years.
The place: This ever-changing location (it most recently was a bar and dance club called Rustique) got a paint job (what’s with the red floors?) and a quirky mix of wall décor. On “Bubby’s Wall,” a growing collection of framed, old-fashioned photos of grandmas (so far, just from the Manas family) shares space with pictures of James Dean, W.C. Fields and the Beatles. Bubby’s February opening followed Uptown Deli’s November debut. After a scarcity of New York-style delicatessens, Bethesda now has two, right around the corner from one another.
The food: After a disappointing lunch of not-ready-for-prime-time chicken soup and an unremarkable chopped liver sandwich shortly after the restaurant opened, I was pleasantly surprised on a return visit by a lean and well-brined corned beef sandwich and a respectable Reuben. Good rye bread, guys!
The bottom line: In the duel of the delis, Bubby’s comes out in front.
4866 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, 301-941-1404, www.bubbysnydeli.com. $
Bubbies for Bubby’s
In the space of just a few months this past winter, Bethesda went from having no New York-style delis to having two—right around the corner from each other, no less! And who better to decide which makes the best chicken and matzo ball soup—the perennial benchmark of Jewish cookery—than a bunch of bubbies?
Minnette Leichman, Shirley Levin and my mom, Louise Sugarman, are all originally from New York, but now live at the Classic Residence in Chevy Chase. They sampled soups from the Uptown Deli at 7905 Norfolk Ave. and Bubby’s at 4866 Cordell Ave.
And the winner?
Bubby’s, hands down. “We’re all on the same page,” Levin said. They liked the flavor of the broth (just the right amount of salt and pepper), and noted that it was chock-full of chicken, noodles and carrots. They deemed the baseball-size matzo ball dense but pretty good. “I’m used to feather balls, but it’s not a hockey puck,” Leichman said.
As for Uptown, my mom let out a big “oy” as she tasted what everyone agreed was a way-too-salty broth. And the matzo ball? “You need a steak knife,” she said.
Of course, the bubbies didn’t think either soup was as good as theirs—back when they used to cook, that is. Knowing Mom’s, I can attest to that.