Sherman’s Deli & Bakery – Palm Springs & Palm Desert, California
Not everyone appreciated my friend Bob’s stark honesty as much as I did. For nearly twelve years, Bob was my most trusted source for information on the Santa Fe dining scene. He was also a huge advocate for my writing, even when his reaction to one of my particularly “long way around” missives was “what?.” From a style perspective, he was a “get to the point” guy while your humble blogger sometimes (okay, okay, always) takes a circuitous, raconteur’s route to get somewhere.
Bob often chided me for not liking cumin on New Mexican food, once telling me “when you fault a place for cumin it immediately moves up on my list of places to try.” Perhaps because of the scarcity of just-off-the-boat seafood in our landlocked state, he frequented Pappadeaux which I told him for my tastes should be renamed “pappa don’t.” For years I tried getting Bob to submit comments to the blog (“to elevate the dialogue” I pleaded), but he preferred our one-on-one conversations.
Our differences of opinion extended far beyond restaurants. A former executive at Universal Studios, Bob couldn’t understand my high regard for the irreverent comedy Blazing Saddles. His tastes were far more artistic and less sophomoric. We didn’t always agree on which candidates for political office were the lesser evils, but concurred that the lesser of two evils is still evil. One thing upon which we always agreed was the dearth of real New York style delis in the Land of Enchantment. It’s a subject about which we commiserated frequently.
Having lived in both Los Angeles and New York, Bob missed the piled high pastrami and behemoth brisket sandwiches offered by delis at both conurbations. When we last broke bread together (he finally talked me into joining him at Pappadeaux), he confided his desire to escape Santa Fe’s winters and move to Palm Springs which he told me had a number of authentic delis, the type of which he loved and knew I would, too.
My friend Bob made it to Palm Springs six months before I did. He passed away in June, 2017. When we stepped into Sherman’s Deli & Bakery, I told my Kim “Bob is here and he’s happy that we’re here, too.” I missed my friend and wished we were enjoying the pastrami together…although it’s a given we would have disagreed on something, perhaps whether or not caraway seeds have a place on rye bread (I’ll take the pro to his con). Despite our differences of opinion, Bob and I were both, in his words, “your mileage may vary” guys. We liked and respected one another so much that our differences just made for more interesting conversation.
It’s unlikely we’d get much conversation in at Sherman’s. For one thing, it’s a very loud, very crowded restaurant. Both the interior dining room and outdoor, dog-friendly patio are rather on the noisy side. Besides, who wants to talk much when you’ve got a mountainous meal in front of you? Were I able to get a word in, I would probably have mentioned that a framed photograph of him should have been hanging on the walls beside the numerous glitterati (Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Barry Manilow, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Rita Hayworth, Red Skelton, Marilyn Monroe and countless other celebrities) who have frequented Sherman’s. His retort would probably have been to remind me that his role wasn’t “star,” but “star-maker.”
Sherman’s is an old-fashioned kosher-style Jewish deli to which savvy patrons pilgrimage from all over the world. Sherman Harris launched his eponymous restaurant in 1963 when Palm Springs was the playground for Hollywood icons. Harris himself became a Palm Springs institution for his restaurant and philanthropic endeavors, earning a star on Palm Springs’ Walk of Stars on Palm Canyon Drive. Today, Sherman’s is owned and operated by his children Sam Harris and Janet Harris who have carried on the famous Sherman’s legacy of great food and great customer service. While Bob, an old friend, was the first to tell me about Sherman’s several years ago, confirmation on its greatness came from Loren Silver, big brother to my friend Sr. Plata. Loren raved about the freshly baked breads and breakfasts.
When Food Network celebrity Guy Fieri roared into Palm Desert in his signature red hot Camaro for a taping of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (the episode first aired on May 12, 2017), one of his three area destinations was Sherman’s Deli & Bakery, albeit not the original, but a satellite just a few miles from the flagship. In an episode entitled “Turkey, Taters and Dogs,” “Triple D” showcased Sherman’s turkey pastrami and latkes (more on these treasures below). Fieri raved about Sherman’s delicious rye bread, up to 100 loaves a day baked in-house. He also helped prepare the turkey pastrami, a two day process (24 hours of brining followed by 24 hours wrapped up in spices, followed by it’s final destination: the smoker).
27 December 2017 and 2018: Having been privileged to serve as a judge for the Roadrunner Food Bank’s Souperbowl (the next event will be held on Saturday, January 27th, 2018 from 11 am to 2 pm.) on eight occasions, I’ve enjoyed some of the very best soups prepared and served by many of the Duke City area’s very best restaurateurs. One soup never served to our esteemed panel has been sweet and sour cabbage with beef, a Jewish staple for generations. It’s long been one of my favorite soups though I didn’t have a bubbie to prepare it for me. Sherman’s sublime version is served hot and in plentiful portions. Shards of beef, tender white cabbage, pearlescent onions and endless delicious define this elixir about which Sherman’s says “this outstanding soup is one that has made our reputation what it is today.”
27 December 2017: Another soup not yet featured at the Souperbowl is an old-fashioned matzo ball soup, often considered the quintessential Jewish comfort food. Made with chicken stock and matzo balls, a type of dumpling made by mixing chicken fat, matzo meal, water, and spices to taste, it’s a popular choice for Passover, but some of us like it all year-long. Sherman’s matzo ball soup is served in a swimming pool-sized bowl and arrives at your table steaming hot. It’s a soup so good you’d order it on one of Palm Springs’ many sweltering summer days.
27 December 2017: You might think there’s a shortage of beef across the Land of Enchantment considering the parsimonious portions of meats with which New Mexico’s restaurants adorn their sandwiches. Clara Beller’s “where’s the beef” lament should be the battle cry of diners who have got to feel cheated by meats folded over so as to give the appearance of more meat. A typical sandwich at Sherman’s has several times more meat than most sandwiches in Albuquerque. The #17 (corned beef, pastrami and turkey with cole slaw and Thousand Island dressing on buttery, grilled light rye), for example, is a skyscraper-sized behemoth with perhaps as much as three-quarters of a pound of each of the three meats. It’s really three sandwiches in one. Understandably, my favorite was the pastrami which is sliced thin and brined beautifully with caramelized edges.
27 December 2017: My Kim’s choice, another wonderful sandwich was constructed with pastrami and corned beef with cole slaw on grilled rye bread. Sans turkey, this sandwich better showcased the sweet tanginess of the cole slaw, a moist, creamy version. It also gave us the opportunity to better appreciate the light rye with the caraway seeds my friend Becky Mercuri appreciates on New York rye. Sherman’s rye comes unadorned, but you have your choice of mustard–either Beaver brand deli mustard or honey mustard. Both are terrific. Because Sherman’s sandwiches are so large, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to open your mouth wide enough to enjoy them as you would other sandwiches. These are best enjoyed with knife and fork or deconstructed. That pastrami is heavenly…where my friend Bob is now enjoying his.
27 December 2017: If the term “latka” conjures images of the television sitcom character Latka Gravas, you need to visit an authentic Jewish kosher-style deli…and soon! Latka (more commonly spelled “latke”), traditional Jewish potato pancakes often served during Hanukkah, are a specialty of Sherman’s (which graciously shows how they’re made on this video). Sherman’s latkas are the very best we’ve ever had! Served with apple sauce and sour cream, the latkas are absolutely addictive, so good you won’t want to share them. They’re crispy (almost caramelized) on the outside and fluffy and light on the inside. Sherman’s thinks so highly of their latka that they offer a specialty sandwich in which a generous serving of Corned Beef or Pastrami is made into a sandwich with two homemade potato latkes in place of bread. We had our latka on the side, but could easily see the appeal of latkes in place of bread.
27 December 2017: My Kim jokes that my favorite part of “adultery” (her wordplay for adulthood) is not having to wait until after a meal to have dessert. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for me to have dessert before enjoying any savory fare. The temptation to do so was certainly rife at Sherman’s which has one of the most alluring dessert cases we’ve ever seen with slabs of beauteously frosted cakes, pulchritudinous pies, craveable cookies and sumptuous specialty items such as bobka, cannoli, sticky buns, cinnamon rolls and Boston Cream pie (which I blame for my “freshman fifteen” after having lived in the Boston area for two years right out of high school). Sherman’s rendition is as good as many decadent cake slices I enjoyed in Boston. Layered with custard and topped with chocolate ganache, the Boston cream pie is as moist and tender as any in the Bay State.
Sherman’s Deli – Palm, Desert, California
27 December 2018: Exactly one year after our inaugural visit to Sherman’s Deli in Palm Springs, we made our way to its sister restaurant in Palm Desert. The Palm Desert restaurant is quite a bit smaller, but the long lines of guests waiting for a seat to come open is no less short. Whether it’s the presence of a debonair dachshund or the pangs of hunger, our half hour wait flew by in conversation with other guests…just as it had last year. My wait was made more pleasant by a greeting and friendly pat on the shoulder from owner Janet Harris. She is not only very nice, but quite stunning.
The menu for both Sherman Deli restaurants is identical. Both serve breakfast all day long and have separate “deluxe dinner” menus offering such favorites as meatloaf, half roasted chicken, liver and onions and even stuffed cabbage. Deluxe dinners aren’t served until 4PM and are available until closing time. Sherman’s is the type of restaurant you’d enjoy just as much on a 117-degree summer day as you would on a 70-degree December afternoon. You might not eat as much under the sweltering heat as you will on a cooler winter day, but you’ll savor every bite.
