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Panaderia El Dorado – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Panaderia El Dorado on the intersection of Broadway and Gibson

Over the Mountains of the Moon, down the Valley of the Shadow, ride, boldly ride…if you seek for El Dorado.”
~
Edgar Allan Poe

In the 16th century when the Spaniards reached South America, natives regaled them with tales about a tribe with profligate wealth living high in the Andes.  According to raconteurs, when a new chieftain ascended to the throne, he was covered in gold dust.  Gold and precious jewels were then tossed into a lake to appease a god who lived underwater.  The Spaniards called this golden chief “El Dorado” which translates to “the gilded one.”  Legends of El Dorado fueled the Spaniards insatiable lust for gold, an effort they pursued for more than two centuries.  Though they found great wealth, they never did find El Dorado nor were they ever sated. 

Duke City diners don’t have to go far to find El Dorado where treasures untold can be found.  Panaderia El Dorado is located at the terminus of Gibson Boulevard where it intersects with Broadway. Essentially where Gibson ends, the Panaderia’s parking lot begins.  Long-timers remember this site as having housed everything from Chinese restaurants to failed Mexican restaurants.  With more than six years of pleasing its patrons, Panaderia El Dorado has outlived several previous tenants.

Some of the luscious baked goods available at El Dorado

While it’s only natural to suspect this humble Panaderia is named for the golden treasures prepared on the old-fashioned Mexican oven, the bakery actually takes its name from the Dorado family: proprietors Daniel, Juan and Roberto.  In 2008, the Panaderia was showcased in a community development conference held in Albuquerque as an example of what drive, initiative and a good product can accomplish when given a little opportunity and help with a little start-up capital. 

The instant you open the door and step into the venerable edifice, you’re enveloped in a fragrant bouquet of  pastry goods wafting toward you.  The source of these olfactory-arousing siren’s call is a pastry case jam-packed with pastries and breads of all shapes, colors and descriptions.  It’s a veritable treasure trove of gold and jewel-colored deliciousness, so inviting and attractive you might suffer involuntary (and embarrassing) salivation as you contemplate which one (or four) you’ll have. 

The old-fashioned Mexican horno in which baked goods are created

These baked treasures are prepared on an horno-like oven you’ll espy as you place your order.  It’s an old-fashioned and very traditional Mexican oven, the type of which are used throughout the Land of Montezuma.  A long wooden bakery paddle is used to insert and extricate baked goods from the oven.  In addition to the wondrous pastries, Panaderia El Dorado bakes bread and dozens of flour tortillas every day–and not the artificially tasting machine-made variety.  The griddle-made gems are absolutely delicious. 

These tortillas may be purchased by the dozen or you can enjoy them on at a time in the form of behemoth burritos.  A small menu on the wall offers six burritos: picadillo, chicharrones, rajas con queso, rojo, verde and almuerzo.  At well south of four dollars (as of this writing), they’re much less expensive than most restaurant burritos and better than most.  While cumin isn’t used on either the red or green chile, it is used on the pork inside the rojo burrito.  The chicharrones aren’t the deep-fried crackling pork nuggets New Mexicans love, but the tripe-like strips served in Mexico.   The menu also offers menudo in small or large sizes.  The only beverage available is Coke.

The Almerzo Burrito with ham, bacon, sausage and chorizo smothered in green chile

In terms of ambiance, Panaderia El Dorado offers an interesting melange of Catholic iconography and perhaps the city’s largest collection of framed black and white photos and posters of General Francisco “Pancho” Villa.  Seating is more functional than it is comfortable.  The most uncomfortable aspect of dining at the Panaderia, however, is the stifling heat.  If you visit on a sweltering summer day, the lack of air conditioning will certainly be noticeable.

During our inaugural visit, two terms often used in Mexico could be used to describe how my friend Bill Resnik and I ordered.  Those two words are machismo and bravado.  Assuming such inexpensive burritos would also be small, we ordered two apiece.  One burrito would feed a small family, especially if smothered with the chile rojo (red) or chile verde (green).  This Panaderia doesn’t scrimp in stuffing its burritos.

