Pickles are like oysters—you either love them, or you hate them. There’s really no middle ground. As someone who can’t get enough of both, I try to surround myself with oyster lovers, so I can share the experience of a hip raw bar, and pickle haters, so I can inherit any pickle left behind on a sandwich plate.
I share my love for pickles with our neighbors and dear friends, Mike and Kendra. When Mike turned me onto the Costco size pickle jar last Labor Day weekend, our friendship really blossomed.
Naturally, I brought along my fellow pickle aficionados to brunch at DGS Delicatessen, an upscale Jewish deli that just opened its second location in Mosaic District, Virginia. DGS specializes in classic Jewish dishes with smoked and pickled accents—bagels and lox, pickled vegetables, pastrami hash—DGS does these dishes well.
DGS has a retro diner feel with red leather booths and black-and-white subway tiles. Once we settled into our booth, we immediately noticed the awesome bottomless deal highlighted on the menu—two courses and bottomless mimosas, screwdrivers, or Bloody Marys, for $27. If we didn’t have to drive back to DC, we might have indulged, but instead Kendra and I started with two of the Le Marais cocktails, while the guys ordered two Bloody Marys. The drinks were standard, nothing incredibly memorable.
After Mike convinced us to start with the chopped liver, we ordered several other apps including the matzo ball soup, potato latkes, and “today’s pickles”—an assortment of pickled veggies, dills, and half sours. The texture of liver, combined with a bad experience when I was younger (it was not chocolate ice cream) has pretty much left me scarred for life. Despite this, I bravely indulged Mike and tried the dish, which came topped with chicken cracklings and pickled red onions. It was rich, but we were not licking the bowl—Mike took care of that for us.
In the meantime, Kendra was slurping away at a bowl of Matzo ball soup. It was buttery and the matzo was light. Growing up around authentic Jewish food, Mike was our resident food critic and intermittently schooled us on the nuances of Jewish cuisine during the meal. I learned that matzo itself is very dense, so it’s not easy to turn it into a light soup, which DGS achieved.
We all dug in when the plate of latkes arrived. The latkes were my favorite dish of the day, by far, especially because they’re so rare to find on a menu. The latkes were large, perfectly cooked pancakes with a crispy shell and warm, mushy potatoes inside. The side of apple compote was chunky, not too sweet, and the perfect accompaniment to the dish.
The pickled veggie plate was a nice, light addition to the roundup of heavier appetizers ordered. We particularly liked the pickled carrots. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I snagged most of the dill and half sours before the rest of the table had a chance to try them. You have to have quick hands around me and pickles.
Just to ensure I met my latke quota for the month, I decided to go with the breakfast club, a sandwich that not only came with an egg and corned beef, but also a latke. It was incredible, decadent, and so worth the three napkins I single-handedly used.
Kendra ordered the Shakshouka, a dish that she and Mike introduced us to years ago during a dinner party. It’s one of those dishes that can be consumed at any time of the day. Served in a skillet, the Shakshouka had a savory tomato sauce base and perfectly poached eggs, it’s satisfying comfort food that you can’t resist. We liked how this particular version had roasted peppers to give it a bit of a kick.
Gav was quietly getting after his corned beef Reuben sandwich, which he noted was different than other Reubens he’s sampled in that the meat was thick cut, as opposed to pulled or thinly sliced. The perfect construction of meat, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing made the sandwich easy to consume, not messy or overwhelming.
Knowing he would be consuming 90% of the chopped liver appetizer, Mike kept it light with the smoked salmon platter, which came with a bagel, a healthy dose of lox, and all the traditional garnishes. I kept eyeing his bites, so he built me one with all the fixins’ and it was delicious. The smoked salmon was light and fresh and the red onion and capers added the perfect bit of saltiness to the creme cheese smeared sesame bagel.
We had every intention of ordering the challah french toast for dessert, but we were struggling to finish the dishes in front of us, so we kept it light and ordered the cinnamon apple filled donuts. They were served warm and crispy on the outside with powdered sugar on top, almost like mini funnel cake holes.
We walked off brunch by strolling the adorable shops throughout the Mosaic district and pampering ourselves by testing several scrubs at Lather, before popping into Matchbox to catch the second half of the Giants and DC United games. Otherwise known as a perfect little Sunday in Mosaic District.
The Bitches say: B+. DGS Delicatessen is a reliable Jewish diner that serves traditional comfort food with an American twist. Expect a hearty menu comprising items that have been pickled, cured, and smoked in house.
2985 District Ave.
DGS Delicatessen serves brunch Saturday and Sundays in Mosaic District and at its Dupont Circle location.