Hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Credit Cards: Not accepted.
Prices: Most breakfast items $1.50 to $2.50, lunch items $2 to $4. No beer or wine.
What's in a name? Not much any more. Jefferson Airplane doesn't fly, Manhattan Transfer has nothing to do with public transportation and the Kensington Deli isn't a deli. Not if you're expecting refrigerator cases filled with meats, cheeses and assorted salads or a beer to quaff with your pastrami. So what is it? It's an eclectic mixture of sandwich shop, breakfast nook, cafeteria and pizzeria--a little something for everybody.
And everybody seems to come--from construction workers at breakfast to office types at lunch to kids wanting pizza any time of the day. Only during the dinner hour does the activity wind down. Come 8 o'clock, the Kensington Deli is as deserted as Ocean City in January.
Outside, it's a ramshackle box of a building, sitting in the middle of a parking lot. Inside, it's a nice surprise--a pretty dining room with white walls graced with photographs and offset with bright blue banquettes.
Prices are low, and the cafeteria-style service is quick and efficient, making the Kensington Deli an alternative to fast-food outlets.
Breakfast omelettes and meat and egg combinations are well-prepared and a good value. But the real gems at breakfast are the big, sweet, dark-topped blueberry muffins and the biscuit supreme, a $1.39 bargain behemoth of a biscuit sandwich with egg, ham or bacon and cheese that feels as though it weighs half a pound.
The Kensington Deli also wins hands down over the fast-food places at lunch. Its sandwiches are on credible rye bread and kaiser rolls and generously filled. Look for good, lean corned beef at $3.39 and a solid, commendable, meaty chicken salad at $2.89. But beware of the unpleasant musty chopped chicken liver and the minced pork barbecue, which is an overminced mush. The homemade soups are a good bet. Even better is the first-rate chili--a nicely seasoned, chunky brew, well-endowed with coarsely ground beef, real pieces of tomato and firm beans.
But there are no hoorays for the fried onion rings. They're so heavily breaded and greasy that they are like little lead weights. But the western fries are good--big, thick potato slices with the skins, lightly battered and fried.
Speaking of batter, one of the few victories for the fast-food places over the Kensington Deli is in the fried chicken department. Kensington Deli's tends to be dry and overly salty, and its batter is applied like armor.
If you crave something sweet, try the homemade chocolate chip cookies, crammed with good dark chocolate morsels and without the typical roof-of-the-mouth oiliness. But avoid the textureless, overly sweet bread pudding.
As a pizzeria, the Kensington Deli acquits itself pretty well. The regular style has a good, chewy crust, properly crisp at the bottom, a decent tomato sauce and a tasty, if somewhat unusual, cheese mixture that tastes like ricotta. There also is praise for the deep-dish pizza, with a yeasty, airy crust that can be enjoyed simply as a good bread. Calzone, with a good tomato-ham-ricotta filling and the same admirable crust, is a solid rendition.
It's not worth going out of your way to eat at the Kensington Deli, but if you're in the neighborhood, keep it in mind. You'll get a far better quick breakfast or lunch than at a fast-food station and a better pizza or calzone than at many full-blown pizzerias.