July 1 will mark the 60th anniversary of Cecil’s Delicatessen • Bakery • Restaurant, which has been in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul since Cecil and Faye Glickman opened it in 1949. They wanted to offer the highest-quality meat products. Six decades later, Cecil’s is still in the same location, although the building has been remodeled to fit the times, and expanded from delicatessen to encompass a bakery and restaurant as well.

Three decker sandwich with caraway rye, Russian rye, and pumpernickel breads, with four meats— corn beef, pastrami, roast beef—and turkey, with special sauce, served with cole slaw; Breads fresh out of the oven; Deli counter; Reuben Sandwich—hot corn beef, sauerkraut with special sauce, Swiss cheese, on grilled Russian rye, served with homemade potato salad, side of potato knishes. Photos by Hubert Bonnet

I spoke with Brad Leventhal, owner/manager of Cecil’s. Before I knew who he was, I asked him if he was an owner or a manager. He loudly proclaimed, “I’m the dishwasher.” An older gentleman sitting behind me added, “And not a very good one.” That’s the fun, friendly, and family atmosphere everyone can experience at Cecil’s.

Cecil’s boasts the best and largest menu of deli food in the Twin Cities. You’d have to travel to New York to get better deli fare.

You’ll find burgers, hot dogs, chicken, homemade soups, salads, fantastic sandwiches, side dishes, desserts, and excellent breakfasts.

My partner, Chad, ordered the Reuben—grilled dark rye bread stuffed with thin-sliced Chicago corned beef, aged Swiss cheese, hot sauerkraut, and Cecil’s special Reuben sauce. He chose French fries, but could have had Cecil’s incredible potato salad, cole slaw, sweet and sour slaw, chips, pasta salad, or fruit cup.

Cecil’s offers other varieties of Reubens, all on grilled dark rye bread: Turkey Reuben, with thinly sliced turkey breast, melted Swiss cheese, hot sauerkraut, and Reuben sauce; Russian Reuben, with thinly sliced hot pastrami, aged Swiss cheese, hot sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing; Veggie Reuben, with grilled onions, green peppers, tomatoes, melted Swiss cheese, hot sauerkraut, and Reuben sauce; and Spicy Reuben, with thinly sliced hot pastrami, pepper cheese, sauerkraut, and spicy mustard.

I hadn’t had a good Hot Pastrami Sandwich since my last visit to New York City, so I was craving one, but was worried about being disappointed, as I have been at other delis in the past. I ordered it New York-style—one-half pound (but you can order regular size) of hot pastrami on simple egg white bread. I chose potato salad over all the other sides. I like to keep my pastrami sandwich experience simple and just right. You also can select American, Swiss, hot pepper, cheddar, and Muenster cheese; or a choice of caraway rye, black Russian rye, pumpernickel, or whole wheat bread. For me, it was the meat and the white bread. I was not disappointed. The Pastrami was grilled superbly, with all the mouth-watering juices released all over the lovely egg white bread. Perhaps I’m romanticizing, but it was like being in New York all over again—the perfect Hot Pastrami Sandwich.

Cecil’s bakes its breads and rolls daily. The soups are from scratch, as well as the dressings, salads, desserts, latkes, and—my favorite—chopped liver.

The restaurant is a wonderful place to visit, but the deli and bakery will leave you breathless. The retail area has a wide variety of chips, sodas, condiments, and everything a small neighborhood grocery would. The quality of the deli meats is fantastic, and they can be sliced to order. The array of ethnic cookies and confections is astounding. When you see the fresh breads, I dare you not to take some home with you!

The “What a Deal” breakfast special is delightful, served every day. You get two eggs, hash browns, three strips of turkey bacon, and two pancakes or toast—all for $5.39.

The Lox Plate is near and dear to my heart—a generous helping of Nova Scotia lox, two bagels, a large scoop of cream cheese, sliced tomato, onions, sweet pickles, and lettuce. It’s the ideal breakfast for two.

Don’t forget to check out the box lunches.

Cecil’s is the last of this type of establishment in Minnesota: family-owned and -operated; the best delicatessen meats and cheeses; the best foods in the restaurant; and the best bakery goods. It took 60 years for Cecil’s to build its tremendous reputation, and it could take me the next 60 years to write about everything it offers. Let’s see, I’ll be 128…more hot pastrami!

Cecil’s Delicatessen • Bakery • Restaurant/Home & Office Catering / 651 S. Cleveland Ave., St. Paul / Delicatessen (651) 698-6276 / Restaurant (651) 698-0334 / Fax (651) 699-2303 / www.cecilsdeli.com

John Michael Lerma is a local chef, author, Food Network personality—and “Hot Pastrami Freak.” His company Garden County Cooking offers cookbooks, cooking classes, consulting, and private events, as well as culinary vacations to Italy and the Caribbean. Visit www.GardenCountyCooking.com. Check out his “Word of Mouth” Blog under Extras at LavenderMagazine.com.

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