Harold’s Deli is a large, brash restaurant that serves enormous portions of food. Don’t be fooled by those comically large servings; quantity is not all at Harold’s. Owner Harold Jaffe, once of the legendary Carnegie Deli in New York, sells some of the finest Jewish deli dishes to be found in the New York City area.
A close-up of the pastrami showcases the juiciness of the spice-edged smoky meat.
Attached to the Edison Hotel in an unattractive collection of office parks and hotels, Harold’s is a classic New York Jewish deli (old Carnegie Deli model). In fact, many signature Carnegie menu items, such as Go, Giants, Go! (two foot long dogs with a giant knish), also appear on Harold’s menu. There is often a wait for tables; Harold’s is extremely popular.
Go Giants Go: that’s how it’s listed on the menu. It’s an old Carnegie Deli menu item, where Harold Jaffe once worked years ago. He brought it to Harold’s New York Deli in Edison, NJ, where we split an order: two giant hot dogs, a giant potato knish, and a heated can’s worth each of Heinz vegetarian beans and sauerkraut (along with plenty of Harold’s excellent mustard). We’re normally wary of big, fat hot dogs – throws the surface to innards to bun ratio off, but these are terrific. They are super-garlicky and juicy, with a satisfying meaty chaw. They slash the surface and, we assume, deep-fry them, which results in a nice chewy skin.
The dual stars of the menu are pastrami and corned beef. Waiters no longer ask if you’d prefer lean or “juicy” (lots of fat). Unless you ask for one or the other, you get what they call “regular,” which is something in-between. We’ve had it all three ways, and while the lean meats are moist and excellent, the fattier versions can be extraordinary (although once in a while they can overdo the fat).
Here’s what you came for!
The pastrami, in particular, has a hauntingly smoky flavor and a steamy melting texture; not for fat-phobes. We feel confident in proclaiming that Harold’s, at its best, serves the finest pastrami sandwich around (and we’ve been to Katz’s and enjoyed their hand-carved meat).
Rumanian steak can feed three NFL players comfortably. Mostly hidden beneath the beef is a mountain of well-cooked onions, mushrooms, and garlic. All highly recommended!
Your sandwich gives you access to what is billed as the world’s largest pickle bar. Half-sours, full-sours, dills, sliced, spears, tomatoes, kraut, and fantastic health (or Claremont) salad (cabbage, carrots, peppers in a sweet vinaigrette) are available, as are stacks of their good chewy-crusted rye bread and small onion biscuits and vanilla muffin gems. Sandwiches also come with spectacularly good sweet slaw.
We think of blintzes as breakfast food, but they would make a great dessert for two or three people.
The kasha varnishkes (buckwheat cooked with onions and bow-tie noodles) is wonderful. There is an “appetizer” called kreplach with dark fried onions. This is something like the Jewish version of St. Louis fried ravioli. The kreplach are sturdy little packages of dough and meat, but the real draw are those dark fried onions. They’d be worth ordering by themselves.
The giant kasha knish is filled with well-onioned and oiled smooth-textured cereal. True Jewish soul food!
The mammoth knish is well-oiled and onioned, in both potato and kasha varieties. Terrific chicken soup (with bigger-than-softball-sized matzo balls, if you wish) and outstanding freshly made blintzes are also available. There is an enormous menu of other things to eat. The Roumanian steak, in particular, is a tour de force of beefy indulgence. They even make that old NY diner/deli oddity: Chinese roast pork with Chinese mustard and duck sauce on garlic bread (yes, in a Jewish deli and, yes, it’s good!).
Here is a bowl of seriously satisfying chicken soup with noodles.
The cheesecake recipe keeps changing. We would once claim that Harold’s serves the best cheesecake in the land. Today’s version is good, if not the world’s best, lightly sweetened and tasting mostly of cream and cheese and eggs, with no lemon or vanilla flavoring that we could detect. It sits on a thick, but not sweet, graham cracker crust.
The dish listed as Mushroom – Egg – Barley is like a moist, mushroomy pasta-based stuffing, along the lines of matzo farfel and kasha varnishkes.
