Restaurant Review - Lox stocked and bagels

rouchy’s New York-style deli is on target with piled-high sandwiches and smiles

You want what? At this time of night? Fuhgetabowdit. You’ll take the baked potato salad with the Reuben sandwich and you’ll like it.

Anyone who has tasted the cream of New York deli-dom — the Carnegie, the Stage or the Second Avenue Deli — knows the terrors of facing real, gen-u-ine Nooo Yawuk waiters and waitresses. They combine the temperament of opera stars, the no-way attitude of insurance adjusters and the devil-may-care fearlessness of jet jocks.

No matter what time you wander in, they are beat, whipped and just about to go off shift — but as a personal favor they will condescend to serve you a meal. The portions will be huge, the service fast, the pastrami or brisket flavorful enough to tempt a lifelong vegetarian into culinary errors. These folks have seen it all. They have been there, done that and have always eaten better than you — backward and wearing high heels.

In a word, these quintessential New Yorkers are grouchy. So I was surprised when I wandered into Grouchy’s A New York Deli last month and was greeted by one big smile after another. The lady at the counter smiled as she took my order. The cashier smiled as she took my money. Even the hairy kid who rushed my Reuben and matzoh-ball soup to the table smiled a little, albeit in a slightly itchy way.

If this is grouchiness, I thought, if this is New York, then I must have wandered into some Spielberg mall-rat fantasy. But no, it was real enough, a storefront deli in an out-of-the-box strip center plunked down among the brand-new office stacks of Alpharetta’s Haynes Bridge Road. A deli complete with knishes, bagels and lox. And with Dr. Brown’s bottled soda chilled and ready to go.

OK, it is not the Carnegie or the Stage. On neither trip did I spot a single slice of New York cheesecake. And maybe I wasn’t looking, but I didn’t see even one of the logo-shirted yuppie bubbas in the place chowing down on bagels and lox. (One did opt for Dr. Brown’s, however.)

I could complain that my Reuben ($6.50) — pastrami, corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on rye — was closer to toasted than grilled, as the menu, not to mention tradition, specifies. But it wasn’t bad, not bad at all. The meat was piled high, the soft cheese melted, the grease factor comparatively low.

The side of mayo-type coleslaw was another matter. Feh! It tasted like a convenience product with a shelf life longer than I cared to contemplate for more than one bite. Trust me, the baked potato salad, whatever its provenance, at least tastes like real food. Bagged chips (a choice of four flavors) and pasta salad are options with sandwiches. Salads can be bought by the pound to go.

Matzoh balls are dense and delicious, the chicken broth in which they are served watery but acceptable. With bagel chips, a bowl goes for $3.25. Ouch, ouch. Homemade knishes (choice of potato or potato-cheddar) are $2.79. Bagels — Grouchy’s is a spin-off of Atlanta Bagel & Coffee in Sandy Springs — come in several flavors and cost $6.50 for a baker’s dozen, 65 cents each. A chocolate croissant was not only stuffed with chocolate but generously drizzled with it. An iced brownie, however, was overly wet and sticky, more sugar than satisfaction ($1.39 each).

A Philly cheese sandwich — strictly speaking, not a New York deli specialty at all — was long on grilled beef and Provolone, short on the advertised onions and mushrooms ($6.50). Bell peppers are not part of Grouchy’s Philly-cheese specifications but can be added for 50 cents extra.

A Tuscan veggie sandwich — grilled Portobello mushroom, red onion, roasted peppers, sprouts, greens, tomato, Muenster cheese and deli mustard — needed little but a halfway decent whole wheat bread to stand out as a great sandwich ($6.50). In general, Grouchy’s soggy, cottony sandwich breads hardly approach the Winn-Dixie level and are definitely something for future customers to bitch about. With the excellent breads available from Buckhead Bread Company, Bread Garden and other suppliers, a quick fix is but a phone call away.

Grouchy’s offers a complete line of deli meats and sandwich fillings — from peppered turkey and beef to kosher dogs and grilled chicken breast. Combos such as the Californian (turkey, avocado, Provolone, greenery and lite ranch dressing, $6.75) and the triple grilled cheese ($4.50) are offered alongside deli classics such as chopped chicken liver ($5.75) and Nova and cream cheese ($6.25).

Omelets, eggs and French toast are available from the griddle in the mornings, with coffee specialties on tap all day. Parking is plentiful and free. Wheelchair riders will encounter few barriers. What a deal.

Contact Elliott Mackle at 404-614-2514 or