“My parents were in search of the perfect corned beef sandwich in Connecticut. They had to open their own deli to find it.”
Halfway between Boston and New York City, off the I-84 highway, there is a bustling, “New York Style” Jewish deli, where both local and out-of-town families run into each other, either in passing before getting back onto the highway, or to share a meal of corned beef, latkes and half-sour pickles.
I had the opportunity to sit across from Greg Rein, co-owner of Rein’s New York Style Deli in Vernon, Connecticut, where for my entire life, my family has stopped to enjoy what we consider the perfect corned beef sandwich. For the past 28 years Greg Rein has carried the torch of the Jewish-inspired deli, founded by his parents, Bob and Betty Rein, in 1972.
“My father was Jewish, and he married a Christian woman,” Rein tells me. “We were partially raised Christian, though we lived in New Jersey, just outside of New York City and around the corner from a Jewish deli. We were raised on Jewish food. When my parents moved to Connecticut they missed the culture of New York City and the wonderful Jewish food it had to offer.”
The deli’s homage to New York City is clear: from the 10-foot recreation of the Statue of Liberty (glowing torch and all) to the restroom doors marked “Queens” and “Menhatten,” there is an obvious love for the Big Apple. The “way-off” Broadway lounge in the back of the restaurant will serve you beer, wine and cocktails if you want a break from Dr. Brown’s soda (though I can’t imagine who would want that).
You’ll find plenty of Jewish deli staples in addition to corned beef; such as brisket, chopped liver, bagels and lox, knishes and their most popular item: the Reuben. My favorite item on the menu, hands down, is the corned beef sandwich, for a variety of reasons. The meat is sliced perfectly thin, with just the right level of fattiness, which, when combined with mustard and their soft rye bread, makes possibly the most harmonious sandwich in existence. Add a sour pickle and a Dr. Brown’s root beer, and you’re basically in deli heaven. The customers’ love for Rein’s is certainly not lost on Greg Rein.
“We’re in a small community and we get a lot of regulars in addition to folks from out of town,” Rein tells me. “We love to establish nice relationships with our customers. Employees are family here. Some employees have been with us 20, 25 years, 30 years. We are different from the cold corporate shell of a lot of companies. Some employees start here at sixteen, then through high school, college and even after college. Some go off to become doctors, lawyers and teachers; but they always come back and pay us a visit.”
In 1990, the original Rein’s location (previously across the street from where the deli currently stands) tragically burned down in a fire. Immediately, the community came together to help restore the deli.
“Synagogues, sports teams and locals from the community came to help restore the restaurant. It shows how much it meant to them.”
In the coming year, Rein’s will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. And there is certainly a lot to celebrate: from its stellar corned beef, to its restoration after the fire in 1990, the deli is stronger—and more celebrated—than ever.