I can't remember the first time I went to the old Second Avenue Deli. When I was growing up, we would make the trip in from the suburbs for that special treat and we would have our orders planned by the time we arrived. The wait was always long, even when it was cold outside, but it was bearable because my Mom an I would share a delicious hot dog, and then Abe Lebewohl would come out with a tray stacked with rye bread with thick shmears of their mouth watering chopped liver - I'm now sure how we were still hungry when we sat down, but that was never an issue.
Tonight I had a deja vu. I've been to the new restaurant and, while I never shared the harsh criticisms I have seen posted, I do believe it has shown noticeable improvements over time. But, tonight was exceptional, both for food and service. Two others waited with me for a about 15 minutes for a table, and at the moment I was telling them about the chopped liver tray of old, out came a waiter with a tray for everyone to pick at, and it was every bit as delicious as the old. The food at the table was also amazing - the pastrami had just the right amount of fat, the cornbeef was superb, and we also thoroughly enjoyed the kreplach, chicken soup, and the enormous potato knish that was big enough to share and leave over for later. For dessert, we shared an order of chocolate rugelach, which the waiter brought warm at our request. Which brings me to the waiter - I think his name was Kamal (or so it seemed from the check) - his exemplary service made our perfect meal even better, if possible. We were served with lightening speed, he checked on us numerous times, and when the busboy accidently threw out the pastrami I wanted to take home, he brought me a fresh half sandwich without skipping a beat - all with a very pleasant demeanor. At the end of the meal, we must have lingered for an extra 20 minutes after paying the check, and no one did anything to get us to leave (yes, there were a few empty tables at this point, but you know in NYC this sometimes doesn't matter to restaurant staff).
I really felt a connection to the old place tonight. Can't wait to go back.