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Friday, June 12, 2009

Kenny and Zuke's Delicatessen - Portland - Oregon

After lunch at Le Bistro Montage, lil' sis and I headed across the river. She went to Powell's City of Books again to buy the next book in the Twilight saga. I walked a few blocks over to Kenny and Zuke's Delicatessen to get us some sandwiches for the plane ride back to L.A.

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I first bookmarked Kenny and Zuke's years ago after catching a very brief mention in The Oregonian about how the pastrami was made and how it rivaled the Jewish delis in New York City. That's some serious praise. The menu states, "Cured 5 days, smoked 10 hours, steamed for 3, and hand-sliced just for you."

With that kind of description, how could I pass up the chance to try it? Since we were short on time, I went straight to the take-out counter.

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A good sign when I saw the very Jewish ingredients in the deli case.

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Airy, bright space.

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Ha! You don't get to see my sandwiches yet because I didn't get to eat them yet. Lil' sis and I had to drive across the river to go home, finish packing, and head to the airport. Good old PDX.

Day 5.2 PDX 1

While lil' sis browsed through the gift shop for souvenirs for her friends, I was finally able to dig in.

I ordered the classic Reuben sandwich for $12.50 which came with a pickle and a choice of potato salad or coleslaw.

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Oh my! Look at that pastrami! Nicely thickly cut so it reminded me of Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant - Los Angeles. The sauerkraut. The melted cheese. Would it taste as good?

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At this point it had been nearly three hours since the deli had made my order. Even cold, it was a damn good Reuben. I ate a quarter of the sandwich and saved the other half of the half for lil' sis.

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I then opened the other container to get a look at the pastrami on rye for $11.25.

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Oh my! Look at this pastrami!

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I added a bit of spread and mustard and bit in. Since it was sliced across the grain, the pastrami was incredibly tender. This pastrami, with its tenderness and flavor, definitely rivaled Langer's. This sandwich made lil' sis a pastrami convert. Prior to eating this sandwich, lil' sis did not like pastrami!


I know!

We split another half of this sandwich, and saved the remaining halves for our brother. The potato salads were unremarkable. I prefer mine with more mayonnaise to be honest. Yes, the sandwiches cost way more than what I would normally spend on a sandwich, but that seems to be the going rate for Jewish deli sandwiches in general.

Bye PDX! It was a great four days!

Day 5.2 PDX 2 - Mount Hood

And so concludes my incredibly looooong, September 2008 trip to Portland. :P

But wait! With the power of procrastination, I can now talk about my more recent revisit to Kenny & Zuke's with Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok.

After a brief potato pancake snack at the Tabor, the Czech food cart, we managed to hit up the deli during happy hour. I had to order the Reuben sliders for $6. Whoa! For half the cost of the regular Reuben sandwich, we got two sandwiches!

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The sandwiches were smaller than the normal order, but since they came with two sandwiches, this was a waaaaaay better deal.

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I ordered the pastrami burger for $7.50. All the same greatness of the burger with housemade bun, topped with pastrami and Swiss cheese.

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A cross shot of the world's greatest burger. As if I could even begin to describe how great this burger was!

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To resume my Oregon postings from that trip, continue onward with my Mom's Chao Vit (Vietnamese Rice Porridge with Duck).

July 24, 2010 Update:

Last Christmas eve when lil' sis and I were home again, we took our four nephews and their three friends here.

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Ha! I had recently read about how Pabst Blue Ribbon made itself popular among the college crowd by appealing to the low-cost end of the spectrum and what do you know, oldest nephew's high school friend fell right into that. I guess you can believe some things you read online. :P

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Meanwhile, everyone else ordered the $2.50 pints of draft.

If you're a root beer fanatic like I am, they offer nearly a dozen varieties.

I ordered the pastrami cheese fries for $8.50. The fries were nice and crisp, but the pastrami was too finely diced. I would've preferred bigger pieces so I could appreciate the flavor of the pastrami. This just made me think that they gathered leftover pastrami ends and sprinkled it on top. Not saying they do, just that that's what it made me feel like I was eating.

The boys really liked this though, but then again, they haven't had the greatness that is The Hat's pastrami chili cheese fries.

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I got several orders of the pastrami on rye for $7.25. These were the smaller happy hour sizes.

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And several orders of Reuben sliders again for $6. Except this time, the sliders looked smaller. :( Scroll up and look at the four generous halves of the happy hour Reubens I got in June. Compare to the four quarters of one sandwich I got this time. :(

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Is it still a good deal? The Reubens were just as good, but I couldn't help but be dismayed because I had gotten a much more generous portion last time. I asked Extra MSG, the "Zuke" half of Kenny & Zuke's and he said that the first time I ordered this, the bread was a bit big and the sandwich was overly stuffed. The deli's food costs were running too high and it wasn't sustainable, he said. But the regular Reubens should be 8 ounces of pastrami and the burger patties are 6 ounces.

I'm all for keeping Kenny & Zuke's in business. Just, you know, the image wouldn't leave my mind because I had gotten more last time. Again, the size made me think I was getting leftovers. Instead of "sliders" during happy hour, I would've preferred to just get a smaller Reuben, like I got a smaller pastrami on rye.

We also got several orders of the pastrami burger again for $7.50. And again, I was dismayed with this portion compared to my previous visit. The patty resembled a meatball and didn't cover the width of the bun. The pastrami was chopped bits instead of thick slices.