The Almuerzo Burrito Smothered with Chile Rojo and Queso

The best bet for meat lovers is the Almuerzo burrito with potatoes, eggs, cheese and your choice of ham, bacon, sausage and chorizo–or better still, enjoy all four meats.  Almuerzo, a Spanish term for lunch, is a bit of a misnomer since the four aforementioned meats are just as good during desayuno (breakfast).  Your immediate impression is “wow, this huge.”  Your next utterance will be “wow, this is good!”  The green chile has a very pleasant piquancy, more bite than chile used at most New Mexican restaurants.  It’s also very flavorful with sweet-savory flavorful reminders that chile is more fruit than vegetable.  The four meats are plentiful, all perfectly prepared with the characteristic smokiness of bacon taking center stage, but it may have been the potatoes with which we were most impressed.  These are not blandish potatoes which have sat around for a while before being served.  They have a fresh flavor with the occasional crispy caramelized bits.

Another burrito which surprised us is the burrito with rajas and queso.  Rajas translates to “strips,” but are actually sliced Poblano peppers.  Queso, of course, is cheese.  Poblano peppers warrant 1,500 – 2,500 units on the Scoville chile pepper heat index which means they’re actually more piquant than New Mexico and Big Jim chiles.  It isn’t piquancy you’ll notice, but how nicely roasted and sweet they are.  They’re also surprisingly delicious as in “can’t wait til the next bite” delicious.  The queso is a Mexican queso blanco (white cheese) which proves a perfect complement to the chile.  This is a burrito you probably shouldn’t have smothered because the roasted Poblano flavor profile needs no amelioration.

Two of the magnificent pastries

The pastry case is never far from view or out of mind so even those of you with iron willpower will succumb to its lure.  Bring a friend and share whatever pastries you decide on.  Frankly, every aspect of Panaderia El Dorado is meant to be shared.  It’s a great place to share with friends and family who have a passion for wonderful Mexican pastries and some of the very best burritos in Albuquerque.

Panaderia El Dorado
2125 Broadway, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 247-2979
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 24 June 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Almerzo Burrito with ham, bacon, sausage and chorizo; Rajas con Queso Burrito; Almuerzo Burrito with sausage and green chile; Baked goods

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Hartford Square – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Hartford Square, a delightful cafe on Broadway just north of Central

The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star.”
~ Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Dante Alighieri’s 14th century poem Divine Comedy postulated the existence of nine circles of Hell, each circle appropriate to the sins of the damned.  The fourth circle, for example, is reserved for hoarders and wasters whose punishment is to spend eternal life rolling giant boulders at one another.  While gastronomy is a virtue and not a sin, were there to have been a circle in Hell for gastronomes, there’s no doubt it would have been to spend eternity eating in chain restaurants where we would be subjected to the tedium and monotony of forevermore eating homogeneous foods.  It would certainly make prophetic my words “I’ll be damned if I ever eat at Chili’s or Applebee’s.”

Gastronomes need the spice of life that is variety.  Unlike gluttons who eat and drink excessively or voraciously, (and therefore spend eternal life in the fourth circle of Hell where they wallow in muck and mire) gastronomes need not consume food in large quantities.  Instead, we (and I’m including the faithful readers of this blog here) need the diversity that comes from foods with varying food profiles.  We need restaurants like Hartford Square.

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The very active exhibition kitchen at Hartford Square

Fittingly Hartford Square’s motto is “variety is the spice of life” and it’s not a motto that graces the menu and its Web site solely for the sake of pandering to an adventurous demographic.  It’s the restaurant’s modus operandi.  Hartford Square changes its menu every week, based on what is abundant and available.  For gastronomes whose favorite dish is the next new adventure in deliciousness, it’s a formula that works.  We like being surprised and rather than fretting the absence of a favorite dish, we celebrate the new dish which took its place. Visiting Hartford Square is almost like visiting a new restaurant every week.

