Danny’s Deli and Grill
3263 Telegraph Road, Ventura
It’s not fancy, it’s not fusion, and it’s in a pretty nondescript part of town. But if you’re looking for an old-school neighborhood diner, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Danny’s Deli and Grill.
Owners Wendy Collings and Alex Everhart opened Danny’s in 1999 on Telegraph Road between Mills and Five Points with the intention of creating a New York-style deli, and they have succeeded brilliantly. The mother-son duo and their team have been serving up pastrami, roast beef, corned beef and the like for 20 years, as well as Jewish specialties such as knishes, potato pancakes, bagels and stuffed cabbage. With comfy booths and jars of kosher dills and mustard on every table, it’s easy to feel, for just a moment, that you’re in Brooklyn, not Ventura.
And like any decent New York diner, the clientele is distinctly local . . . and loyal. Yes, you’ll find a smattering of out-of-towners. But most of the diners are regulars, who’ve been coming here for years — for pie and coffee, a burger, breakfast after mass on Sunday (there’s a Catholic church nearby) or anytime a gnosh or some friendly-but-unfussy cheer is required. This is a neighborhood hangout, and many of the wait staff know customers by name (and vice versa).
Arriving on a June Gloomy weekday afternoon, my husband and I found the restaurant busy but not packed (yet). I had a brief moment to gaze longingly at the pastry case laden with pies, cookies and bagels before our friendly and efficient waitress whisked us off to our booth. Menus and water came quickly, and she kindly checked in frequently while we looked over the options. It took a while, because the menu is sizable: a wide array of breakfast items (served all day), salads, soups, burgers, hot dogs, pasta and more. And of course, all those meaty sandwiches, which helped make Danny’s famous. (No worries, vegetarians — there are many meat-free choices, too.)
Everything sounded tempting; I almost ended up with a salad. But my craving for something hearty and comforting prevailed. “It’s a French dip kind of day,” our waitress said, and that sealed the deal. For my husband: the Wendy’s Special. And, just because, a potato knish.
If you like roast beef, the French dip is a dream come true. Paper-thin slices of savory, perfectly seasoned brisket, jack cheese and grilled onions are piled up more than an inch high onto a soft, pillowy roll. It was incredible; melt-in-your-mouth tender, rich and flavorful, quite possibly the best French dip I’ve ever had. On the side: a generous bowl of piping hot (seriously; don’t burn yourself), salty (in a good way) au jus.
If variety is your thing, try the Wendy’s Special. Hot corned beef, pastrami and ham (all fantastic) are combined to make one big, fat, lip-smacking-good sandwich. Swiss cheese and a cup of that tasty au jus are the cherries on top. The potato knish was lovely, too, with a flaky crust, fluffy potato filling and a bit of gravy on the side. Comfort food at its best.
Danny’s makes bread, cookies and other baked goods in house, so dessert was a given. We split an eclair, and I’ve got to say, it was the only thing not to my liking. I found the chocolate glaze grainy and bland . . . maybe an off day? But the (whole) boysenberry pie that I took home was excellent; I see many Danny’s Deli pies in my future.
And speaking of the future . . . the venerable deli celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend, with new vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, hourly giveaways and more on Sunday, June 30, and Monday, July 1. On the side of the building facing Loma Vista, a new mural by MB Hanrahan will be unveiled. It should be an occasion to remember! So get on out to Danny’s Deli soon — for breakfast, lunch, a gnosh, a dip or just a piece of pie — and enjoy the fantastic ambience and fare of this slice of the Big Apple right here on the West Coast.