It was Saturday, the day before the Indianapolis 500. Carb Day and its pit stop challenge, practice laps, Freedom 100 and excessive amounts of Bell’s Oberon and Margaritas had come and gone. I knew there would be a massive cookout later that evening but it was lunch time and we were on our own for food and if I didn’t speak up, people would instinctively migrate towards the nearest White Castle or Buffalo Wild Wings. I also knew that trying to get a small crowd of seven guys to agree on something besides burgers and wings would be a harder challenge than I was looking to tackle. That’s when I hit me, a deli; that was the answer to my problems.
I immediately did a Google search and a chow hound search to find the nearest and best deli. Moments later, I came across the name Shapiro’s. It had something for everyone, a large selection of sandwiches, a variety of dinner plates, even a healthy number of soups. With our host's orders and blessing, the seven of us piled into my Tahoe and headed to downtown Indy.
When I read that Shapiro’s was a deli, I was expecting three or four men behind a refrigerated meat case dishing out thick slices of cured beef. I wasn’t prepared for the cafeteria that greeted us. I also wasn’t expecting the full parking lot and several busloads of Greeks. Luckily the Fraternity men and Sorority ladies got their meals to go and our group made it through the food line in short order.
As I sat down with my order, I couldn’t help but notice several of my friends had empty lunchroom trays in front of them. Having ordered the Reuben, their sandwiches had to be made fresh, but no one was really sure how the sandwiches would arrive. With no ticket and no names taken, it seemed like getting the correct sandwich would be a crapshoot. Mike McD joked that a lady would come out of the kitchen with a tray full of Reubens and yell “who got the Reuben?” across the lunchroom. Wouldn’t you know that was the way it worked?
Despite the increasingly warm weather outside, I had to try a bowl of Shapiro’s matzo ball soup. Skipping the noodles, I went straight for the broth with an extra matzo ball.
You never know how big a matzo ball will be at a deli, but I immediately decided that two would have been a better choice. Extra matzo aside, this was a bowl of rich chicken broth filled with three pillow soft matzo balls. It may have been a plain bowl of soup, but there was enough schmaltz floating around to make this a lip smacking, revitalizing bowl of chicken goodness.
I’m always hesitant to order a Reuben, not because of the Russian dressing or pastrami but because I’m leery of mountains of sauerkraut. In an effort to find an equally meaty sandwich, I went for the combo on rye.
Contained within a light rye with a good crust, was a small mountain of fatty, salty, and slightly peppery pastrami. Playing the straight man to the fattiness of the pastrami, the corned beef was a leaner and a little dry, but nicely cured and with just the enough saltiness. While the whole sandwich may have been teetering on the edge of sodium overload, a decent mustard kept things in check.
Unfortunately, one sandwich and one bowl of soup doesn’t give Shapiro’s Deli a fair shake. There are dozens more sandwiches, soups, salads, and dinner that went untouched. Sadly, that’s the way it works when you’re in town just once a year. However, with a personal litmus test of pastrami, corned beef, and matzo, not to mention the satiated appetites and empty plates of my friends, I can say that Shapiro’s Deli was worth the drive downtown. I don’t know how much competition there is for best deli in Indy, but after my short visit, I know who has my vote. Hopefully I can delve a little deeper next time, but that will have to wait until next Memorial Day.
Shapiro’s Deli Address & Information