The eclair goes beyond comically large into preposterous territory. Your slice of layer cake will serve a table of six generously. A container of crunchy rugelach, speaking more of fruit and nuts and sugar than cream cheese, would be a nice sweet for when you get home.
A serving suitable for a family; the terrific kasha varnishkes are loaded with deeply browned onions. The gravy is irrelevant.
There are other Harold’s delis in NJ, but this is the only one actually owned and run by Harold Jaffe, and it is the only one we recommend. You can usually spot the very friendly Harold schmoozing with customers somewhere in the restaurant. Prices are very high, but much of the food is sized to be shared. In fact, the menu recommends it; no sharing charge.
3050 Woodbridge Avenue
Edison NJ 08837
Harold’s New York Deli’s Website
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Checking In at: 1/15/15
There are boxes of ruggies for sale at the counter as you pay your bill. They are crunchy and fruity and make a satisfying zweet for when you get home.
The cheesecake is dense and creamy. The picture doesn’t show it, but a slice will feed three generously.
BEST THING TO EAT: Corned Beef/Pastrami Combo Sandwich
This is the small Reuben. It comes in a large version, too. Yes, underneath that tidal wave of melted (good) Swiss cheese is a pile of Harold’s incomparable pastrami, along with some mild sauerkraut and sweet Russian dressing. There’s even rumored to be some rye bread at the bottom.
Fried kreplach come with ultrasweet, long-cooked onions.
This “small” corned beef was ordered lean and, sure enough, it had barely any fat at all.
A potato knish is sized to serve three or four as a side dish. It would also be suitable as a monomaniacal entrée for one. Filled with smooth potatoes dotted with browned onions. They also serve a version filled with kasha.
The large pastrami sandwich holds 26 ounces of meat. This is half a sandwich.
You can pick up extra slices of the chewy-crusted fragrant rye bread at the pickle bar. Be sure to take some extra to bring home with your leftovers.
The health salad (or Claremont salad) from the pickle bar is a perfect example of this deli favorite.
Towards the bottom right you can see ONE (!) eclair. Below that are single apple turnovers.
The pickle bar holds sour pickles (lower left), dill pickles (lower right), and half-sours (top). There are also pickle chips and slices and pickled tomatoes and sauerkraut.
Harold’s Deli is bright, noisy, and hectic.
Today’s pastrami was especially tender.
Some of the pickle bar
More of the pickle bar; the health salad is terrific
Bright, noisy, crowded, and casual – just what you’d expect
Large pastrami sandwich, regular. Super-juicy, with a heady aroma and flavor.
We took home “a” Napoleon. That box is a full-size cake box. Insane! (We cannot recommend it.)
Sour pickles side Harold’s incomparable health salad.
Order a piece of cake and you get a wedge, two feet top to bottom, cut from one of these. We haven’t tried them all but in our experience they have too much frosting to cake.
A 26-ounce pastrami sandwich should take care of you for days.
Diners have access to the World’s Largest Pickle Bar. The health salad varies from visit to visit, but it’s always one of the highlights. It’s made with cabbage, red onion, sliced carrots, and sliced cucumbers in a pickly marinade. Be sure to take a stack of chewy-crusted rye bread.
From top to bottom: rugelach cheesecake, Napoleon, and plain cheesecake.
Regular entrees come with your choice of potato. Ask for potato pancakes and you get two foot-wide, inch-thick manhole covers of spud. They are finely textured and a little sweet and, like all restaurant potato pancakes, not nearly as good as good homemade latkes.
A small brisket sandwich is a nice change of pace if you eat here often, but if you come here once you should stick to the cured meats.
Sweet potato fries: get ’em if you really want ’em, but they are ordinary.
Here’s a sight you probably never expected to see at Harold’s. When you are served an entrée, a plate of steamed vegetables is served alongside.
One pound ten ounces of pastrami (top) and corned beef (bottom). Both meats in top form.
Harold’s chicken noodle soup is warming and satisfying.
A large (meaning small) corned beef/pastrami combo.
Sour pickles, dill pickles, and health salad.
There is usually some pumpernickel bread available at the pickle bar, too. Pretty good but we think the rye works better with cured meats.