Ah, comfort food. What’s more comforting than matzo ball chicken soup? The very name conjures up images of something homemade, nutritious and healthy. Rich broth, chunks of chicken, perfect for a cold day in L.A.
Which, by the way, is a bonus for Jerry’s Famous Deli. In fact, corporate Vice President Ami Saffron says there aren’t enough cold days in L.A., considering that soup sales can go up as much as 40 percent on those days.
Jerry’s is comfort food as only a Jewish deli can be. Saffron says, “It’s a deli that grew into a restaurant that serves deli food.”
The menu is extensive, so let’s go back to that matzo ball soup for a minute. “People come in for the matzo ball soup,” says Dunne, “and are surprised by the other things on the menu. But that matzo ball soup—well, it can cure the common cold!”
The restaurant prepares 200-300 matzo balls per location every day. They are hand rolled, boiled in hot water, put into room temperature water, and finally held in chilled water for later use. Executive Chef Shauna Dunne says the process makes them, “shaped hard like a baseball but soft all the way through.”
They then roll them in oil to keep them from sticking before the final prep and that “plop” into the chicken soup, which is loaded with chicken flavor and chunks of chicken, carrots and noodles. And if you think that sounds good, just wait.
Jerry’s opened back in 1978 and has grown to ten locations in two states. We visited the original, which is connected to a bowling alley and features red and black booths, along with the occasional celebrity who comes in from the nearby television and movie studios (see our video for an appearance from Johnny Dark of The David Letterman Show).
The local icon is filled with deli cases, which are, in turn, filled with everything from fresh fish to freshly baked cakes. Saffron, who has been with Jerry’s for 20 years, says that they adjust the menu as needed to reflect what is popular. “We try and move along with things, but not too quickly. We try to be stable. The core of the menu is always there.”
What’s more, they maintain the homemade touches. “As big as our menu is,” says Saffron, “we still manage to make everything we can from scratch.” He adds, “The good part is, you have home cooking. We still cook the old fashioned way, and we use the best ingredients.”
That means traditional “nosh” such as White Fish Salad Spread, Lox Spread, and Egg Salad Spread. It means a Reuben, made with corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese on a grilled rye. The Golden Monte Cristo, with ham, turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, all wrapped in egg bread and deep fried, then served with preserves and applesauce.
Or, get the heart-stopping dish aptly named “The Yummy” (“Why? ‘Cause that’s what people said when we brought it out,” says Dunne). She describes it: “It’s egg bread filled with cream cheese and strawberry jam, then fried in our own batter and served with fresh fruit.” And, they make a warm and melty PB&J version, too.
Sure, you can get a salad, like the Cindy Salad, a spring mix with crumbled blue cheese, raspberries, apple, caramelized nuts and raspberry vinaigrette. But why, when the Deli Sky High Combo offers you hot pastrami AND corned beef (get it with Sweet Potato Fries and a side of Thousand Island Dressing). The Four Layer Scramble gives you hash brown potatoes, chili, cheese, scrambled eggs, sour cream, tomato and guacamole.
Or, do like the locals do and come in for Midnight Madness. It’s hot fudge over vanilla ice cream, with nuts, cherries, sprinkles all sitting on top of the cake flavor of your choice. “We serve it in a salad bowl,” says Dunne. “It’s what they say they want when they come in at midnight, and we give it to them.”
Dunne calls it a “forgiving place,” where every Monday you can get free a la mode with your dessert for what they call “start-your-diet-on-Monday-(again)-day.”
And, it’s a great place to experiment with flavors. For example, the Halvah, which is sesame seed and pistachio candy that has the consistency of peanut butter fudge . . . and is something of an acquired taste.
Note to the adventuresome: try the celery soda, which is akin to drinking fizzy celery.
Even for a 24-hour deli/restaurant, Jerry’s has an eclectic mix of Mexican, Mediterranean, and New York-style deli. Some of that has grown based on Jerry’s own employees.
“I’d watch the guys in the back,” says Saffron. “I’d walk by and see what they were making for themselves for lunch, and I’d put it on our menu.”
He says, “We are a full service restaurant and our recipes are old school. We are likely to have something that somebody’s Mom used to make.”
The difference, says Dunne, is, “It’s as good or better than you or your mother made it, but you don’t have to put forth any effort.”
That’s why you’ll find Panini Sandwiches. Short Rib Flanken. Hot Brisket Platter. Chicken Brochette. And a Mediterranean Plate that includes gyro, falafel hummus, olives, eggplant salad, babaganouj, and pita bread.
While you are there, get a hot sandwich plate, or one of the “Hot Dogs and Knocks.” Wash it all down with a Fresh Mint Lemonade Slush or a Brown’s soda.
And, there are fish platters, meat platters, L.A. platters and Mexican platters, along with pizza, pasta, vegetarian dishes, breakfast, and—because Dunne says, “At Jerry’s, we finish as good as we start,”—an array of desserts.
“We get a lot of celebrities in this location and at the West Hollywood store,” says Saffron. “The paparazzi hang out.”
Dunne adds, “We only have to step in with Britney.”
“Yes,” says Saffron. “We want them to be able to enjoy their meal.” Now that’s a comforting thought.
Visit Jerry’s Famous Deli. when you are in the Los Angeles/Orange County area:
12655 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA
16650 Ventura Blvd.
4578 Van Nuys Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA
13181 Mindanao Way
Marina del Rey, CA
8701 Beverly Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA
3210 Park Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA
21857 Ventura Blvd.
Woodland HIlls, CA
3235 Carson Street
Del Amo Fashion Center, CA
10925 Weyburn Avenue
Westwood Village, CA
1450 Collins Avenue
South Miami Beach, FL
This is a Raves & Faves Featured Restaurant.