While living on the East Coast, Chow, Baby developed an affinity for deli food. But in Fort Worth, for years, when I craved salmon gravlax or a pastrami on rye, my non-chain choices were Carshon’s and, well, that’s it.
Luckily for me, the beloved Carshon’s Deli (3133 Cleburne Rd.) has now been joined by Ryan’s Fine Grocer & Delicatessen (815 W. Magnolia Ave.). Yep, they can’t call us a one-deli town anymore.
A guest and I stopped in for brunch recently and were really taken with the place. The dining room is separated from the grocery store, which features an impressive deli counter filled with all the usual meats, plus duck, beef tenderloin, quail, and fresh seafood. There are also rows of exotic oils and tins of hard-to-find foods, along with everyday toiletries. It’s as if Carshon’s and Central Market had a hip baby, and it moved to the trendy part of town.
Ryan’s isn’t exactly a traditional deli. For one thing, it’s modern looking, with floor to ceiling windows in the dining room. Also, I think it’s fair to call any place that serves lobster eggs Benedict for $28 a little on the upscale side. Stop worrying –– the rest of the brunch menu is priced between $9 and $14.
For me, the litmus test of a deli is its salmon lox, a traditional deli dish made with cold-cured salmon and dill. So imagine my excitement when I saw salmon gravlax eggs Benedict ($14) on the brunch menu, with sautéed spinach and a blood orange sabayon sauce, served with fingerling potatoes and caramelized onions. At the first touch of my fork, the perfectly poached yolk cascaded down the dish like hot candle wax in a made-for-Cinemax movie sex scene and blended into the foamy sabayon sauce. The result was a rich, buttery amalgam that pooled and soaked into the brioche. My only complaint was that the brioche, the base of the benedict, wasn’t sufficiently toasted, if toasted at all. The dish could have used some crunch.
The egg sandwich ($9), with scrambled eggs, Hatch green chiles, applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and a browned-butter chile hollandaise sauce, was as big as it was spicy. The egg-to-bread ration was a little slanted toward the bread, and the whole thing could have used more salt, but overall it was a beautifully composed feat of upscale comfort food.
Even as I enjoyed my near-perfect gravlax Benedict, I was suffering from food envy. I couldn’t stop looking at what the young couple at the next table were sharing. I had to go back the following Sunday to try the giant pieces of French toast ($10), with raspberries, blackberries, caramelized bananas, and piping hot maple syrup. I wasn’t disappointed. The dish wasn’t overly sweet, relying on the caramelized banana and the syrup for its flavor.
For deli traditionalists, the brunch menu also offers a Reuben and a chicken salad sandwich. Ryan’s also squeezes its own fresh juices ($4).
Two great delicatessens in one town is not enough. But let’s thank the gods of lox for what we now have, while we’re hoping for more.
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