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Matzo Ball Soup from Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen. Photo courtesy of the Hip Photo

Denver Jewish Deli Nosh-Off

Four Denver delis go head-to-head in a battle for the best pastrami, matzo ball soup, and more.

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The Mile High City’s lineup of Jewish-inspired delis nearly doubled when Rye Society Delicatessen & Picklery and Leven Deli Co. opened their doors (in RiNo and the Golden Triangle, respectively) in July. Now, with the High Holidays around the corner—Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset on September 9—it’s time to celebrate the new spots by pitting them against local deli vets in a battle based on four classic Jewish eats.*

Matzo Ball Soup

Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen: Winner! This soup (pictured above) delivers a just-firm-enough, flavorful main ingredient; broth made from whole local chickens and house-made “schmaltz” (rendered chicken fat); and an elevated garnish of fresh herbs and fried chicken skin. $3.50 for one matzo ball; $5 for two
Leven Deli Co.: Not on the menu at press time.
Rye Society Delicatessen & Picklery: This dill-speckled soup, based on the owner’s family recipe, gets its richness from homemade chicken stock. While the matzo balls are dense and of satisfying size, they’re a touch underseasoned, and we wish they were more tender. $5/cup, $7/bowl
Zaidy’s Deli: Although the matzo ball in this soup has a pleasing bite, the broth lacks depth and seasoning. $5.95

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Pastrami

Pastrami sandwich from Leven Deli Co. Photo by Chloe Rekow

Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen: The best way to inhale Rosenberg’s pastrami: the L.E.S., in which thick slabs of well-marbled, fall-apart meat mesh with coleslaw, melted Swiss, and mustard on an onion bagel. $15
Leven Deli Co.: Winner! A 12-day dry cure and an eight-hour smoke over hickory and mesquite woods result in tender, mild pastrami (pictured) complemented by rye bread from New Jersey’s Tribeca Oven and a swipe of Leven’s house mustard. $12.50
Rye Society Delicatessen & Picklery: Sourced from New York City’s Carnegie Deli, Rye Society slices the legendary meat by hand to order and sandwiches it—not too high—between thick cuts of City Bakery rye. $13
Zaidy’s Deli: Zaidy’s pastrami—from RC Provisions in Burbank, California—is peppery, delectably fatty, and served in warm, thin strips inside a short-stack sandwich made with Rosenberg’s flawless rye. $13.95

Lox

Lox from Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen.Photo courtesy of the Hip Photo

Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen: Winner! All of Rosenberg’s smoked and cured fish (pictured) is sustainably sourced, prepared in-house, and sliced extra thin. Go quintessential deli with the iconic smoked Scottish salmon. $11.25/quarter pound
Leven Deli Co.: Not on the menu at press time.
Rye Society Delicatessen & Picklery: Rye Society sources its silky, thinly sliced lox from Brooklyn’s celebrated Acme Smoked Fish. $13.50/quarter pound
Zaidy’s Deli: This fresh, smooth lox (from Acme Smoked Fish) is sliced in wide pieces—sheets, almost—providing ample coverage for your bagel with schmear. $9.99/quarter pound

Rugelach

Rugelach from the Rye Society Delicatessen & Picklery. Photo courtesy of the Rye Society

Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen: These bites are flaky, sugar-dusted, and not too sweet. We’re fans of the flavors—cinnamon-walnut, apricot-raisin, raspberry-walnut, and special chocolate-dipped cherry-chocolate—but prefer a filling-to-dough ratio that tips more forward filling. $1.25 each
Leven Deli Co.: The only rugelach at Leven is found on the breakfast menu, where it serves as a genius wrapping for fruit turnovers and pigs in a blanket. $4 and $3.50 each, respectively
Rye Society Delicatessen & Picklery: Winner! Chocolate, Nutella, and apricot-walnut variations (pictured) have a dense, buttery crust that’s less flaky but somehow even more delicious than traditional versions; they’re baked with love by the owner’s aunt. $1.25 each
Zaidy’s Deli: Coming in all the expected flavors, these pastries are heavy on the filling (bonus points!) with a crumbly pastry exterior and satisfying crunch from crystallized sugar on top. $1.25 each; $15.95/pound

If You Go:

Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen
Est. 2014
725 E. 26th Ave., 720-440-9880; Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St., Aurora, 303-955-0466

Leven Deli Co.
Est. 2018
123 W. 12th Ave., 303-325-5691

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Rye Society Delicatessen & Picklery
Est. 2018
3090 Larimer St., 303-593-2713

Zaidy’s Deli
Est. 1985
121 Adams St., 303-333-5336

*We would have included bagels in this battle, but the rounds at Rosenberg’s are so superior that Rye Society and Zaidy’s sell them instead of making their own, and Leven, a modern-style deli, has eschewed bagels altogether.

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