Mensch Jewish Delicatessen (Instagram, Facebook) started as a pop-up series at Buckstop and Pidgin in early 2016 and moved to a dedicated pop-up space in mid-July 2016. It currently occupies the Harkness & Co Butchers space on Broadway near Fraser, on the same block as Pizzeria Barbarella and Poutinerie Jean-Talon (review here).
Mensch Jewlish Deli pop-up ends on September 9, so my advice would be to check it out before it’s gone!
We went to the Mensch pop-up when it was at Buckstop back in March, and while the flavours were good, I was majorly ticked off at the chintzy meat:
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#HotPastrami #Sandwich ($8) at the "Mensch. Jewish Delicatessen" #popup at @buckstopdenman tonight. Flavour of the #pastrami, #bread, and #fullsour #pickle were all great. The only nagging disappointment about the whole thing is the skimpy allotment of meat. Go ahead, click this hashtag 👉 #HotPastrami 👈 and see if you can find a more skimpy-looking #pastrami sandwich. The guy behind Mensch even posts pictures of other sandwiches with waaay more meat (eg. Kenny & Zukes in PDX, Katz's Deli) and says that Vancouver deserves better sandwiches. Huh. #buckstopdenman #kvetching
As you can tell, I was pretty miffed at the whole affair.
When Mensch opened up on Broadway in July, I was happy to see actual weights listed (5oz of meat in a half sandwich, 10oz in a whole), so I checked them out in early August.
You can see Pizzeria Barbarella’s awning in the background. There’s also a Filipino restaurant on the same block that has “the best wings in the city”. Anyone tried it?
Here we go. Ready for slabs of meat!
Please note: they’re only open Monday-Friday.
Seeing Jewish-related stuff isn’t common outside of the 41st & Oak area of town. Good to see a definition of “mensch” on the chalkboard. Previously, I’ve only known the word through Kraftwerk’s “The Man Machine (Die Mensch-Maschine)” and Nietzsche‘s concept of the Übermensch.
(Actually, I know nothing about Nietzche.)
They also sell limited quantities of babkas on Fridays! Cue the Seinfeld clip!
Ever since seeing this Seinfeld episode in the 90s, I’ve wanted to try a babka, and now I can!
The babkas are made by someone named “Lior”. They had cinnamon/walnut and chocolate. Of course I went for chocolate!
All ingredients that I can pronounce.
They also sell whole loaves of the same light rye bread that they use for the sandwiches. The bread is made for Mensch by SweetSalt Bakery on Fraser.
Here’s the guy behind the whole operation, Nitzan Cohen. Very focused on his work 😉 It’s not easy, cuz the pastrami is “smoked for eight hours, brined for 10 days, and then steamed for four hours”.
Hot Pastrami Sandwich (10oz, full sandwich, $16). Comes with a half pickle. Really good, fresh rye bread. No flaws that I could see.
This thing is hefty! Any reservations I had before about the amount of meat have been rectified.
The meat is sliced thicker than I’ve seen before (I guess it’s that oldschool hand-cut New York Jewish deli style) but is flavourful and fairly tender. There’s this reddish rub on the outside of the meat that gets on your hands. I licked it off. Tangy 🙂
Way better than slimy supermarket pastrami. I know it’s just a simple sandwich of meat, rye bread, and mustard…but it’s done really well. I ate this with non-kosher beer and I loved it.
My favourite variation of the Jewish sandwiches, the grilled Reuben (10oz, full sandwich, $18). Contains pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and russian dressing.
A (minor?) problem with this sandwich was the gristle/connective tissue that ran though the meat that made it hard to bite through and chew. I’ll just chalk it up to mother nature because sometimes meat just has tissues that don’t break down or get tender. I don’t know how you could avoid this issue. My Hot Pastrami sandwich had none of this problem. So I just tried to eat around it, pulling slices out and chewing the meat out from the net of tissues when necessary. Still plenty tasty and somewhat messy. I’d still order this again and hope I don’t get gristly meat.
Their housemade “full sour” pickles are amazing. Great balance of sour and salt, with a good crunch. They also sell these by the jar if you’re interested.
A slice from the Chocolate Babka ($16). Tastes so good! Like a cross between a brioche and cinnamon bun, except way less sweet. Lots of semi-sweet chocolate flavour, soft yeasty parts, and caramelized crusty parts. Wicca and I both loved it, and enjoyed it over successive nights. Remember, only available on Fridays!
Mensch also sells bagel & lox, egg salad sandwiches, and sweet lokshen kugel, none of which I’ve tried yet. But here’s the kugel from their pop-up at Buckstop that we did try, to give you an idea:
While you can find places in town that do Montreal smoked meat sandwiches (Dunn’s Famous, maybe more), no one as far as I know does anything close to this small batch, handmade, New York style hot pastrami. Check it out before they close on September 9!