When the weather turns cold in Phoenix (which means we dip below 80 F in most parts of the Valley), I find that I have this deep craving for Matzoh Ball soup. There is something very mothering about a cup or bowl of a rich broth with some chicken, a few veggies, and a big matzoh ball waiting to be devoured. I would say this is from having a Jewish mother raising me, but I had a Baptist-turned-Catholic mother who was raised on the Texas/Louisiana border, so I got grits and chili.
Be that as it may, I still have that craving. I used to go to the old Nosh-A-Rye on 40th Street and Camelback, which closed many years ago. Since then, I have been going to various haunts to find satisfaction for my autumn craving.
One place that I had forgotten has Matzoh Ball Soup is Miracle Mile Deli. I forget about this place because it is in a very odd location. It is tucked behind a Best Buy at 20th Street and Camelback, near a fast-food Japanese place and a Cold Stone Creamery. It was much more visible when it was located at the old ChrisTown (now Spectrum) Mall and also at Park Central.
Neil, Dave and I headed over to Miracle Mile for soup and sandwiches. Parking was plentiful, so we got a space near the entrance, walked in, and got in line to place our order. The interior is huge with plenty of tables and a meandering line of people waiting to get their fill of soup, sandwiches and blue plate specials. We only had a couple of people in front of us and the line cooks were great at moving things along.
While Neil and Dave thought about what they wanted, I made a beeline for the front of the line and placed my order. I started with a Cup of the Matzoh Ball Soup ($2.50) and would follow that with the Straw Sandwich ($7.50), which included French Fries and a pickle spear. I would wash this all down with a large Diet Coke ($1.75). Dave ended up getting the Beef Brisket Sandwich ($6.95) and a large drink as well. Neil went with the Pastrami on Rye ($6.95) and added a side of Sauteed Vegetables ($1.75). He had a large drink as well and also splurged with a slice of the Strawberry Cake ($3.25).
Within a matter of seconds, my sandwich had been plated, the soup had been cupped and my drink had been poured. I was at the register paying my bill and out on the floor looking for a place to sit. From the front of the line until I left the register was a lightning fast five minutes. I chose a table near the middle of the restaurant. While waiting for Dave and Neil to arrive I noticed how spacious and airy the place is inside. Due to the high ceilings and the sunlight streaming in from well-placed windows, the interior was bright and sunny.
Dave and Neil joined me at the table and it was time to get down to business. First up for me was the Matzoh Ball Soup. The small cup contained chicken broth with small pieces of chicken, some diced carrot, celery and onion, and a large matzoh ball floating in the middle of it all. I took a bite, the heavens parted, and I was blessed by the soup angels. It was great. The soup was hot, the broth rich and not overly salty, and the matzoh ball was as tender as J’s... well, it was tender. I made the soup disappear in record time and regretted that I hadn’t purchased a full bowl.
Dave’s Beef Brisket Sandwich was quite grand with its generous serving of beef, yellow onion roll and the side of fries. Dave thought the brisket was quite good and liked the tenderness of the beef along with the flavor. He also noted the freshness of the onion roll, which can truly make or break a sandwich. He did point out that there was a piece or two of gristle in his sandwich, but nothing to really get upset about. He felt Miracle Mile did provide a very generous serving. His fries were also good, he said. “They’re hot and crisp,” he noted. And they were, with a good dusting of salt that made them shine.
Neil’s Pastrami Sandwich on Rye was a simple, straightforward sandwich. Neil liked the pastrami and the portion size and said the rye bread was very good. He did wish for a higher temperature on the pastrami, which I think is very much a personal choice because I prefer my pastrami to be warm, not hot, but his point was noted. He also liked the fries and said they were hot and fresh.
Neil’s side of sauteed vegetables were vibrant with their bright color. The mixture of carrots, zucchini, and broccoli spears looked very appealing. Neil said they vegetable were cooked al dente, which was a welcome change from the often overcook vegetables you get as a side dish. He did have two misgivings about the veggies. First, he would have liked them hotter than they were. (I was beginning to sense a theme here.) Second, he felt there were too many carrots and not enough of the broccoli. Fair points on both counts.
My Straw Sandwich was a big winner. I loved the mix of pastrami, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. Having it packed onto an onion roll only made it that much better for me. The pastrami was moist and flavorful and the sauerkraut offered a delightful tangy edge and crunch that really made this a winner. My only complaint was that the Swiss cheese was rather mild and had its flavor washed out by the sauerkraut. Still, I was quite pleased with the sandwich, and the portion size was quite large. The fries were also quite good and I loved the fact that they were indeed hot. The pickle spear was fresh, crisp and had lots of garlic flavor.
After finishing their sandwiches, Neil and Dave shared the Strawberry Cake. It was very appealing in appearance with its pink hues and triple layer of cake with strawberry frosting. But looks can be deceiving. Neil and Dave both reported that the cake was horribly dry and lacking taste. “Doesn’t taste much like strawberry to me,” Neil said. After only a few bites each, they abandon the cake. Neil lamented not having gotten the Carrot Cake, so I prodded him to go and get a slice, which he did.
Neil returned with a slice of the Carrot Cake ($3.25). After one bite, he thanked me for pushing him to trying it. He said it was moist, flavorful and rich. He loved the cream cheese icing that separated the layers. Dave liked the cake as well, noting that they were not shy on the spices in the batter.
After finishing the rest of the cake and getting refills on our drinks, we headed out to do some shopping. The total for our excursion was $37.46, which included tax. Considering the portion size and the preparation of the food, we thought this was a good value for our dollars, save the Strawberry Cake. Since the service only happened in the serving line, I would give it a high rating. To go from ordering to register in under five minutes was very quick.
Of course, I was smiling all the way to our next stop as I had my matzoh ball soup, a great sandwich, and conversation with good friends.
The only thing missing was J.
Miracle Mile Deli
1949 East Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Hours: Monday through Saturday - 10:30 AM to 8 PM; Sunday - 11 AM to 5 PM
Notes: Located behind the Best Buy, near the Cold Stone Creamery. A second location is at Arrowhead Mall in Glendale.
Additional photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com