In Case the Zagat Guide Didn’t Mention Mile End’s Chopped Liver

Lunch: Onion and poppy-topped pletzels, chopped liver with sea salt, a smoked meat sandwich, a glass of seltzer and a cup of Stumptown at Mile End in Brooklyn.

We’re embarrassed that it took us so long to acknowledge validation of what Edible Brooklyn is always telling the world, that being that Brooklyn is a culinary force to be taken very seriously. And not just because of the recent publishing of a whole book called New Brooklyn Cookbook. There was also the new Michelin guide news, meaning the first-two star for the borough of Kings, handed off to the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, part of the upscale supermarket in downtown Brooklyn. And now the new 2011 Zagat guide gave nearly a dozen Brooklyn spots top billing, like best barbecue to Fette Sau and best steakhouse to Peter Luger just a few blocks south. (No surprise there, however, since the Williamsburg stronghold has scored that title for 27 years straight.)

Perhaps the biggest upset was courtesy one of our very favorite Brooklyn spaces: Mile End, which overtook Barney Greengrass for best deli. Run in a modern sliver of a shop by Rae Cohen and Noah Bernamoff — who actually called out Katz’s over attention to detail in the Times many months back, leading food writer/videoblogger Josh Ozersky to track him down for comment — the place is based on the Montreal delis Bernamoff grew up with in Montreal: smoked meat sandwiches (like New York pastrami, but… um, not), the fresh cut French fry and gravy and Cheddar cheese curd concoction known as poutine, salami sandwiches, housemade pickles and purple cabbage slaw from local produce, thick cold borscht topped with a lovely spoonful of even thicker sour cream, and tiny, chewy bagels (with or without smoked salmon) imported directly from the Quebecois city. (We know, we know, that’s a little anti-locavore, but we’re thinking about buying carbon offsets every time we eat one.)

Those special slabs of Montreal smoked meat, by the way, sold out so fast in the days after Mile End first opened that the owners had to close — always with a few sad tweets of the situation — by mid-afternoon. Now they’ve got a smoking operation nearby in Gowanus and like the rest of their menu, with each visit we keep thinking it gets better and better. One day there’s smoked mackerel sandwiches on soft housemade buns with a few crunchy bites of green pickles and mayo, beer from Montreal’s Deux de Ciel brewery, homemade sweet cheese-stuffed pastries from Noah’s grandmother’s recipes, onion-topped pletzels with a little tub of chopped liver sprinkled with sea salt, a smoked meat burger, and what has to be the best hot dog we’ve tasted in recent years: topped with pickles and onions it’s their own 100% beef creation, so juicy and fatty one bite happily grease-stains the soft house-baked bun that’s almost worth the order alone. Now if they just stayed open till 2 a.m., they’d really be giving Katz’s a run for the money.

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