Dinner at Uncle Bernie’s Delicatessen in Encino
I’m a nice Jewish boy from the San Fernando Valley and it’s Wednesday night, so let’s have a “nosh” at Uncle Bernie’s Delicatessen in Encino!
It used to be Fromin’s Deli (for years) and when they sold, they just changed the name and ownership. The menu is almost the same, the food is almost the same, some of the employees are the same, and the restaurant’s decor is exactly the same.
When I was a young boy, we moved to Encino in the early 70’s, back before the valley and Ventura Blvd were fully developed. It was a time of vacant lots. nurseries, a miniature golf course, The Oak Room, Monty’s Steak House, Jergen’s Market, Sam’s Liquor, Martex Pet Store, the Pony Express, and Lerner’s Gas station on the corner. Before there was a Plaza de Oro or a Town & Country shopping plaza, before the SavOn became Osco became CVS, before the SavOn Center was built….
There was Fromin’s Delicatessen (in the space now occupied by Versailles Cuban Restaurant) and we had a credit account. On Sunday morning I would walk down and pick up the order we called in: bagels, lox and cream cheese for brunch. I learned the difference between a phosphate and an egg cream at Fromin’s, enjoyed many corned beef sandwiches, and discovered the joy of “New York” Jewish Delicatessen food. It was a staple of our home menu when I was growing up. Delicious chicken & matzoh ball soup, fried matzoh brie, potato & egg noodle kugel, pastrami & beef tongue, chopped liver, brisket, knish, knadle, kasha, knockwurst, smoked herring & salmon, bialys, dill pickles, rice pudding, black & white cookies and halvah bars were always enjoyed.
From the Frominsdeli.com website (with a little editing):
In the early 60’s, Arnie Fromin opened up a small deli in Encino. His son, Dennis, worked alongside him for many years until getting the entrepreneurial bug to run his own restaurant. In 1974, he opened Sports Deli in Century City which quickly became a favorite of locals and celebrities alike. A few years later, Dennis opened Fromin’s Restaurant in Santa Monica, followed shortly by the new Fromin’s Restaurant in Encino.
While growing up, in order to visit his Dad who worked seven days a week at the family deli, he would “allow” Dennis to put on an apron and wash pots and pans and peel potatoes. That was Dennis’ start in the business. By age thirteen, Dennis was working behind the deli counter after school and on weekends, getting a real-world education that would serve him well the rest of his life. All three of Dennis children worked in the Encino location.
During the 80’s, Dennis opened up two additional delicatessens in Rancho Mirage and Simi Valley. But the stress of running five restaurants took its toll on Dennis’ health and he decided to sell off all of the locations except the Santa Monica and Encino restaurants. In 1990, his longtime friend, Maurice Solomon, joined him as a partner and took over the Santa Monica location. By 2003, they decided to sell the Encino location (now operating under the Uncle Bernie’s name with no connection to Fromin’s) and concentrate on the Santa Monica restaurant, which has been a landmark on Wilshire Boulevard for over thirty years.
When Fromin’s moved to the new location, we remained loyal customers.
There once was a Bagel Nosh and a Nathan’s Hot Dogs in the Plaza de Oro, the Oak Tree Deli opened and closed in the SavOn center, and Jerry’s Deli opened down Ventura Blvd at Petit Av when Dupar’s closed (and I think it was called something else between Dupar’s & Jerry’s). Label’s Table had a location in Tarzana (it moved to Topanga and Mulholland) and Mort’s Deli is still there next to Bea’s Bakery. Brent’s Deli is still in Northridge, but Solley’s on Van Nuys is now closed after all the years it was a valley hot spot for “NY deli”.
And finally they sold Fromin’s (after Arnie died it wasn’t quite the same) and changed the name. I’m glad not much has changed though, it always takes me back to my childhood.
There’s an extensive menu with lots of different food choices:
On the Menu: Hot Turkey open face sandwich with gravy, fries, cranberry sauce and a Dr Brown’s cream soda. My dining companion had a bowl of borscht and half a tuna salad sandwich on pumpernickel bread with cole slaw. And then we got a giant chocolate covered custard filled eclair and a big chocolate chip cookie for dessert.
NOTE: I asked for dill pickles and extra gravy, but our server forgot to bring both!
So dinner was good, the service was okay, the food was what it was supposed to be, and we took the eclair and a big chocolate chip cookie “to go”. The prices are better than Jerry’s, so dinner for two with tip was around $40 plus $10 for dessert. – “Such a deal!”
NOTE: They also have complete dinner specials, “early-bird” specials and a “senior citizen’s” menu. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch and holiday dinners.
Uncle Bernie’s – 17615 Ventura Blvd (at White Oak Av) Encino CA 91316 818-990-6346
http://www.uncleberniesdeli.com Open 6:30am – 9pm daily
Fromin’s Delicatessen – 1832 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403 (310) 829-5443
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