The menu is simple and short.  It’s the antithesis of the compendium menus which promise all things to all diners and fall woefully short.  The only aspect of the menu that’s even remotely formulaic is that you’ll always find outstanding pastries, soups, salads and main course dishes.  Hartford Square embraces farm-to-table concepts; most of its food is local (often organic), seasonal and healthy.  Local sources–Kyzer Farms, Michael Thomas Coffee, Chispas Farms, Old Windmill Dairy and more–are exemplars of quality, freshness and social consciousness.

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Pumpkin Donut and Michael Thomas Coffee

Hartford Square is ensconced in a 1,200 square-foot ground-floor storefront at the Belvedere Urban Courtyard condos to the immediate north of the old Albuquerque High.  The restaurant is wider than it is deep with the exhibition kitchen occupying more than half of the space.  To maximize seating, a bar-like counter with stools provides the best views in the house, allowing guests to watch the assiduous staff preparing various dishes in small batches throughout the day.  If great fortune is smiling on you, that might mean warm scones just out-of-the-oven.

Hartford Square is named for founder-owner Sarah Hartford, a New Mexico resident for two decades but with roots in New England.  On any given visit, you might see East Coast influences throughout her menu.  You will see a distinctive menu unlike that of any other restaurant in Albuquerque.  That might even mean no red or green chile on any dish–even on burritos.  This is a vive la difference approach gastronomes, much as we love our red and green, have embraced.

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Boston Baked Beans with Piccalilli Relish and Macaroni & Cheese

The first thing your eyes will probably fixate upon when you walk into Hartford Square is a glass case showcasing pastries and main dishes.  Then if your eyes need confirmation as to what they’re ogling, menus are scrawled overhead, describing each dish.  Atop the gleaming steel counter where you order as well as on top of the pastry case, you’ll espy covered pastry plates so tempting they may evoke wanton lust (and if you don’t curb that lust, maybe a future trip to the second circle of Dante’s Hell).  Pastry chef Acacia Prechtel is the talented creator of the restaurant’s artisinal pastries, all so good you might be prompted to propose marriage to her if not to one of those pumpkin donuts. 

The house coffee is sourced from Michael Thomas Coffee Roasters on Carlisle.  It’s a very highly regarded coffee which author Andrea Feucht lauded in an article for London’s The Guardian.  Not being quite the coffee connoisseur Andrea is, to me the coffee didn’t have the smoothness and richness of my favorite coffees at Cafe Bella.  Ironically, it was a glowing recommendation from Cafe Bella’s affable proprietor Michael Gonzales which prompted my inaugural visit to Hartford Square.  Where the coffee did is job superbly is as a wonderful complement to the best pumpkin donuts we’ve had anywhere.  The coffee and the donuts brought out flavor notes in one another we didn’t discern on their own.

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Stuffed Mushrooms

Having lived for two years in a Boston suburb, it made sense for old-times-sake that I’d try the Boston Baked Beans (simmered all day in molasses, mustard, cider vinegar, bacon and salt pork) and Piccalilli relish which somewhat countermands the sweetness of the beans.  Despite the city’s “Beantown” sobriquet, not all Bostonians like Boston Baked Beans which are often almost as sweet as the candy-coated peanuts which share their name.  Hartford Square’s rendition is among the very best I’ve had anywhere even without the housemade Piccalilli relish made from pickled vegetables and spices.  This is a relish so good it should be bottled and sold. 

When you order Macaroni & Cheese you don’t always know what you’re going to get.  Sometimes the dish is creamy and moist.  At other times, it’s got a good cheesy caramelization and crust.  The latter is how our macaroni & cheese was served.  Frankly it’s the way we like it because it generally means you get a stronger cheese flavor, one not diluted by cream or milk.  If we wanted runny mac & cheese, we’d open up a box of Kraft dinner (because Kraft dinner will never cross my lips, that’s a lie that will land me in the eighth circle of Hell.)

