Swartz’s Deli: Classy Comfort Food with New Jersey Flair

Delicatessen brings vintage East Coast experience to West O

Lily Yates, Quintessence Editor-in-Chief

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Tucked away in Countryside Village at 8718 Pacific St. is a hearty slice of food and culture that Omaha has long been lacking. Swartz’s Delicatessen is the closest you’ll find to an authentic, homestyle Jewish lunch counter experience for miles around.

Situated just across from Westside High School, the small shop serves as a neon-lit haven for both early risers and refugees from the dark and cold of Nebraska’s winter nights. Its quiet but cheerful interior is decked with cushy black booths, wicker chairs, nostalgic globe lights, and a glass display case up front, featuring enticing fish, meats, and homemade desserts.

In an area of Omaha that has seen a measure of financial struggle, Swartz’s might, at outside glance, be easy to discount, nestled between empty lease spaces. On the contrary, though, Swartz’s serves as a hidden gem in the once-popular plaza, pleasing customers with its catering services, bagels shipped straight from New Jersey, and sandwiches crafted with fresh local meats.

My visit to Swartz’s took place during one of the deli’s down times- about an hour before its closing time of 7 p.m. With the bell on the doorframe ringing, a friend and I crossed the black-and-white checkered floor, and ordered up. What we didn’t realize, however, was that there were, in fact, two different menus for different times of day- a concept muddled by the singular menu flashing on the monitors above the counter. But in the end, correct menus in hand, we chose a few delicatessen favorite sandwiches- a roast beef au jus and pastrami- as well as three small desserts called ‘rugelach,’ traditionally sweet, cinnamon roll-like pastries mixed with the softer, clove-layered feel of Greek baklava.

Since we had only ordered sandwiches, drinks, and some $1 pastries, my companion and I were shocked to hear that the meal would set us back about $18 each. But in looking at the breakfast menu and the smaller plates- not to mention the sheer scale of the deli sandwiches later on- we found both some more affordable options available, as well as a reason for the price in terms of size.

During the fairly short wait for our orders to appear at the counter, we surveyed the menu in depth and found a breakfast array with much to offer, including a wide variety of bagels and spreads, as well as scrambles and sandwiches. Besides satisfying options for breakfast and lunch, the deli also boasts smoothies, cream sodas, tea, and coffee, accompanying fresh desserts such as the aforementioned ‘rugelach,’ plus cake slices and other delectables.

And finally, a server in a red apron called our order, and there were the two massive sandwiches. The au jus, featuring a soft brioche bun, tender beef, swiss cheese, and subtly included cooked onions came out plenty warm. However, the dip did seem to lack a degree of seasoning to add something more to the hearty flavors already at play. But it overall did not disappoint, still lending salty, bone-warming flavor to the already juicy sandwich.

As for the pastrami, the mound of sourdough, stacked meat, lettuce, and tomato was certainly an impressive sight. My companion’s final impression was slightly less emphatic, but for a simple reason. The sandwich, she said, had been a bit dry, but the fresh lettuce and tomato managed to counteract it in the end. This dryness, has said the owner in the past, is due to the deli’s leaner cut style. But the verdict was overall approving, confirming Swartz’s ability to crank out a deli fan favorite.

Swartz’s old-school charm, surprising location, and fresh dedication to traditional Jewish deli fare make it a must try. With little competition in the Omaha area, the West O shop and all its accompanying services are a rare and well-executed treat.

Find yourself stepping through the door and onto the checkered diner floor sometime soon, and you may just find a whiff of New Jersey air along with Swartz’s delicious-smelling novelty.

Lily Yates - Quintessence Editor-in-Chief

Lily became a member of The Flightline in August of 2015. She is a senior this year and enjoys an array of activities including choir, theatre and slam poetry. She is also on staff as a library aide at the Omaha Public Library. You can email her at [email protected]