In an unlikely place, but it's terrific. This afternoon my wife and I had lunch at The Place at 6499 El Cajon Blvd on the S side of the street about four blocks east of College. Easy to miss. Amongst that neighborhood's storefront evangelists and taco shops there's an ultrakosher market that just opened an inside restaurant, and here's the first commentary.
In a word: WONDERFUL. We had one pastrami sandwich, one shawarma-in-pita, an eggplant salad, pita, and black non-alcoholic beer.
According to the label it's by Rubashkin, in Postville, Iowa. Now Iowa is about hip-deep in pig manure and is the last place to expect a Kosher butcher operation, but it's evidently there because GLATT KOSHER is stamped across all the Rubashkin products in the case. The Place offers a choice of brisket pastrami and shoulder pastrami; this time I had the brisket but will try the shoulder next visit. It was served on rye, warm, very lean, sliced thin, piled 1" thick, mustard on the side. The flavor of the meat was ~90% of the Carnegie/Stage genre, and the equal of Katz's and 2d Avenue. $7.95, and it leaves DZ, Elijah, and Milton gasping on the sidelines.
The best in town in my wife's opinion, and judging by the one bite she would give me, I agree. They make it on-site: through the glass we saw a new supply being "built" on the vertical spit - sliced turkey and lamb, with sprinkles of spices between layers. The flavor was wonderful and somehow different, and after years at Aladdin and Falafel King (now Garden Grill), I wonder if 'kosher' has anything to do with that. $5.95.
Spicy, served with hot pita, delicious. Just the right smoky and peppery flavor, and plenty of it. $3.95
There evidently is no such word in hebrew. There's a meat counter, a few booths, some tables, all at one end of a small market, with supplies stacked on shelves on the walls. Clean and comfortable, but not special in any way. The chairs look like an afterthought - they belong in Italian fine-dining. The whole thing is brand new and still has rough spots, but the food is why we went and there was nothing lacking in that department.
Struggling but eager.
Food: 9 out of 10
Ambience: 4 at best
Service: 7 but should improve
We'll be back despite the neighborhood.
About the menu:
We don't look for kosher food, but are always interested in new things and after a friend mentioned this spot we went (far) out of our way to try it.
We will definitely be back because the menu includes kabobs, steaks, fish, chicken, schnitzel, and vegetarian dishes - plus lots of salads and pita sandwiches. Really an aggressive array of interesting food.
The market has things we've never seen before, so we shopped on the way out and really scored!