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Chicken Pot Pie

If you’re a fan of fleshy fungi, you’ll love Hartford Square’s stuffed mushrooms, individually priced mushroom caps stuffed generously with locally sourced Italian sausage.  The wonderful contrast between moist, woodsy mushrooms and nicely seasoned, tangy sausage is memorable.  To keep peace in the family you’ll want to order at least two each for every diner at your table.

Without having paused to photograph the chicken pot pie, we might not have noticed the six-petaled flowery display on the pie’s top crust.  That’s how eager we were to confirm that it tasted as good as it smelled and looked.  Puncture that crust with your fork and fragrant steam escapes, a portend to deliciousness.  The chicken pot pie is moist and unctuous, a panoply of smaller than bite sized pieces of tender chicken and fresh vegetables (carrots, potatoes, celery).

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Lemon Poppy seed Scones and Cinnamon-Apple Streusel Coffeecake

We’ve had scones all over England as well as in New England and have uncovered scones in the Land of Enchantment that are competitive with the best.  Hartford Square’s lemon poppy seed scones are right up there with the scones at Sugar Nymph’s in Peñasco and at Albuquerque’s Daily Grind.  That’s rarefied company.  What makes these scones so wonderful is their feather-light texture and the fact that they’re not overly sweet.  Best, we got them right out-of-the-oven when they were warm and delectable. 

A commonality among the pastries (aside from their deliciousness) at Hartford Square is that none are overly sweet.  They’re all imbued with natural flavors.  On the cinnamon-apple streusel coffeecake, it’s a pleasure to see real apples sliced into small cubes and not a surfeit of pectin from a box.  While pectin is a naturally occurring thickener, its gelatinous qualities can be off-putting when pectic is used to excess.  The streusel is moist and delicious, as good as any we’ve had in Albuquerque. 

If Dante Alighieri can posit nine levels of Hell with each circle appropriate to the sins of the damned, surely there are at least nine levels of Heaven. Gastronomes will be in one of them. So will Hartford Square.

Hartford Square
300 Broadway Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 265-4933
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 18 January 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Pumpkin Donuts, Lemon Poppyseed Scones, Cinnamon-Apple Streusel Coffeecake, Boston Baked Beans with Piccalilli Relish; Macaroni & Cheese; Stuffed Mushrooms; Chicken Pot Pie


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Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery

You see, Elaine, the key to eating a black and white cookie
is that you wanna get some black and some white in each bite.
Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate.
And yet still somehow racial harmony eludes us.
If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved.
~Jerry Seinfeld

While creative personnel and television promos touted Seinfeld as the “show about nothing,” the truth is every episode of the half-hour comedy offered a number of complex plots, sub-plots and plot twists. So much of the hilarity centered around food moments that readers of Chow declared Seinfeld the “show about food.” It makes sense. In its nine year run, Seinfeld introduced or reintroduced into American pop culture and vernacular such foods and food terms as pastrami, the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats; the really big salad; make and bake our own pizza; vegetable lasagna; Papaya King hot dogs; the soup Nazi and many, many more. 

While Albuquerque has become increasingly cosmopolitan, it wasn’t until the August, 2013 launch of Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery that Duke City diners could discover for themselves some of the iconic foods mentioned on the “show about food.” Located on the southeast corner of Amherst and Silver in the Nob Hill district, Nosh fills one of the food voids most commonly lamented by readers of this blog. It is an authentic Jewish deli and bakery with some contemporary variations on tradition. Those slight variations don’t include red or green chile; not a smidgeon is to be found. A Duke City restaurant not serving chile is as rare as, well…a Jewish deli has been.

