It wasn’t until my girlfriend’s 3rd attempt (she flashed me an Instagrammed picture of a colossal sandwich) that finally convinced me to dine at Perly’s. Since that day in December, I’m there at least once a week. I literally mean once a week.
Perly’s is one of the few places in Richmond that is consistently great. Every damn time. Sometimes, in the back of my mind, I secretly think “maybe, just this time something will be off” and it has yet to happen.
Perly’s fan base started way before my own adoration as this Jewish deli opened their doors in 1961 as a downtown lunch hotspot. A recent revamp of the menu (thanks to Constantine Giavos) and interior space last year has brought in an influx of new patrons (in addition to the original ones) that flood the reclaimed wooden booths each day, morning and night.
Late to rise? Don’t worry, they serve breakfast until 3pm so you’re able to get that fix for a hearty bagel sandwich, corned beef hash with eggs or french toast (made with cinnamon babka … and its damn delicious). During the week, from 8am – 11am, they offer a steal of a deal (called the Schnorrer), 2 eggs any style, choice of meat and bread, 1 potato latke and cup of coffee for $9.
I had heard of Matzoh Ball soup before, but never had the desire to try it until one cold day when one of the servers at Perly’s suggested it. Now, their Matzoh Ball soup is my go-to and at $4 a cup (don’t be jaded by the word cup, it’s big) it’s one of the best cheap dishes in the city. The warm dumpling-like matzo ball marinated with savory chicken broth is perfection against dense carrots and hunks of chicken and topped with fresh dill. I describe it like an upgraded chicken noodle soup.
Recently, I discovered and fallen for their their potato latke ($7), served with a hunk of cool apricot applesauce and dill sour cream. They’re light and make a perfect start to a favorite, the coffee and bourbon braised brisket with bagel bread pudding ($17). This entree is massive, my girlfriend and I split it and we still walk away with a hearty amount to take home. The savory brisket is tender yet proud as its massive size fills the plate, all topped with a sweet and savory sauce that ignites the bourbon flavors. Doughy bits of the bagel makes an appealing consistency in the bread pudding, but paired with a tart cherry sauce is a masterpiece. Think about it as a yiddish version of a Thanksgiving dinner (and slightly better).
Another winner is the chicken salad and the lunch crowd seems to agree. For $8, Perly’s serves three scoops of creamy chicken salad with your choice of bread, side and an assortment of lettuces, sprouts, tomatoes and onions. The portion is huge and the leftovers make a perfect weekday lunch. If you’re not a fan of chicken salad, they also make this plate with egg salad or smoked whitefish.
The cocktail, wine and beer selection is great (like just about everything else here). There’s always Ardent on draft along with wine and Prosecco in addition to a few Jewish beers including the He’brew Messiah Nut Brown Ale. I kick myself as I confess I’ve never had one of their cocktails, but they sounds amazing and fancy (think ingredients like celery soda, apricot jam and rose water).
Got room for your sweet tooth? Perly’s fresh baked Jewish pastries like black and white cookies or sweet noodle kugel won’t put a dent in the wallet at $3. Want something worth remembering? Their warm chocolate babka with coconut macaroon ice cream ($6) is one of my favorite desserts in the city. It’s massive and perfect for sharing. The flavors of the cold ice cream with fresh coconut and miniature chunks of macaroon is even better paired with the warm, doughy babka with chocolate swirls. Another bonus? The ice cream is specially made by Bev’s so A. You know it’s amazing and B. Kudos for small local business supporting one another.
Besides the food, pricing and atmosphere, I’ve come to adore the service. Yes, it can be aloof at times, especially during lunch when the bustling servers “being in the weeds” seems to linger for hours. Be smart about ordering, that means if you’re in a rush order quick, ask for your check early and be kind about it. Since I’m starting to become a regular patron here, the relationships I’m starting to establish with this hard working staff makes each meal even better. They know what beer my girlfriend and I drink, that I’ll get a side of skhug (hot green pepper sauce) with just about anything and that they’ll see my smiling face only a few days later.