Phooey for Bad Eats: Manny Hattan's

Alright, I should have known. The repulsively precious name should have been the tip off. Nonetheless, I'd crawl down Hester Street on my knees for a latke or kugel like bubbeh used to make. I had to give it a try.

When you see "New York delicatessen" you usually think kosher. In this case you'd be thinking wrong. Maybe you wouldn't expect strict kashrut, but at least in that style. That's the fun of deli. Part of the Chinese restaurant experience is the challenge of eating with chopsticks. One of the best parts of the deli experience is finding delicious meals that, for instance, don't use pork or combine beef and cheese.

Not only does Manny Hattan's fail to do that, they actually serve traif! (That's unclean, forbidden food.) Corned beef and swiss? Grilled cheese and bacon? Even Annie Hall wouldn't imagine those in a deli.

(Alright, to be fair you'd probably find some traif at a modern deli unless it was strictly kosher. Even the Carnegie Deli will serve you a ham sandwich, although it's stuck off to the side. But at Manny Hattan's there is traif in over half of their featured sandwiches.)

I ordered my deli usual, a turkey sandwich with cole slaw and russian dressing. The waitress looked at me oddly, like she hadn't heard of such a thing. I asked if I could substitute a latke--a potato pancake--for the usual side. She said sure, although it wouldn't be an exact swap.

The other best part of the deli experience is the bucket of half sour pickles. Due to costs and health concerns you don't see the bucket as frequently, but you often get a few while waiting for your meal. Manny Hattan's, I guess in an attempt to be upscale, serves a little variety of things for noshing, which included one sad, little half sour pickle. Maybe if I liked artichoke and sauerkraut I would have been less displeased.

My meal arrived before too long. The sandwich was memorable only in its size. The potato pancake, however, will live on in my nightmares. It was deep fat fried, the size of a hockey puck. It more closely resembled an Arby's potato cake than my precious Hanukkah latkes.

The crowning event was that when the check arrived (still no refill on the coffee), the potato pancake was not a substitution charge like the waitress implied, but rather full charge for an added side. The cashier said they don't offer it any other way and too bad. So I paid nearly $15 for a sandwich, and that's insane.

If you want deli, choose Katz's. I think it's better food at a better value. If you want a good turkey with cole slaw and russian dressing on the north side of town, try Jason's Deli. My fantastic meal at HPB&G--a full dinner and a beer--cost less than a sandwich and coffee at Manny Hattan's.

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re: Phooey for Bad Eats: Manny Hattan's

Yeah, Mary and I had a similar experienc -- not that we care so much about kosher, but it just isn't as good as Katz's and costs too much. And we didn't really need such big portions. We figure it'll be gone before too long.

For other dining suggestions --
Asti Trattoria, the chef/owner knows what he's doing. And NxNW for excellent beer and a surly waitstaff. It reminded me a little bit of the Faultline brewery in Santa Clara.

re: Phooey for Bad Eats: Manny Hattan's

I've had some less-than-wonderful dining moments at Katz's, and have come to think that Marc Katz is such a collosal prick that I won't give him any of my money any more.

re: Phooey for Bad Eats: Manny Hattan's

I read with your interest your review of my restaurant... and I respect your opinions and I am sorry that you did not have a great experience.
I would like to address some of your points... starting with the issue of 'traif' or non-kosher foods. Manny Hattan's makes absolutely no pretense about being a kosher delicatessen... along the same ilk as the two largest and best known delis in midtown Manhattan, the Carnegie & Stage. I am a huge fan of the Second Avenue Deli in downtown Manhattan (100% Kosher)... but certainly do not try to be Kosher in the Hill Country in Central Texas... that was my decision.
With regards to the incredible surprise at finding Corned Beef & Swiss on the menu at a deli... for the uninitiated it is referred to when grilled with Sauerkruat & Russian as a Reuben... probably the best selling sandwich at any of the delicatessens in New York City (ask Sandy Levine at the Carnegie for a reference). (By the way... the top item on the web menu for your precious Katz's is Turkey, Ham & Cheese... I'll take the high road on that one!)
Pickle selection... we try to put out a nice sampler of half-sour & sour pickles, pickled tomatoes (like the 2nd avenue) & sauerkraut. The number of pickles should match the number of people at the table, to cut down on waste, but is completely refillable. My pickles are shipped in weekly from Brooklyn... they are the same purveyor that supplies both pickles & mustard to the Carnegie Deli. We would serve more, as I agree that putting two pickles in a bowl looks anemic... but I think that unnecessary waste is an issue as well.
The meat that I use to build my sandwiches is easily the best and the freshest in Texas... we roast our own turkeys & roast beef and ship in pastrami & corned beef from New York to cook & steam in my bain marie.
As for your bubbeh... oy vey... now it's time to be respectful for the incredible meals that I'm sure she served to you and your family. HOWEVER... our recipes have come down from my family and I would like to challenge you to a contest where I put my Noodle Kugel against her recipe (assuming you can make it). Please contact me at the email address that I have provided, or call me at the restaurant at 794-0088 to set it up...
Sincerely,
Aaron Mayers, owner
Manny Hattan's New York Deli & Restaurant