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The Amherst (Pastrami with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and coleslaw on rye) with a side of fruit and a pickle spear

Step ten feet into the cozy, 1,000 square-foot eatery and you’ll run into the counter where you place your order from menus hanging on the wall. From that counter, you’re witness to the heart and soul of the operation—the open kitchen and bakery where deliciousness is prepared. Your eyes will quickly train on baked goods sealed in clear wrapping and you’ll make a mental note to buy a loaf or three on your way out. You’ll take in the pastry case where luscious desserts will tempt and test your willpower. You’ll marvel that so much can get done in such a relatively small space.

The diminutive dining room means seating is in personal space proximity. Weather permitting, al fresco dining on sidewalk tables is also an option. Nosh also seems to do a robust take-out business. Breakfast (until 11AM) and lunch (after 11AM) menus include a couple of cross-over items (potato latkes and matzo ball soup) which are served on both sides of 11AM, but if you’re looking for Challah bread French toast for lunch or a pastrami sandwich for breakfast, you’re out of luck.   Whether you visit for breakfast or for lunch, your visit to a Jewish deli wouldn’t be complete without Dr. Brown’s soda (ginger ale, black cherry, cream soda, root beer), alas in a can.  Better still, have a chocolate egg cream, which despite its name contains no eggs.  An egg cream is a blend of seltzer water, chocolate syrup and milk.  It’s a foamy beverage which isn’t overly sweet.

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Pastrami on double-baked rye with deli mustard, onion rings and a pickle spear

19 October 2013: Our inaugural visit was after 11AM which meant pastrami, which Jerry Seinfeld’s friend George Costanza declared “the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats.” Pastrami has been a passion for me from the moment I discovered it in the Boston area half a lifetime ago. It’s not something most of us would consider incorporating into our bedtime rituals as George Costanza did, but for those of us hooked on pastrami, there is no better deli offering. As do the great delis in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, Nosh makes its own pastrami. It’s a pain-staking process obviously undertaken with love.

19 October 2013: Nosh’s pastrami sandwich is hand sliced and served on double-baked rye with a side of grainy deli mustard. Compared to most Duke City sandwich makers which scrimp on meats, Nosh’s sandwiches are ungashtupt (Yiddish for overstuffed). The pastrami is lean and peppery with that distinctive deliciousness imbued only on pastrami. Nestled on a double-baked rye with personality and a smear of Ba-Tampte (Yiddish for tasty) deli mustard, it’s a sandwich which just might inspire carnal yearning.

Club Sandwich with onion rings

Club Sandwich with onion rings

19 October 2013: As with New Mexican chile, pastrami needs no amelioration as it is incomparably fabulous on its own, but if you want to let your hair down, you’ll want to try Nosh’s Amherst, pastrami (or corned beef) with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and coleslaw on rye. What makes this sandwich sumptuously successful is that the pastrami is still clearly the star. It’s not overwhelmed by the sweet coleslaw or the boldness of the Russian dressing. All sandwiches are served with a pickle spear and your choice of potato salad, coleslaw, onion rings, house or sweet potato fries, or fruit.  The onion rings are strictly an out-of-the-bag variety. 

16 December 2013:  Nosh’s nearest approximation to a skyscraper sized sandwich is the Club Sandwich, a behemoth made on a canvas of lightly toasted Challah bread.  Nestled between two slightly sweet slices of the egg-rich bread are a tangle of roasted turkey, pastrami, avocado, red onions, tomato, lettuce, Cheddar (or Swiss) and horseradish.  It’s a terrific sandwich though this fire-eater would have appreciated even more horse radish.  The vegetables–especially the avocado and tomato–are so fresh that this would have been a great sandwich even without the meats.  The meats made it just that much better.

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Matzo ball Soup: Chicken noodle soup with a traditional matzo ball

19 October 2013: In a classic Seinfeld episode, George Costanza tells a woman he loves her but is unsure whether or not she heard him.  Ever the nurturing friend, Seinfeld’s “consolation’ to George was “that’s one giant matzo ball hanging out there.”  Later George ordered matzo ball soup.  At Nosh you can order matzo ball soup for breakfast or lunch.  It’s good anytime.  If you aren’t familiar with or haven’t tried them, matzo balls are a dumpling of sorts.  They’re considered a Jewish comfort food favorite.  The soup is made from chicken stock, short noodles and vegetables.   Save for being just a bit under-salted (my preference), it’s a very good, very healthful chicken noodle soup. 

