With two floors, DGS Delicatessen‘s décor is sleek, and an exposed brick wall with a District Grocery sign adds a nice touch. It’s a very clean appearance, different from the picture covered walls you might find elsewhere.
The service is impeccable. You are greeted immediately upon arriving, your server has the menu down pat and checks on you often without being overbearing, and your order comes out quickly. Be sure to ask for drink suggestions. My current seasonal favorite is the Hot Cider with Rum — perfect for that cold winter night.
At the helm, we have third generation Washingtonians and cousins co-owners Nick and David Wiseman, Barry Koslow as chef/partner and Zipin as GM and beverage director (aka the man to thank for the above mentioned Hot Cider with Rum). Their families could not get a good pastrami sandwich in DC, and DGS was born.
“Delicatessen means ‘good eats’ in Yiddish. To us, delicatessen is inspired by old world Eastern European cuisine which traveled with our grandparents to the States. These scrappy urban pioneers assimilated their food tradition into the American way of life,” said Nick Wiseman. “DGS is our modern take on that rich legacy — bold comfort food, convivial spirit and good drinks to wash it all down.”
Down to those good eats
You must start with the matzoh ball soup. You won’t find any chicken or noodles in this dish, which is normally the way I like it, instead just a light and fluffy ball and a flavorful broth. It’s billed as a recipe from Grandma Dot, Koslow’s grandmother who was the culinary matriarch of the Koslow clan. We’re told that she perfected the matzoh ball over many Passover dinners and that said grandson has updated the recipe with duck schmaltz to add richness and depth. Pssst…don’t miss DGS’ special bone marrow ball this Passover.
Of the sandwiches, my favorite is the Andrea’s Delight with corned beef, Swiss, coleslaw, Russian, double-baked rye. You get a nice helping of the beef, which is moist, a little fatty, and well-seasoned. It’s also cut and layered neatly, which I liked, but you might be used to the messier look if you’re a Jewish deli connoisseur. I could eat this sandwich every day. My second choice is the Reuben (or its spin-off, the Eggplant Reuben).
The pickles are not yet a home run. Now let me be clear that I order this appetizer every time I go to DGS, but it doesn’t match the quality of the other items. You get an assortment of pickled items such as cucumbers, mushrooms, cauliflower, tomatoes and an egg (thumbs up!), but for the great presentation, the dish is just okay.
The chopped liver with red onion marmalade, gribenes, Russian rye is a great app to share, with a good fat content. Though I’d ask for it without the fried chicken skin, which makes it a bit too salty.
By now you have no room for dessert, so I encourage taking half of your sandwich home to enjoy for lunch the next day. That way you can at least try something sweet. I recommend the Banana Split, which is perfect to well, split. We asked Nick Wiseman if there’s anything new we can expect in the upcoming weeks. Answer: a lot.
“Stay tuned for pastrami lo mein (classic lo mein plus chopped pastrami) and surf and turf deviled eggs (delicatessen style, with gribenes and salmon roe) plus more,” he said. They’re also launching a new dinner menu in the next few weeks. Delivery is still in the works, DGS currently offers delivery on catering for orders over $100. For catering information, reach out to email@example.com. Tip: Hang out at the first floor bar and try their seasonal drinks.
Photo courtesy of DGS Delicatessen.