D.Z. Akins serves up classic Jewish deli

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Jaclyn Levine, Staff Writer

When you’re in the mood for Jewish-style deli, D.Z. Akins in La Mesa is the only place to go. They serve all the Jewish classics: pastrami, corned beef, blintzes, knishes, bagels and lox, and matzo ball soup.

If you’ve never had a knish, it’s a hot, crusty slab of potatoes that are mashed with sauteed onion in an oven baked crust. The knish definitely falls into the comfort-food category, it’s hot, hearty, and creamy. For me, the aroma of cooking onions and potatoes instantly turns to memories of my grandma baking knishes in her apron. Homemade knishes are an all-day project, so luckily D.Z. Akins makes great ones.

The ultimate comfort food however, is the chicken soup with matzo balls, also known as Jewish penicillin. I’m not sure if this is just an old Jewish wives’ tale, but you will feel all warm and cozy after a bowl. Matzo balls are made from matzo meal and egg white, and are hand-formed. The soup’s broth has a savory chicken flavor, and on the matzo ball scale of density, (from light and fluffy to the kind that are so heavy it’ll hurt, if thrown at you), these are delicious, mid-range matzo balls. The only way I can describe the flavor is to say that it’s wheat-y in the best way possible. You can also order kreplach in your soup, which might not sound like something good, but it’s really a tasty Jewish wonton. The slices of carrot in the soup were three and a half inches long (yes, I measured my leftovers at home). They seemed curiously large; I needed to know.

Even though the menu at D.Z. Akins is absolutely huge, with hundreds of choices, I don’t need to look at it because I always want the same thing every time I go – the corned beef on seedless rye with deli mustard. The corned beef which is hot and piled high on the bread, is lean (without a lot of attached fat). Mom always says “it’s the fat that gives it such good flavor.” I think the lean corned beef is very flavorful without little attached gobs of glossy, squishy, fat. The slices of beef are not too moist, and not too dry. The seedless rye is soft with a satisfying chewy crust. The spicy deli mustard on the sandwich will make your lips curl. It’s a delicious contrast to the savory beef.

To go with my sandwich, I always want a Dr. Brown’s cream soda which is the quintessential Jewish deli drink. It’s sweet vanilla flavor is the perfect match for the salty corned beef. Dr. Brown’s also makes black cherry soda, and celery soda called cel-ray tonic that is hard to find in San Diego, so D.Z. ‘s is the place to get it.

A really sour Kosher pickle would be a perfect companion to my sandwich, but the little barrel of pickles on each table, are hardly sour, and still taste too much like just a cucumber. They call them half-sours, but they’re more like one-eighth sours.

The bakery counter at D.Z. Akins is a thing of beauty filled with tall cream puffs, cheesecakes, chocolate eclairs, napoleans, streudels both cheese and apple, rainbow sprinkle cookies, chocolate layer cakes, and four flavors of rugelach, another classic Jewish treat, original (raisin/walnut/cinnamon,) raspberry, chocolate, and apricot.

If you go to D.Z. Akins, bring your appetite, because the classic Jewish deli food is too good to order just one thing.