Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Tale of Two Delis

My family has always been a Brent's family.

For any out of state readers, Brent's is a family-run deli in a nondescript strip mall in Southern California.  It's surrounded by a bar on one side -- they used to do their cooking, and would pass orders through a hole in their wall you could see from the counter -- and a carpet store on the other.  The parking lot is perpetually full.

Brent's has been a staple in my family for many years.  It was my first outing as a child, as it was Patrick's.  My dad put the alarm in the deli, the owners' house, and their kids' houses as they got married.  He used to trade alarm service for food.  In fact, I remember going with him on a service call during the summer; it was 2:00 on a weekday, and still full.

I remember when Brent's was a tiny deli; the restaurant itself was two rows wide and stopped at the end of the counter.  Behind that was storage and restrooms.  It's expanded twice since then -- once to turn the storage and restrooms into more seating (a relatively modest expansion) and then when they bought the store next to them (a bakery, I think) and doubled the size of the restaurant.

If anything, the lines got longer.

We stopped going for a while after my dad died, and then again when one of the waitresses teased Patrick beyond his limit to tolerate it.  (Not "teased" as in "haw-haw," teased as in, "hey, maybe I'll take one of these action figures home!" -- she thought she was being friendly, but Patrick hated it.)

Once the new location opened in Westlake Village, we've been going there, generally on trips to the Costco in Ventura, which is the farthest south you can get Splash Cafe clam chowder.

Anyhow, aside from a few trips with a friend to a Weiler's Deli in high school (meh) because it was on the way to her house, and the godawful Country Deli with my grandparents (why they liked that place, I'll never know; I have noticed that grandpa hasn't gone since grandma died), it's been Brent's or no deli food.

Patrick threw a monkey wrench into that on Christmas.

The last few years, we've been left without anywhere to go on Christmas Day; my grandpa has been on trips with his girlfriend, generally, while my cousins are with their in-laws, and my other aunt and uncle are Jewish.

So, of course, Patrick generally wants to go to Disneyland.

That was the plan this year until about noon on Christmas Day, when he decided he wanted to stay home.

Okay, fine...except that there was nothing really to cook; I had been planning on making these until Patrick came up with the Disneyland Plan, but they require being rubbed the night before and several hours to braise...not something I could do on short notice like that.

So, around 7:00, we piled into the car on an expedition to find an open restaurant.  We tried the likely places first -- restaurants near movie theaters (oh, my God, were they packed!) but they were all closed.  So I suggested driving down Ventura, haven of all restaurants in the valley.

Lo and behold, there were quite a few open -- several delis, in fact.  The only one I recognized was Jerry's Famous Deli, so we pulled in and decided to try it.

At this point, it was about 8:00.  The restaurant was packed, and there was a 20 minute wait.  They were showing whichever Pirates movie was on ABC (with closed captioning on, thankfully), and then we were seated.

The menu is a big plus.  It's varied but has recognizable deli food everywhere, along with some surprising additions (like gyros...yum!).  Observing the tables around us, the service seems to be generally good.

(Now, understand, at Brent's, the service is impeccable.  You order quickly, your food is served quickly, bus boys are paid extra and do things like refill your drinks before they're even empty, etc. etc. etc.  But that's rare, at any restaurant...however....)

Our waiter clearly had ADD.

As in, Bulldozer has a longer attention span than this guy.  As in -- oh, look, a dust mote just flew by!

By the time he actually took our drink orders, he'd stopped by the table at least four times, started to ask what we wanted, saw something else that needed doing, and flitted away.

By the time we finished our -- very good -- meal, Pirates was nearly over, it was 10 minutes to 11:00, and it had passed the point of annoyance right into morbid gallows humor.

The plus side is that it seemed from watching the other tables that it was only our section that suffered thusly, and the food was very, very good, though a tad more expensive than Brent's.  Their eggs in particular were cooked just the way I like them (to be fair, that's drier than most people) and they were seasoned beautifully.  The bagels, while not Western Bagels, were also very good, and were served with a healthy amount of cream cheese -- so that I didn't have to beg, borrow, or steal some from other people.

All in all, I actually plan to go back -- among all the other pluses, they serve my favorite kind of ranch -- but nothing will ever be Brent's.  Nothing ever can be Brent's.

(I am now so craving a special steak and eggs...Brent's marinates or rubs or something their steaks with something that is unique and wonderful, and I'm gonna stop now before I drool on my keyboard.)

In totally unrelated news, Sci-Fi was showing a Christmas Stargate marathon, and aside from picking up the Canadian "ow" pronunciation from listening to Canadians talk for far too many hours straight, I was reminded of the following hilarious exchange:

Vala:  Blah blah blah, so we shall blah blah blah.

(Note:  She does not say "blah blah blah," although it sounds like something she would say, but I can't remember what she and Daniel were talking about.)

Daniel (firmly):  No, we shalln't.


Hee hee.

(What?  I'm easily amused by word play.  So shoot me.)



1 comment:

Amie said...

Brents will always always remind me of your dad.