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Need I say it again?

Yes, still good, but not as good as before. It's not just a gripe about portion, but overall presentation. A burger patty shouldn't resemble a meatball. I shouldn't feel like I'm getting leftover bits of pastrami. I don't mind smaller, I do mind feeling like I'm getting less. Does that make sense?

Not that the boys had any previous experience here for comparison, so they happily wolfed these down. Youngest nephew said biting into the pastrami burger was like "Christmas in his mouth." Can you tell he's a drama geek? :P

Second youngest nephew ordered a Sabrett hot dog with caramelized onions for $2.75. There was also the option of relish or sauerkraut.

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Total bill was about $116, not bad when you factor in beer and that this fed nine of us. After this, oldest nephew guilt-tripped the others into going with me to Pioneer Courthouse Square to snap photos.

Brr. It was sooo cold that night. Co (Vietnamese aunt) paid for dinner and you're not even going to take pictures with her? Ha! Oldest nephew's got the guilt-trip down pat. :)

Kenny & Zuke's is still the best pastrami in Portland, I just wish it was a little more consistent. I'd love to try some of the other dishes on the menu, but really, I go here to satisfy pastrami cravings.

All Oregon posts can be found in the tag, Series: Oregon. I suggest reading this particular trip in this order:
I-5 From LA to Portland
Mom and Dad's Garden
Burgerville - Portland - Oregon
Hakatamon - Beaverton - Oregon
I Think I'll Go For a Walk Outside Now...
Vista Point - Oregon City
End of Oregon Trail Interpretive Center - Oregon City
Stevens-Crawford Heritage House - Oregon City
Museum of the Oregon Territory - Oregon City
Mom's Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Sizzling Crepes)
Blackberry Cobbler
Bonneville Lock and Dam - Cascade Locks - Oregon
Bonneville Hatchery - Cascade Locks - Oregon
Multnomah Falls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon
Horsetail Falls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon
Wahkeena Falls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon
Bridal Veil Falls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon
Historic Columbia River Highway - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon
Latourell Falls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon
Crown Point Vista House - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon
Banh Cuon Tan Dinh - Portland - Oregon (Closed)
Downtown Portland - Oregon
Lan Su Chinese Garden (Portland Classical Chinese Garden) - Portland - Oregon
Powell's City of Books - Portland - Oregon
Mom's Geoduck, Dynamite-Style and Chao Oc (Vietnamese Rice Porridge with Clams)

How to Prepare Geoduck and Razor Clams
Geoduck, Japanese Dynamite-style
Chao Oc (Vietnamese Rice Porridge with Clams)
Le Bistro Montage - Portland - Oregon
Kenny and Zuke's Delicatessen - Portland - Oregon

Kenny and Zuke's Delicatessen
1038 SW Stark St.
Portland, OR 97205-2610
Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Happy Hours: Monday to Friday 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Summer Hours: Memorial Day to Labor Day, open 1 hour later.

1 year ago today, Battambang Seafood Restaurant - San Gabriel.
2 years ago today, Strawberry Shortcake.


  1. I'm intrigued by the whitefish. I'm leaving for Portland in a week and a half so I will check this place out when I'm there. Love Ken's Bakery. Good ol PDX.

  2. Was just wondering where you've been, WC, and I see it's down pastrami memory lane :-) That reuben at the top looks fantastic! And I know what you mean about shrink-rayed food. Though we don't need copious amounts (unless we're sharing or planning on left overs) there must be a way to keep it from looking skimpy.

  3. Hey...Ken from Kenny and Zuke's - Glad you enjoyed your visit. We really aim for consistency, but once in awhile things get away.

    A small correction - I have no commection with Ken's Artisan Bakery other than knowing him, thinking they're a terrific bakery, and my daughter is baking for him part-time this Summer. And I was here first.

  4. Anna,
    So soon? We must get together before then! And oops, I was wrong about the connection to Ken's Bakery.

    Ah, just summer laziness. :)

    Thanks for the correction! For some reason, I totally thought you were Ken's Artisan Bakery. I've removed it now.

  5. What a compilation of visits! I'm definitely bookmarking this for when I go to PDX!

  6. hi wc
    ha ha, pabst blue ribbon...

    reminds me of this classic scene from "Blue Velvet" with the late Dennis Hopper:


    Those thick cut pastrami sandwiches looked great. Something to try if we ever go to Portland again. :)

  7. Ohh I'm gearing to post my first ever Langer's visit too (shame, I know). How was this pastrami compared to Langer's?

  8. Just a note - I ADORE Ken's Artisan Bakery. So while it may not be Kenny & Zukes, it is darn fine. Check it out!

  9. Just wondering - if you were given a choice between Langers and Kenny & Zuke's, which would you choose?

  10. Jeannie,
    You should definitely go one day. I love Portland!

    Of course you'll come back. So many other places you haven't explored.

    Haha. Took me two years later to post mine? It's hard to say because the visits were far apart. I like them both!

    I have been, that's why I got so excited thinking "Kenny" was Ken. I could have sworn I read that somewhere. Oh well. I haven't checked out his pizzeria though and that's been open forever!

    I really can't choose! :P But if we go with consistency, my brother has consistently better experiences at Langer's. One of his visits to Kenny & Zuke's wasn't so good. And cousin Q says he thinks Langer's pastrami has better flavor.


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