There is this fabulous little lunch spot under the El not to far from my work. Mike showed it to me last year, otherwise I don't think I would have ever noticed it. Previously Mike was shown this spot by a former co-worker of his. We don't go there too often, but when we do it's a treat.
Shalom Deli is a Jewish deli run by Koreans. It is small, unassuming and has not been updated in more than a decade. One wall is fake exposed brick partially covered by long thin mirrors. The whole deli is about 500 square feet total, leaving just enough room for a counter and about five plastic tables with varying numbers of chairs at each. There's no flare to the place. We step up to the counter, order, pick our drinks from the fridge and choose a plastic seat. No muss, no fuss.
This is the kind of place where ambiance isn't necessary. Ambiance will always be secondary to the food. They serve typical Jewish deli food - egg salad sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, bagels and lox, etc. And I am sure these things are all very good, but I wouldn't know. Mike and I go for one thing, and only one thing. The Rubens. They are delicious. Delicious and filling. The bread is hearty, but not stiff. The meat is lean, sliced thin and piled about an inch thick. The best part though is the Thousand Island dressing. It really ties the whole sandwich together.
A little more than $9 at Shalom Deli gets you the Ruben, a side (we always get coleslaw), a pickle and a drink. I am not much of a pop drinker, but that's the majority of their beverage options. Today I was mulling over my choices and had picked a cream soda when a lime green can caught my eye. It was called Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda. And it was celery-flavored.
I did not know such a thing existed. I pointed it out to Mike, and he said I should get it. We were both curious but he wasn't putting back his black cherry soda. I took one for the team and swapped my cream soda for Cel-Ray, purely out of curiosity.
It was interesting, to say the least. It was a little sweet at first and then turned a little peppery and then turned a little bitter. I looked at Mike after analyzing a sip of the celery beverage and said, "I can't say I like it, but I also can't say I hate it." It was different. Kind of like a Dr. Pepper, but less sweet and with a faint celery smell. As you can tell, it's a little hard to describe. But I can say this, while I am certain I will be back for the Ruben, I'm pretty sure will not be back for the Cel-Ray soda.