27 December 2018: Howard Wolowitz’s mother on the Emmy-winning sitcom The Big Bang Theory never appeared on camera; she just screamed at her son from other rooms in their house or over the phone. Mrs. Wolowitz was depicted as a stereotypical controlling Jewish mother. Gout-ridden and and food-obsessed, she loved to cook and eat. One of her favorite creations was turbrisgefil—a turkey stuffed with brisket stuffed with gefilte fish, which Howard described as “not as good as it sounds.” Sherman’s doesn’t serve turbisquefil, but it’s got some of the best brisket you’ll ever find.
Just because a combination brisket-pastrami sandwich isn’t on the menu doesn’t mean Sherman’s won’t prepare one for you. Our server Josh admitted I wasn’t the first person to request such a creation. Picture a thick, triple-decker sandwich layered with generous mounds of moist brisket and lean pastrami as well as slices of Swiss cheese, crisp lettuce and juicy tomato. It’s a pulchritudinous pairing too big for anyone’s (except maybe some politicians) mouth to bite into without at least a bit of smooshing down. If you want to liven it up a little (not that it’s needed), dab on a little Beaver mustard. This is a terrific sandwich though had the pastrami been more fatty, it would have been even better.
27 December 2018: Whenever my Kim orders something different, something entirely “un-Kim,” she jokingly asks “aren’t you proud of me?”. My Kim has a fiercely independent streak and orders what she wants regardless of a restaurant’s reputation for something specific and especially regardless of what I recommend. She orders what she likes. Until our visit to Sherman’s, I had no idea she liked bologna. Bologna is one of my favorite deli meats, the thicker the better. Barbecue bologna is my favorite of all the barbecue dishes we’ve enjoyed in Memphis, Tennessee, one of the country’s recognized bastions of barbecue. My Kim never orders bologna. She doesn’t eat it at home and has even turned up her nose when I fry a thick slab-sized piece.
So why would she order bologna and eggs after lobbying to visit Sherman’s for more pastrami? It’s one of those mystifying Mars and Venus things I’ll never get, but I did get several bites of her breakfast dish and was surprised at just how good the combination plays out. The eggs are scrambled with translucent onions and a generous amount of bologna sliced into bite-sized morsels. Sherman’s serves an all-beef bologna with a nice spice blend which enlivens the scrambled eggs very well. Whether this one bologna experience bodes a midlife change in eating habits for my Kim remains to be seen. For now, I’m just proud she tried something new and radically different.
27 December 2018: She wasn’t quite as “experimental” when it came to dessert. Though Sherman’s dessert case is one of the most tempting we’ve seen anywhere, it was the cheesecake which beckoned most. Unlike her “variety is the spice of life” husband whose favorite cheesecakes are adorned with fruits, nuts, sauces, mustards, and whatever else my fertile mind can think of, my Kim prefers her cheesecake unadorned. Sherman’s cheesecake needs absolutely no adornment. It’s rich, creamy, dense, smooth and absolutely delicious with a thin crust. Sometimes you can’t improve on simplicity.
27 December 2108: Jewish foods are often tied to historical events. The Seder plate, for example, consists of five or six different Passover foods, each symbolizing a unique element of the Exodus story. Rugelach, a popular Jewish pastry, also has its genesis in historical events. According to tradition, the pastry originated in commemoration of 1783 expulsion of the Turks from Austria. The crescent shape of the pastry mirrors the emblem of the Ottoman Empire, so people could symbolically devour their enemy. Sherman’s offers four types of rugelach: chocolate, raspberry, apricot and cinnamon. Perhaps only the dessert in Sherman’s pastry case that’s smaller are the macaroons. Small in size, huge in deliciousness. That’s what Sherman’s rugelach are.
Sherman’s Deli & Bakery is an old-fashioned kosher-style deli, the type of which my friend Bob and I would wander in the desert for forty years to visit. It’s an outstanding deli and bakery.
Sherman’s Deli & Bakery
401 East Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, California
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 27 December 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: Corned Beef, Pastrami, and Turkey Sandwich; Corned Beef, Pastrami & Swiss on Light Rye; Latka; Homemade Sweet & Sour Cabbage With Beef; Boston Cream Pie
RESTAURANT REVIEW #1015
73-161 Country Club Drive
Palm Desert, California
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 27 December 2018
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Brisket of Beef and Pastrami Sandwich, Eggs and Bologna Breakfast, Cheesecake, Chocolate and Raspberry Rugelach