As a foodie and a contributor to these pages, I regularly see this question:
“Is there a decent Jewish deli in the SCV that won’t require me to drive to Brent’s?”
And the answer had pretty much always been, lamentably, no. There are a number of places that serve as ersatz delis, but no bona fide Jewish deli.
Unfortunately, when Dink’s was inevitably brought up in that conversation, the response was, consistently: “They make decent sandwiches, matzoh ball soup and bagels, but the quality control is terrible, the customer service is worse and the ownership is so bad, that I will never go back.”
Here is your silver lining. The ownership of the two remaining Dink’s (minus the epic failure gastropub wannabe at the mall) has changed hands, with the previous ownership having nothing to do with the restaurants any longer. And in talking at length with new owner, Shawn Khan, the food is in good hands and his first order of business is to eliminate the stigma of a bad reputation.
With a sick wife whose only want when the flu strikes is matzoh ball soup, I found myself in the quandary of delivering her “Jewish penicillin” in short order. But where to go? My last experience with Dink’s was a year or more ago and it was because they were out of soup by midday. Not what you want to hear when you need to deliver the goods.
A quick phone call revealed that the new Dink’s doesn’t abandon a menu item when they run out…they – gasp – make more. So they have soup and bagels all day, every day. This was big. This was one of the reasons so many Santa Claritans ran away from Dink’s.
After picking up the soup and bringing it home to the previously mentioned sick wife, I opened the containers to learn that what I received was chicken noodle soup, no matzoh balls. Oh crap…did I make a mistake? Another phone call had me speaking to the same young lady who took the order, who offered profuse apologies for the mistake, and a promise to provide the matzoh ball soup, on their dime, on our next visit. Customer service by ownership and management was another of the reasons Santa Claritans bailed.
Meanwhile, the soup was very good. I only had one complaint. The noodles were soft and disintegrating into the soup. Clearly, they left noodles in the soup pot all day instead of making them on the side and adding them to order. I mentioned this. She listened. Not taking note of customer suggestions was yet another reason customers fled.
So, feeling like the new ownership and management had something going on, I went back the next night to get my replacement soups. I met Shawn who asked me what the problem was with the original. He listened, he took notes, he asked questions, he cared. And he won me over. I ordered a few sandwiches and we chatted about the restaurant business. And what he can do to bring back his lost customers.
The food was good. It wasn’t Brent’s, but Shawn is willing to do what it takes to make it that good. And that was enough for me. We had turkey, roast beef and tuna sandwiches with potato salad and coleslaw. The only complaint was with the salads, which we all felt could use a little more seasoning. The meats were standard deli fare and were very tasty. The breads were good, especially the rye, which held up to the tuna quite well. The soup, as I mentioned, was very tasty with only the noodles an issue. I recommended that he always keep the noodles and the soup separate, until it is time to serve. That way noodle integrity doesn’t get compromised (yup, I said that). I also recommended a thinner egg noodle so it doesn’t overwhelm the soup, which is what most well-known delis use.
So here is what I recommend to you, friends. Go in, talk to Shawn, order a sandwich, tell him what you like and what you think would improve the restaurant. He is listening. Change the name? He’s heard it and he is considering it. Bring back Dr. Brown sodas? He’d like to if he thought customers want it. Add some more traditional deli favorites? Tell him what you want and he will find a way.
He was left with a legacy of a name. And the breakdown is simple: There’s a handful of die-hards who meet for coffee and bagels with friends regularly because it’s close, about half of the valley recognizes the name and won’t go back the rest either recognize it and go on occasion or simply don’t know anything about Dink’s.
So, the answer is “yes, there is a Jewish deli in town that will keep you from driving over the hill to Brent’s.” And if you go there enough and make your voice heard, it can be better than Brent’s.