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Goldberg's Delicatessen 

Earl of Sandwich: Goldberg's crowning glory, the Po' Boy has a faithful following

Can you maintain a long and fulfilling relationship with a sandwich? The Goldberg's Po' Boy and I go way back -- we have history. Since before I got my learner's permit, I've been eating the "famous" signature sandwich of Goldberg's Bagel Company and Deli. The original Roswell Road location of the kosher bakery and delicatessen opened in 1972 and was a convenient bike ride from my parent's house.

Many were the days I'd pick up one for lunch or brown bag it for school the next day. I've known Goldberg's Po' Boy longer than most of my friends and all of my in-laws. Sometimes it's more salty or brittle than usual, but then, we all have our mood swings.

Goldberg's has seen new management since 1992 and has opened other locations at West Paces Ferry and Chamblee-Dunwoody roads, but maintains the original site, a snug space that doesn't look much different than the way it used to. When you arrive at lunch time, the long, blunt shapes of the Po' Boys, individually wrapped in plastic, are at the ready in stacks like torpedoes and often include subtle variations, like mayo-free and turkey only.

The original Po' Boy ($4.95 with chips) contains turkey, pastrami, corned beef and salami (the individual meats vary based on what happens to be available that day), with Swiss cheese, brown mustard and a thin slice of pickle in the middle offering an almost imperceptible crunch. With its thick, doughy bread baked on the premises, it's not a sandwich for genteel diners or denture wearers, but demands hearty, no-nonsense, tearing bites and thorough mastication. Finish a whole one and you're unlikely to be hungry until bedtime.

Of course, Goldberg's serves numerous other foodstuffs, from matzo ball soup and albacore tuna salad to numerous classic deli sandwiches made to order. The Reuben ($6.95), for instance, comes on hot rye toast with lean cuts of meat and tart sauerkraut. Also fine are the tongue sandwiches, which rarely get their due respect. The uninitiated will treat tongue like something eaten on a "Survivor" challenge, but generally it yields a tasty cold-cut-caliber meat akin to thin-sliced ham or richly flavored bologna, which sits nicely on the deli's fresh leaf lettuce and bread. At $9.95, Goldberg's tongue sandwich might be steep for someone experimenting, but it's nothing to be afraid of.

On the walls of Goldberg's hang handbills for most of Andrew Lloyd Webber's hits and other Broadway musicals, which seems a reach to evoke a Manhattan delicatessen. But when the lunch rush hits, it feels authentically Big Apple, with diners bustling around the counter waiting for guys to call out "Who's next?" (The Chamblee-Dunwoody deli has more structured crowd control.) The tables are small, but the atmosphere is cheerful for a quick sit-down breakfast or lunch.

In addition to its bread loaves, bialys and salt sticks, Goldberg's provides more than 20 kinds of bagels, continuing the post-1980s trend that insists bagel bakeries offer as many varieties as Baskin Robbins -- even including some of the same flavors, such as chocolate chip and banana nut. Not to knock the bagels themselves, which provide fine vehicles for the assorted cream cheeses, but they taste best in the buff -- plain, hot from the oven with nothing on them.

Goldberg's bagels are easily the equals of any in Atlanta, but it's the sandwiches that call to me. Cheeseburgers may come and crab cakes may go, but in my heart of hearts, I'm faithful to the Po' Boy.

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