Hot lunch

Server Joe Guffey presents a beef tongue and corned beef double-decker on rye, with potato salad, a pickle and a strawberry milkshake.

Server Joe Guffey presents a beef tongue and corned beef double-decker on rye, with potato salad, a pickle and a strawberry milkshake.

Photo/Allison Young

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When dining out, I prefer to support the investment, hard work and passion for food that a good “mom and pop” shop exemplifies. With so many great family-owned restaurants to choose from, it takes a lot to draw me in across the twin perils of parking lot and smoke-filled casino floor for a meal at a Reno hotel resort. Having said that, the Manhattan Deli inside the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa is doing a fantastic job presenting its mash-up of traditional kosher deli and downtown diner fare. It's definitely worth the trek.

Like most restaurants in the Atlantis, there are no walls separating the deli’s dining area from the adjacent sports book and bar. You’re likely to notice if someone betting on the ponies fires up a stogie, but the ventilation system does a pretty good job keeping that to a minimum. The decor is pretty standard for a modern casino cafe—clean, comfortable, nothing fancy but not dowdy. However, the food is way above my expectations. It’s not fair to compare stand-alone cafes with something that is essentially a component of a larger, multi-room food service operation. However, if the Manhattan Deli was on a street corner with four walls of its own, it would easily be one of the hottest lunch and “comfort food” joints in town.

A bowl of zesty, complimentary giardiniera (a spicy, pickled mix of carrots, cauliflower, pepperoncini, celery and whole kosher dills) was served almost as soon as we’d been seated, a delicious alternative to chips or bread. The staff was courteous and efficient; we’d barely finished the appetizer before our sandwiches arrived. There are plenty of kosher deli items on the menu I’d like to return for, including latkes, knishes, blintzes, chopped chicken liver, matzo ball soup, and so on. There are also lots of non-deli items more akin to diner fare, such as burgers, wings, fish and chips, liver with bacon and onions, etc. But it’s the hot deli sandwiches that really stand out.

My wife chose vinegar coleslaw with her pastrami reuben on rye ($15) and really enjoyed her sandwich, though she found the slaw a bit plain and wished she’d chosen its creamier cousin. I went with potato salad and the beef tongue & corned beef double-decker on rye ($15). The salad was mustard-based and reminiscent of the salad made by my Czech grandmother, which is definitely a compliment.

The sandwich was enormous, with three thick slices of Jewish rye supporting a bottom stack of corned beef and a top stack of thin-sliced, unbelievably tender and savory beef tongue. It’s been years since I’ve had deli-style tongue; I haven’t found it anywhere else in town. Sure, you can get lengua at taquerias and Basque restaurants (both delicious), but it’s just not the same. An added side of grilled sauerkraut ($3), melted Swiss cheese and spicy brown mustard completed a sandwich seemingly bigger than my head. Worth every penny and then some.

A long, refrigerated display case shows off an impressive assortment of bakery and delicatessen goodies, all available for in-house dining or take-out. The skyscraper tall, firm-yet-creamy New York-style cheesecake was impossible to ignore, lightly dusted with powdered sugar and supported by a semi-sweet, crumbly graham cracker crust. I intended to buy three slices ($7 each) with either blueberry or strawberry topping (an extra 50 cents), but the server talked me into saving money by taking home a whole cake (10 slices, $32). My friends and family were pretty happy with that decision, though we agreed the more-syrup-than-fruit toppings were unnecessary. I enjoyed a plain slice with coffee the next morning, an outstanding way to start a lazy Sunday while daydreaming about the next tongue-tacular sandwich.