This is the latest edition of Who Goes There? a regular feature in which Lost City's Brooks of Sheffield cracks the doors on mysteriously enduring Gotham restaurants—unsung, curious neighborhood mainstays with the dusty, forgotten, determined look—to learn secrets of longevity and find out, who goes there.[Adam Lerner]
There aren't many echt Jewish delis left in increasingly suburban-seeming New York City. However, the isolated, strangely bucolic neighborhood of Riverdale in the northwest corner of The Bronx enjoys the wares of three of them, owing to the still-strong Jewish community here. The oldest is Liebman's Deli, born in 1958 and still run by the same family (name of Dekel, not Liebman) that has owned it for thirty years, operating out of a narrow space in the middle of Riverdale's old downtown.
The business has largely endured thanks to the allegiance of locals. The people who eat there aren't exactly spring chickens. And they've probably enjoyed Liebman's delicious, but highly caloric, chow many times. (More than a few of the hefty guests had trouble hoisting themselves out of the green-hued booths.) But Liebman's also still gets faithful car traffic from people who used to live in the area and still crave the pastrami, which is made and sliced on the premises. Liebman's is also one of the last Jewish delis in town to make round knishes, a knish shape on its way out.
There are a lot of reasons to like Liebman's beyond the food, which is wonderful; I love the Liebman's Favorite, which packs corned beef, pastrami, kishka and perhaps the best french fries in New York, along with gravy, onto one plate. For one, the prices are not at Manhattan levels. The above dish, for instance, costs all of $15; most sandwiches are under $10. And the help is helpful, not Carnegie Deli gruff.
Furthermore, the atmosphere is calm and quiet, which can be a nice change after the rattle and hum of most New York eateries. For those concerned about such things, Liebman's is open on the Jewish sabbath, and therefore not strictly kosher, its name notwithstanding. For areligious foodies, though, that just means more opportunities to nosh.
—Brooks of Sheffield