Kenny & Zuke’s
1038 SW Stark Street
Portland, OR 97205
A lot of people have been raving about Kenny & Zuke’s. So much so that I was extremely excited to try Portland’s new “authentic” New York-style delicatessen. On a recent sunny day my lunch companion and I decided to stroll over and check it out
Kenny & Zuke’s is located in the same building that houses the all-too-hip Ace Hotel, so that might have been the first sign of what I was about to experience. The restaurant itself is bright, clean and airy. The entire waitstaff is decked out in t-shirts with deli-related humorous sayings. There seemed to be a very large staff on duty, but it took forever to be seated, have our order taken and then actually get our food!
I’m not saying Kenny & Zuke’s was bad. I’m saying that Kenny & Zuke’s is expensive and overrated. By comparison, one of my favorite really-in-New-York-City delis, Ess-a-Bagel, has a very similar menu, but everything is about half the price! And they are in New York City! Something is very wrong about that!
Most of the sandwiches on the menu hover around the $10 mark, but they are unbelievably huge–seriously, unless you are a 300-pound Samoan football player in training, it’s going to be too much for most people. If you are headed for lunch on a weekday, Kenny & Zuke’s does offer a lunch special featuring a half-sandwich with soup or salad for $7.75.
We both ordered sandwiches. I ordered the egg salad on pumpernickel and my friend ordered the pastrami on rye–we then swapped halves to try them both. The sandwiches were served with a pickle spear and a choice of potato salad or coleslaw (you can substitute fries for $1 more).
I was pretty happy with the egg salad sandwich, but it was crazy-messy and I needed a fork just to eat it. When I initially attempted to pick it up to eat it, half of the egg salad filler fell out on my plate (thankfully not on my lap)! Like I said, messy!
The pastrami on the other hand got a thumbs down by both of us. It was flavorful, but it was so fatty and rubbery that it honestly ruined the sandwich’s appeal completely.
The potato salad was fine, but nothing too exciting (and certainly not as good as what they serve up at Ford’s).
As mentioned, this is NOT the place to come for a light lunch. We both ended up with plenty of leftovers, but we almost declined takeout boxes because we weren’t all that thrilled with the freshly served sandwiches, let alone digging them out of the fridge later for leftovers. Needless to say, the doggie-bag dog ended up with some expensive “authentic” delicatessen leftovers later that day.
I would probably try Kenny & Zuke’s again, but maybe just for the bagels (which looked yummy, come in a variety of flavors and are much less of a budget buster than the sandwiches).
Overall, I think of Kenny & Zuke’s kind of like the Hard Rock Café/Planet Hollywood of New York-style delis in Portland. It’s got a lot of hype and destination restaurant appeal, but it lacks real authentic substance.
Pros: Impressive drink menu, convenient deli counter
Cons: SLOW service, gross pastrami, too expensive
Check out Kenny & Zuke’s menu