The best way to tell how good a Kosher restaurant is to count how many non-Orthodox patrons it has. Orthodox people do not know good food and think that anything they do not have to clean up their dishes after is satisfactory. At Pico Kosher Deli (PKD), the lunch crowd is about one third to one half non-kippa wearing jews. That means the food is good – in fact, the only comparable restaurant for patronage by the non-from is pat’s (review to come). Nonjews will regularly say – this is the best deli food i have ever had – and these are people who know the usual suspects such as the yorkshire grill downtown, langer’s by alvarado, jerry’s deli wherever anyone is stupid enough to visit to actually go to jerry’s, brent’s in chatsworth, and even canter’s in fairfax.
PKD is best know, as its name implies, for its deli food. A half pastrami half corn beef is perfectly warm, indescribably moist and just the bomb. But PKD has more than just a good sandwich. Its burgers are great comfort food and the more upscale items on its menu such as the steak entrees are fantastic. The sides such as matzo ball soup, stuffed cabbage, and even eggs with tomatoes are all good.
The owners, the sons of Mr. Hecht (a survivor who knew how to run a deli), are there on a daily basis. It is one of the few kosher restaurants to actually expand its space – and it is still crowded. If you want lunch there, you best arrive before noon as the tables are full by 12:15. For dinner, it is easier, but still can be crowded on the weeknights – Sunday night is actually a breeze there as people opt for the more tony options such as Shanghai Garden or Pat’s.
There is so much good about the place it is hard to knock on it, but since lashon hara is permitted with regard to the improvement of deli sandwiches, here are some negatives. I think – and cannot prove – that the sandwiches have gotten smaller. But again, this is probably due to the economy. The service is ok – huge plus goes to the older hispanic lady waitress, but sitting a single lady at a booth while four people wait is pretty bad.
There is a bit of chillul hashem (desecration of g-d’s name) committed mainly by jewish day school kids eating there like slobs — there is actually a sign on the booths asking people not to put their feet up. Maybe Rabbi Kanefsky should lecture about that.
Bottom line – PKD is mandatory reading for the orthodox jew and fellow homo sapiens in the area. Note that they have a take out place a door down – I recommend the barbecue chicken and the kugels – have to admit I have not tried the cholent although a non-jewish friend has and it is the only thing keeping his jewish kids (wife is jewish) connected to the faith. If you have a client or business associate you want to eat lunch with, PKD is a great place for goyim – just do an Annie Hall reminder not to order milk – but note that you can get a salad at PKD with imitation ranch dressing. All in all, 4 stars out of 5 – they want more stars, they should open a valley location and expand the existing location.