Pre-COVID Carytown was a bustling little neighborhood. Eclectic shops, one-of-a-kind restaurants, street performers and vendors on every other block. At the heart of the neighborhood was New York Deli. By day you’d get a classic diner atmosphere, complete with sailor sandwiches (which they claim to have created) and families brunching on the weekends. At night, the scene changed completely and New York Deli transformed into a bumping club, usually with a DJ, and always with a good mix of people.
Post-COVID Carytown is much more subdued. Several restaurants and stores have closed and others are boarded up. Patrons still cruise the streets but in much smaller numbers. Lines of people stretch outside some of the popular stores and restaurants, a sign of social distancing protocol done right. And though the club scene of New York Deli has dissipated because of COVID restrictions, you can still rely on them for all your diner delicacies, and get a taste for their flair for fun through their happy hour. We stopped by the Deli on a recent Thursday evening for happy hour to check-in on one of our cherished Carytown spots and to see how they’re approaching COVID protocol.
Decked out in lights and tinsel for the holiday season, the deli still looked the same from first impressions. However, as you go further into the restaurant you’ll notice there are significantly fewer tables than before and they’re all distantly spaced out. We skipped the indoor tables and headed straight to their patio, accessible through a door in the back of the restaurant. With less than 10 tables, the courtyard felt roomy, but also cozy. Keeping with the fun vibe of the inside diner, the brick walls surrounding the patio are painted with on-theme murals and lit from above with strings of crisscrossed lights. They’ve also installed several fan-like heaters above some of the tables to keep you warm and toasty when the sun goes down and the temps started to drop.
For our first round of drinks, we tried some of the staples off their happy hour menu. With a couple of dozen beer options and a nice assortment of wine, we had ample options. We went with a Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout and a glass of La Galope Rose. Both were refreshing and much needed after a long workday.
After a few sips to ease the pain of the week, we dug into their appetizer menu and ordered a few favorites. Though food isn’t on their happy hour menu, they have a few options you’ll definitely want to try. We went a little overboard on the cheese dip front and ordered both their pimento cheese and pretzels and cheese appetizers. The pimento cheese was rich and creamy and the toasted pita chips that accompanied it were crispy and well-seasoned. Our favorite, though, were the pretzel sticks with beer cheese dipping sauce. The cheese sauce was one of the best we’ve had in a long time. Made with RVA’s own Hardywood beer, it had a ton of flavor that was enhanced even more by the perfectly salted pretzels bites. We also tried their chicken tenders, which were coated in a hand-breaded crust. They were delicious, but nothing compared to that beer cheese.
After we amply filled our bellies, we went back to booze and ordered a few of their signature cocktails. First, we embraced the chill in the air and opted for a mug full of their mulled cider. Made with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and topped off with a shot of Fireball whiskey the drink was dangerously delicious, and warmed us up both with its temperature and spirits. We also tried another one of their seasonal cocktails, their Fall Sangria. It was a bit on the sweet side, and the base of Baci Dolci Blonde accompanied with Smirnoff Kissed Caramel (which was infused with cinnamon and cloves) really made us feel the holiday spirit. If you don’t see these specialty drinks on their menu when you go, just ask your server!
So though New York Deli isn’t the bumping spot it was pre-COVID, it’s still got the charm and spirit that we’re all used to. Try out their happy hour every Monday through Friday from 3-7 pm for 20% off specialty cocktails, $2 off rails, $1 off drafts, and $2 off wine.
This blog post was sponsored by New York Deli, but our thoughts and opinions are our own.