I recently had dinner at Eppes Essen in Livingston...it was absolutely excellent...like I said, this is one of the, if not the best Jewish deli in NJ...and of course I will speak to the pastrami as well, LOL.
While I am a big pastrami fan, and having been born and raised in NY on NY deli's and pastrami -- in my opinion, NJ does not offer "excellent" pastrami. There's a few that are very good -- Hobby's (Newark) and the Kosher Nosh (Glen Rock), but for the most part NJ "ain't it" so to speak, LOL. I've been to many of the others -- Harold's, Irving's, and so on. That said, in my opinion -- for my likes, tastes, etc. -- Eppes Essen has the the best pastrami this side of the Hudson River.
On our recent dinner there, we ordered a variety of things, but I will stick to the standout, popular items, etc.
We started with a potato pancake and the kasha varnishkes...both excellent. The potato pancake was executed very well -- not too dense or heavy, not over-done, etc. It was very good -- excellent balance, good size, substantial, and very good flavor and taste. The kasha varnishkes were very good! Served with a brown gravy on the side -- and you can tell me this was jar gravy, but I am telling you it was excellent, some very good nuances of flavor, tastes, very distinct and just excellent. My ONLY gripe -- while kasha varnishkes were very good, those of you who know me, know I don't complain or make an issue about price. Expensive is a relative term. But value is something I do think about and I think it's important to many people -- regardless of your net worth.
That said, if my memory is correct, the kasha varnishkes, was on the "appetizer" section of the menu, and it was either $11.95 or $12.95. Like I said, it was very good, but the portion size was small! Very small. For that price, it wasn't enough for two people. I could have easily finished it myself, and still easily been able to finish my pastrami sandwich as well. Upon placing it down on the table, I did a double take, and was disappointed. It was served with some very good brown gravy.
On to the main show...the pastrami...it was excellent! Like I said, in my opinion, you are not finding pastrami this good on this side of the Hudson. I ordered the "extra meat" which I think was $3 more. I don't remember. I don't care. It doesn't matter. LOL. It was superb!!! Absolutely, tastes and likes differ and if you tell me you like Hobby's better, OK, that's fine. Like I've always said, some people like chocolate and some people like vanilla. This pastrami was a "rich" and "red" meat, not overly smokey or greasy. It was an excellent example of what pastrami is in my opinion. It had substance, and was not cut thin at all, yet was like that "melt in your mouth" type of meat. Yes, this was the real deal pastrami. Tell me that they "buy it" from somewhere or someone else, that's fine -- but whatever they are doing from the time it arrives, to the time it hits my plate...they are doing it and doing it right! This wasn't overly fatty, dripping with fat, or stringy, but the fat content gave all the flavor I needed and wanted. It was "done right" in my opinion.
Side notes -- their pickles, both the sour and half sours were very good. The cole slaw was the best I've had in a long time. Both are brought out for the table, and they'll keep bringing it if you want it, LOL. The cole slaw was "fresh" and was a perfect balance between slaw, juice/dressing, etc. Excellent flavor and balance. I really enjoyed it.
After the meal I looked around the deli section -- beautiful cut pieces of turkey were displayed -- the entire breast just cut off, and also more of a quarter size turkey, the breast, leg/drumstick, etc. all in one piece, just sitting out displayed. They looked excellent, browned, done perfectly. Nice selection of cookies, cakes, etc. They had some whole pastramis displayed as well. The corned beef, pastrami, brisket, etc. sell well here -- both in the restaurant and in the deli. I am looking forward to trying the brisket and will talk someone into getting the turkey just so I can try that as well, LOL. The brisket looked excellent and some nearby tables raved about it.
Eppes Essen is probably a 30 minute drive for me...and it doesn't matter...I will go back...often. In my opinion, this is the best deli in Northern NJ, perhaps all of NJ. I still like Hobby's, which is a different experience, and a different kind of pastrami. I still like the Kosher Nosh (which is real deal Kosher) and it's local and convenient for me. But EE is the real deal and I am going back!!!