When I was moving up in the suburbs of New York City, a quick dinner out meant a delicatessen where huge bowls of dill pickles and sour tomatoes sat on the table and the hungriest people ordered chicken in the pot while the rest of us stayed with overstuffed sandwiches of hot pastrami or corned beef. We went over to Hofberg's Smokehouse in Rockville for dinner one night to see if they could come near our childhood memories. We even took a New York expert along.
Hofberg's was bright, clean and shiny on a Sunday night at seven. On the market side Delicatessen meats and cheeses are sold and our nine-year-old son, who gets attacks of restlessness, had fun wandering around there. The eating side was fixed up with butcher block table tops, bentwood style chairs and booths. There were only a handful of people when we arrived, although the place filled up a little more when the movie next door let out.
The menu at Hogberg's is wide ranging, with offerings for both the dinner customer and the aftermovie nibbler. There's everything from the ordinary shrimp salad or open roast beef to the more esoteric blueberry blintzes, patato pancakes and Hungarian stuffed cabbage.
Three of us started with soup. My husband had the large bowl of chicken soup with matzoh balls (95 cents), which he said was so good that my mother, who makes the world's best chicken soup, had to try it. My son had a cup of chicken soup with noddles (60 cents), which was also good and my daughter tried a cup of soup of the day, Mahattan clam chowder (60 cents), which was super - thick and full of vegetables and clams.
For our main course we all had sandwiches. My mother and my daughter ordered Nova Scotia lox ($3.25). The nova, lettuce, tomatoes, raw onion, black olives, cream cheese and dill pickle came on a separate hot dish. There was more than enough cream cheese and nova for one bagel and the nova was mild, light and not too oily.
I had a pastrami sandwich ($2.70) ordered extra lean for 50 cents extra. The sandwich arrived hot, stuffed and nicely lean, but no leaner than my husband's corned beef ($2.20) which had no extra lean request on it. I thought the pastrami was delicious; he found the corned beef okay. Our son had the open hot roast beef sandwich, which was a huge serving of meat on white bread with a bland gravy and thick French fries. It was voted the least remarkof all the dishes. A side order or fried onion rings (95 cents), was crisp and good.
Hofberg's serves wine by the glass or carafe, beer, soda, coffee, tea or milk, all at reasonable prices. A glass of red wine was 75 cents, the milk was 35 cents a carton, the tea and coffee 30 cents a cup. We split two deserts - a dry strawberry shortcake ($1) and a nice black out cake (85 cents).
We thought the soups and three of four sandwiches measured up pretty well against our New York memories. We missed the bowls of whole pickles on the table - Hofberg's brings a slice of pickle with each order - but we didn't miss the brusque service we used to be subjected to in the old days. The waitresses at Hofberg's were smiling and accomodating and did not get grouchy about changing orders and odd requests.
For three adults and two children, the meal cameto $22.55 including drinks and taxes.