16 December 2013: One of the favorite dishes of my friend Sr. Plata (a proud half Sephardi Jew, who grew up in Los Angeles a mere four blocks from Nosh founding owner Alisa Young) is noodle kugel, a dish which might surprise the unacculturated.  After the first time they have it, they might well become addicted.  Sometimes made as a savory entree and more often as a dessert, it’s certainly a versatile dish.  The Nosh version is made as a dessert.  It’s a dish of baked noodles and cream cheese layered in a pan and topped with confectioner’s sugar.  The unmistakable flavor of orange is prominent in Nosh’s kugel, atop of which is a dollop of butter and which is accompanied by syrup, neither of which are needed.  Sr. Plata thoroughly enjoyed Nosh’s rendition.  The question is would he have enjoyed Frank Costanza’s version?

Noodle Kugel

Noodle Kugel

19 October 2013: “You can’t beat the babka.”  That was Jerry Seinfeld’s assessment of the chocolate babka at a New York City deli, but which might also apply to the chocolate babka at Nosh.  Sometimes considered bread and sometimes considered a cake, chocolate babka has qualities of both.  At Nosh it’s sliced like a bread, but its chocolate-cinnamon amalgam says cake.  The babka is moist and dense with a flavor profile unlike any other cake you can have.  You really can’t beat the babka. 

19 October 2013: The black and white cookie, dubbed by Jerry Seinfeld as “two races of flavor living side by side,” is a soft, shortbread type cookie iced on one half with vanilla fondant and on the other half by chocolate fondant.  While President Obama may dubbed it “the unity cookie,” just try sneaking a bite from a loved one’s cookie.  You’ll be risking life and limb. To preserve peace at your table, order two (or six). 

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Chocolate Babka and a Black & White Cookie

16 December 2013: Rugelach, a Yiddish word meaning “little corners” may not have made it onto an episode of Seinfeld, but it’s available at Nosh where you can purchase them in quantities of one to a dozen.  For that Albuquerque’s pastry paramours should be very grateful.  Rugelach is a a rolled triangle of dough around a fruit filling.  The filling–Nosh uses apricot–is almost caramelized, but it’s not overly sweet.  It’s a wonderful pastry.

19 October 2013: It wouldn’t be a true Jewish deli if bagels weren’t on the menu.  Nosh imports its bagel dough from a kosher bakery in New York.  Whether you have them with butter or with cream cheese, you’ll enjoy the dense, chewy texture and flavor.  The bakery showcases a number of breads, albeit not a marble rye such as the one Jerry Seinfeld swiped from an old woman.  The Challah bread is artistic in its braided beauty and absolutely delicious on its own, with a sandwich or on toast.

A half dozen Ruggelach

A half dozen Rugelach

Those of us who didn’t grow up with a Jewish bubbe (Yiddish for grandmother) may have missed out on Jewish cooking, but frequent visits to the Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery will make sure we make up for it. Now, there will be naysayers who declare Nosh falls short of their favorite New York or Los Angeles delis they’ve frequented for decades. Instead, we should all celebrate that Nosh has the chutzpah (Yiddish for boldness coupled with supreme self-confidence) to open a Jewish Deli in Albuquerque where transplants will ultimately make those comparisons.

Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery
116 Amherst, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 919-8022
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 16 December 2013
1st VISIT: 19 October 2013
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Amherst, Pastrami Sandwich, Matza Ball Soup, Chocolate Babka, Black & White Cookie, Bagel, Challah Bread, Club Sandwich, Noodle Kugel, Rugelach, Chocolate Egg Cream


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