Hours: Sunday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to midnight.Open all night Friday and Saturday.
Atmosphere: No-nonsense. You've come for the hot pastrami, not ambiance.
Credit cards: None.
Special facilities: Parking behind the deli or on the street. Accessible by wheelchair.
Hofberg's has two other locations in Lakeforest Mall, 701 Russell Ave., Gaithersburg, and in Loehmann's Plaza, 5240 Randolph Rd., Rockville.
Several things about Hofberg's leap immediately to mind. One is the incredible breadth and depths of the corned beef sandwiches. Another is the decor, which is a straight steal of New York deli anti-chic chic: plasticcushioned booths, formica table tops, lighting that makes you feel it's midnight no matter what the clock says.
A third notable thing about Hofberg's is that right there on the menu before your very eyes is a peanut butterand jelly sandwich.We could argue here about whose interests are at stake in a Family Out review -- the parents' or the kids'. In the case of Hofberg's, we won't have to. Everybody comes out a winner.
All the standard deli items are on the menu, including main courses like stuffed cabbage or corned beef hash. Hofberg's is open from early morning to late evening, so the menu runs from omeletes and blintzes to sandwiches and desserts.
We started with a couple of orders ofmatzoh ball soup. Actually, we started with one order -- mine, as a matter of fact -- but family members who had previously rejected the idea of soup suddenly became intensely interested in my bowl. The soup, $1.25, is probably not equal to the finest homemade version, but is very good.
When the rest of our meal arrived, we saw very quickly that the soup had been a mistake. Great stacks of things were set before us and we realized that we had set too arduous a task for ourselves.
At the top of the menu are listed "Hotberg Heavies," a series of serious hot or cold sandwiches mainly served on rye bread. I chose the reuben, $3.95. The meat was lean and piping hot and topped with Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. It was served open-faced, which saves diners the embarrassment of watching sauerkraut juice dripping down the forearm.
I couldn't finish, but I wasn't alone.
My husband wanted a real dinner, and found a mixed grill listed at $4.85. Knockwurst, hot pastrami, hot corned beef, and potato salad didn't sound like enough to him, so he threw in a side order of coleslaw, 75 cents. He also got mounds of meat, all of it lean and tender. The potato salad and the coleslaw were both fresh and mild.
The service, in our case provided by a young woman, was efficient but uninterested.
After a brief pass over the cold salad platters, our daughter decided she'd stick with her old standard, a shrimp salad sandwich. Heresy in a deli it may be, but that's what she wanted. It was fine -- full of shrimp and served on rye bread, $1.95.
A combination unheard of by any of us seemed just right for our 14-year-old, a growing boy of remarkable appetite. One of Hofberg's Heavies, it was an egg salad sandwich with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, $3.95. It was apparently satisfactory because it was gone in a flash. All sandwiches were served with dill pickles.
We were worn out before the dessert course, but found a way to sample some of the pastries gleaming from behind the glass case. Hofberg's is also a carryout and we carried-out.
The pastries, mostly cakes, are made in the New York Hofberg's and shipped to Washington. This method seems to work, since they tasted fresh.
We can vouch for the cheesecake, a lighter-than-average version, but smooth and creamy. A huge piece of German chocolate cake had chocolate in abundance, but little in the way of nuts or coconut. Nevertheless, it was delicious. Baklava and a napoleon were slightly less successful, the first for its dryness, the second for its sogginess. Desserts are mainly $1.25 and vary according to what's left. A huge chocolate chip cooke is also available for 40 cents.
Like all neighborhood haunts, Hofberg's is a little universe unto itself. A bit of everything is going on there, and children fit right in. We were pleased with our meal, and with the final check: $27.43.