Downtown Sarasota’s most highly anticipated restaurant opening is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m. when Sol’s NYC Delicatessen takes over the Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar space.
It’s the afternoon before and while a construction crew works on the entrance Solomon Shenker returns to the completely remodeled kitchen, past a brand new Berkel meat slicer and grins while stopping to stir a large pot of mouthwatering matzo ball soup. He asks a staff member to bring out one of his famed cheesecakes and then walks us over to a giant cooler and displays the raw meats used for making his corned beef, beef brisket, roasted turkey breast, chopped liver and various other sandwich fillings.
“We’re able to buy all our meats in bulk now directly from the companies and the more money we save the less the guests have to pay,” Shenker says. “Look at that cooler, it’s the size of a football field!”
Sol’s NYC Delicatessen occupies a prime 167-seat spot across from the Hollywood 20 movie theater in the Main Plaza retail center renamed BBC Main Street after being purchased in November by Jesse Biter and fellow Sarasota investors David Chessler and Eric Baird, along with famed golfer Greg Norman. Biter and Chessler are business partners with Shenker in Sol’s NYC Delicatessen, the first new tenant since the purchase of the plaza. It will be open daily 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. with plans to open for breakfast in the future.
“For years, people were telling me that we needed a real deli in downtown Sarasota,” Biter says. “When I went to Sol’s first restaurant I instantly understood what it means to have a true deli experience. Now, when people from New York City come here, they’ll have an experience to match.”
Shenker previously ran Sol Meyer NY Delicatessen, also on Main Street, before having a falling out with his business partners, which happened to be his sister and brother-in-law.
Not only does Shenker’s new restaurant have about three times the seating capacity as the previous one, there’s that much larger kitchen and storage space. In addition, he has installed a separate deli counter by the front door for patrons looking to pick up to-go foods and sliced meats. Plus, there’s full-liquor bar featuring a fun, innovative menu of craft cocktails ($9-$10), local and national craft beers and an impressive wine slection including Opus One, which can be bought by the glass ($45) or bottle ($165).
The main attraction, though, will be sitting in the freshly restored dining room and noshing on what Shenker describes as “Jewish soul food.” He makes everything except the eastern Europeans dishes, the pierogis and blintzes, which are made by his wife, Marta Shenker. She is also the restaurant’s assistant manager and her photographs of the dishes adorn the walls along with vintage black-and-white pictures from classic New York City delicatessens.
Those pierogis ($8) and blintzes ($9) are found alongside such items as chopped liver ($8) and knishes ($6) in the appetizer section of the menu. In addition to a couple different matzo ball soups, there will be chili and soups of the day (all priced $4 or $5 for cup or bowl) with a chef salad filled with meats ($13), Caesar with homemade rye croutons ($10) and house salad ($7) available, too.
The sandwiches include deli classics like the Reuben ($14), corned beef and pastrami ($14), latkas and brisket ($14) and a corned beef, turkey, coleslaw, Swiss and Russian dressing combo ($14). Sandwiches filled with tongue ($15), bologna ($9), chicken salad ($10) and tuna salad are also on the menu. In addition, you can order a classic burger ($13) or a $5 hot dog broiled, steamed or fried.
Entrees include stuffed cabbage ($15), braised flanken short ribs ($19), chicken schnitzel ($16), marinated Romanian steak ($19) and broiled salmon in lemon dill butter ($16). Save room for dessert and have a slice of Shenker’s cheesecake ($8), which he perfected while at the H20 Bistro inside the Hotel Indigo Sarasota. There’s also apple strudel ($8) and chocolate babka ($8).
“When people come in I want give them a taste of the old country, New York City and for them to know it’s all made from scratch and with love,” Shenker says.