Harold’s New York Deli Restaurant
3050 Woodbridge Avenue
Edison, NJ 08837-3460
To summarize my Katz’s Deli experience, I would put it this way. Top quality pastrami, low value. As much as i love top quality experiences, deep down, I’m a sucker for value. Let me introduce you to value – Jersey style.
When people talk about the best NY deli’s now existing outside of Manhattan, they usually mean Brooklyn, not Edison. Harold’s New York Deli Restaurant has been called one of New York’s best delis, even though it is in New Jersey. I first heard whispers from a friend, who, after one of our Katz’s experiences, stated that she was fed up with the high prices and mediocre value. “Harold’s is so much better value… you have to see it to believe it”.
Harold’s is run by the former operator of the Claremont Diner, and the Carnegie Deli. Harold’s is his personal vision of a super diner/deli, where he has combined the menus from both establishments into one enormous restaurant. Located just off the I-95, it can be a bit tricky to get to. It took me two passes before i got it right.
Attached to a hotel, I would use one word to describe Harold’s. Enormous. It’s classic Jersey Diner meets New York deli, this place has two enormous sections and the world’s largest pickle bar. You could probably seat half the city of Edison in this establishment, while the other half waited in line.
Right upon first entry, you’re presented with Harold’s theme – Enormous. Cakes to tempt you right from the get go. I’d estimate each cake is roughly 2.5 feet high – honestly, this picture doesn’t do it justice.
While the cakes are daunting, yet strangely appealing, I was here for one reason and one reason only. The pastrami. When you first walk in, you’re given the choice of waiting for a seat, or going to the cash register/take out counter to order. With a 30 minute wait, I decided to take the pastrami to go.
They offer two sizes at Harold’s. Large, and Extra Large. At $16, and $32, these are not inconsequential prices. In fact, the sticker shock on many of the menu’s items can be downright jarring. However, the server guaranteed us that a sandwich would feed 2-3 people, and most items were meant for 2-4 people. When i inquired about the extra large, she laughed, and told me that the large would be plenty for 2.
15 minutes later, I had a brown bag that weighed roughly 5lbs in my hands, I forked over my cash, and headed home to give this a try. When I tore into the bag, this is what it came with:
- A half loaf of rye – 14-16 slices.
- A sandwich..if you can call 2lbs of pastrami in between two slices of bread a sandwich.
- A mound of pickles.
- Half a jar of mustard.
As with the cake, this picture actually doesn’t do the sandwich justice. Look at the solo containers of mustard – everyone knows what size that generally is right? Now imagine how many of those the sandwich displaces. Hopefully you’re starting to get the picture.
And the pastrami itself? Hand carved into thick slices. The cutter didnt have nearly the same precision as those at Katz’s, but did a reasonable job. There is no “lean” or “fatty” choice here – you get both. The flavour was excellent – not seasoned quite as much as Katz’s, and a touch less juicy than Katz’s on their best day, but this was very good pastrami. Certainly on par, if not better than Carnegie Deli, and some Katz’s experiences i’ve had. It may have suffered a bit getting it to go as well – so what is very good pastrami could very well be excellent eaten fresh.
This sandwich was for two people, for lunch and dinner, and we barely finished it. For $16, that is ridiculous value.
In the grand scheme of NY deli’s, I would have a tough time rating Harold’s number 1. I feel the quality of the meat is a touch lower, and definitely the cutter does an inferior job to those at Katz’s Deli. Parts of the brisket have either been chipped at, or over steamed, and the overall texture of the sandwich suffers as a result. However, I will say this is my favorite deli in NY. The quality of the meat itself is high, and the value, is completely off the charts. While Harold’s is the melding of two menus, it really is the NY Deli representation of the Jersey Diner. Portions are ridiculous. Value is great. And you’ll wake up from your food coma in your living room if you’re lucky. While I love quality, sometimes there’s something to be said for an “enormous” experience.