There is only one Zingerman's Deli (in Ann Arbor, MI, for anyone perhaps confused), and there's a profoundly good reason: no deli I've ever been to is more inviting to the foodie, and has a higher level of service and quality. Yes: everything's expensive, but in this case, and this is coming from a bone fide cheapskate, you do get the best quality for your money. Now, whether the quality necessarily resonates with you, that's a more interesting question, indeed.
Donna and I went there for my first time today. She's been there several times before, and to be honest, I must have driven by that place dozens of times, and never *once* realized what it was. How silly am I? I was hoping that a friend of mine who works there would be working today, and she was, so we were able to chat a bit. Let me just say this: you can accuse me of cronyism with my friend, but *to the employee*, there wasn't a bad attitude among them, and there are just *tons* of employees. They really do a great job there, and everyone was just terrific.
Sampled lots of things, some that really surprised me how much I liked them (Rick's Pick's garlic pickle slices were shockingly good...), some that surprised me given their description (soy/wasabi pickled green beans), and some that were just "meh" (one or two of the olive oils were just so-so). However, the sandwich is why I was there! Standard order: corned beef on rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing. *No* Swiss. New dill. Bada-boom, bada-bing. All set. I knew it would be $14.50, so the price wasn't that hard to bite down on, given the size of the sandwich (it fed me, but none was left), and when Donna paid for it, it was even easier to take! ;)
Here's the low-down:
Bread: A+. Quite simply, the very best Jewish rye I've ever had the pleasure of eating. I could consume far, far too much of this stuff, and I'm *picky* about my bread. Not to be missed, nor underestimated.
Corned beef: C. While the texture and amount were ample, the flavor was just not there where I considered it near as good as what I might get at Stage, or Plaza, or others. While Z's might win in terms of texture, overall taste wasn't there.
Coleslaw: C-. They're just trying to do too much with it, and it comes off a bit poorly as a result. Caraway seeds in my coleslaw? Really? I'm not knocking the quality at all...you can tell the ingredients are solid. The problem is when you bring it together, and the sum of its parts is less than the individual ingredients themselves. As I said, they're just making the coleslaw too busy, here, and it takes away from the overall sandwich.
Russian dressing: B. Nothing really out of the ordinary here, to my taste buds. It wasn't overly sweet, but didn't seem to be tangy, either. I'm not too fussy on this one.
New pickle: D-. This was lousy. It was, it was...unexpectedly weird, almost medicinal or soapy in taste/nature. Donna told me that she thought they tasted very much of cucumbers, and I about fell off the table! While I did eat the thing, I wouldn't get another one...ever. It was one of those "Am I really tasting these flavors, here?" moments, and I'd just as soon never taste them like that again.
Overall, I'd have to give the sandwich a C+, maybe a B-. Much of that is due to that oh-so-fantastic bread it came on. I'm honestly taken aback as to why local folks worship at the altar of Z's corned beef. It's certainly edible, the texture is very nice...but that flavor both isn't really strong, and isn't really "correct" to my taste buds. With the coleslaw being pretty much a turn-off, and the pickle being a total loss, the whole thing would *normally* leave me a bit put out.
But, oh...the service. The bread. The quality of the food. The attentive employees. The myriad choices I'll have when I go back. The sampling...OH MY GOSH, THE SAMPLING! Truly, that is the way to run a food emporium. Go ahead and charge me the prices you're asking...if I don't like something I've paid a large sum for, it's *my fault* for not trying it!
While I wouldn't get a corned beef there again, I will *definitely* go back and try other things and sandwiches, and I'll spend my own money there. Those Rick's Picks have my name on 'em, and I want to support a place like this.
Thumbs *way* up, here. They deserve the accolades they've received, and mine as well.