“We’re New York without the plane fare,” says Alan Gilbert, who owns and runs Gilbert’s New York Delicatessen with his father, Joel, and mother, Joyce. “There are no deli guys left like my dad anymore; back in New York, people have great respect for those guys. They’re from the old school.”
One mouthful at Gilbert’s confirms all claims to Big Apple authenticity. They cook their own corned beef, hand cut their lox, and bake a whole turkey each morning for the 14-year-old deli’s popular sandwiches. “Every day smells like Thanksgiving in here,” Alan says of the Preston Royal eatery.
There’s matzo ball soup, of course, their trademark tuna salad and an old-fashioned griddle tempting diners with the hot dogs up front. (Alan says: “My dad used to run dogs for Nathan’s – you know what that is?”)
The Gilberts serve breakfast all day until 7:45 p.m., every day except Sunday when they close at 2:45 and Monday when they’re closed, period. “Really and truly, the omelets are unbelievable here,” says Joyce. (The uninitiated may think she’s only talking about the wonderful taste and texture of the breakfast favorite; the fact of the matter is that there are probably sofa cushions smaller then these things.)
The place stays pretty much filled, and the same faces keep popping up. Yes, it’s the real thing, an honest-to-goodness neighborhood New York deli. Except it’s here.
So: How did a place like Gilbert’s end up in Preston Hollow – in the middle of Texas?
“I was a rep in the garment business in Dallas back in ’83,” says Alan. “My dad had just sold his delicatessen back in New York.” Well, apparently retirement didn’t sit well with Joel and the garment-business mustn’t have been a fundamental part of Alan’s psyche either, “They were holding me over the barrel making coleslaw when I was two,” he says. His mother says that people still “come from miles around” for Gilbert’s coleslaw as well as the potato salad.
So Alan looks around the neighborhood… and thinks “hey” and tells his parents to “come on down.” Joel and Joyce sold their house in two days and, before they knew it, they were surrounded by Texans.
“It was such a hectic time,” says Joyce. “And not knowing anybody here at that point, being new in town…we really just came and built it and opened.
“It took awhile to get used to the way things are done down here. We got to know everybody as we went along.”
And get to know the neighborhood they did – even added grits to the menu – and now Joyce says proudly, “We have the same people coming in since the day we opened. There are several that are here more than once a week as well.”
Alan says: “We’re here for the people who know what we’re doing. The greatest thing about this place, and we had the same thing in New York…there are so many regulars who come here. When I don’t see people for a long time, I get nervous – sometimes I even try to track them down. I love nice people.
“An incredible amount of people have made this place their own. We’ve made a lot of friends here – it’s a fun place to come. It’s loud, jovial, good food.
“What more can you ask for?”
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