In these days of small plates and tasting menus, the classic delicatessen seems like something out of another era, and it is.
The deli menu, unaffected by current trends or fads, goes on for pages, and includes such items as deviled eggs, chopped liver, smoked fish and cheese blintzes. Triple decker sandwiches require two hands and possibly an extra napkin to manipulate safely from plate to lips. Small plates? Not in the vernacular.
Especially not at the Stage Deli. A visit to the granddaddy of them all, better than ever in its fifth decade, is a reminder of just how satisfying an almost overpowering approach can be, with its choice of no less than 11 soups, including one called the mish mash, truly a main dish, that includes a matzo ball, kreplach, noodles and rice in chicken broth. The list of sandwiches and burgers is so lengthy I stopped counting at 70.
For 34 years, it’s been in handsome quarters in West Bloomfield, but it all started in Oak Park, when Jack and Harriet Goldberg opened the Stage in its original location on Nine Mile in 1962 and gave it its theatrical name because it was not far from the Northland Playhouse.
Impresario Joe Nederlander made sure the Broadway actors who appeared there also graced the tables at the Goldbergs’ deli, and they loved it because it was truly a New York-style deli. Even then the place had an aura of glamour. The current décor takes the show biz theme even further with outsize black-and-white portraits of Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Mel Brooks, Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman and more, painted from the original iconic photos, and a contemporary setting, also in sophisticated black and white, throughout the dining room.
The current proprietor, Steve Goldberg, started “working” for his parents when he was just 7 years old, standing on a pop crate to wash dishes for 50 cents. He now presides over a staff of 50, and a schedule that includes breakfast (served anytime, natch), lunch and dinner seven days a week. When the place is packed “the kitchen looks like Cirque de Soleil,” Goldberg admits, but somehow the well-prepared food gets out to the tables, served by the friendly and efficient staff.
Anyone wondering about the house specialty would probably be directed to one of the huge corned beef or pastrami sandwiches — the Dinty Moore that includes the team of corned beef and Russian dressing is a personal favorite. Sandwiches are served on seedless rye or pumpernickel breads, which come to the Stage half-baked to be finished in the kitchen. Virtually everything else, aside from the kosher hot dogs, is housemade, from the roasted turkey and beef brisket to old-fashioned meat loaf. And though in normal circumstances I prefer a more condensed menu, this classic deli is an exception to the rule. The Stage manages to deal successfully with what is seemingly an overly lengthy menu.
At the entrance to the restaurant is a counter where many of the prepared foods are wrapped to go, and it is nearly as popular as the dining room.
6873 Orchard Lake,
Call: (248) 855-6622
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat., 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Appetizers $7-$13, soups and salads $3.50-$17, sandwiches $11-$18 (the latter for the aptly named Titanic), entrees $14-$25
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate to high
Parking: Attached strip mall
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine
★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding