Some people may tell you that you can't find a good deli in San Diego. Don't listen! It is just not true.
San Diego has a number of excellent delis scattered around the county, like City Deli in Hillcrest and Milton's in Del Mar.
DZ Akins, located in the College Area, is perhaps the oldest and certainly one of the best.
Founded in 1980 in a small store in a strip shopping center, DZ Akins is about to celebrate 30 years of service to the community.
The small shop has expanded over the years to the point that it now occupies the entire building.
In addition to serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, a semi-circle of display cases tempt shoppers with pre-cooked, smoked and otherwise-prepared salami, cheese, cold cuts and other delicacies.
Racks of loaves of breads run along the back wall next to challah, braided sacramental breads used on Sabbath and Jewish holidays.
Boxes of matzo, halvah and other packaged goods divide the arc of displays. Another room holds a gift shop, where one may buy a variety of souvenirs, Jewish holiday decorations and other goods.
A frenetic energy fills the area by the cash register, as customers mill about waiting to pay, waiting for tables or waiting for counter service. The energy feels electric, rather than enervating. It is part of the enjoyable restaurant's hustle and bustle, increased by the rush of servers bringing hot food to diners.
Dining at DZ Akins is more than just chowing down on food. It is actually fun.
The light, casual atmosphere is elevated by colorful, funny murals, and rows of photographs showing famous diners and area scenes.
And, it's a family business, so you know that everything will be done right.
In the old days, Debbie Akins worked "the front of the house," sitting on a high stool like a queen to survey her servers helping diners.
At the same time, her husband Tzvika worked the "back of the house," making sure that all the dishes that left the small kitchen met their high standards of quality and appearance.
Now, the business is managed by their son Elan, who left a promising career in television production in order to take over the family business.
He's working hard to bring the restaurant's marketing into the 21st century by creating an upgraded Web site and social marketing programs.
"I want to develop a new portal that will offer more information about what a deli prepares and serves," he said.
The word "delicatessen" comes from German and means "delicacies." There are many types of "deli" -- German, Polish and others.
DZ Akins is a Jewish deli and serves such delicacies as kugel, kishke and kreplach.
The new site will explain all these foodstuffs and describe just how delicious they are.
"Some things never change here," Elan continued. "We rarely change our extensive menu because our customers enjoy the consistency. And we offer great value. Our portions are so large that we jokingly say we should serve a take-home box along with the dishes."
Despite the recession, business is brisk, particularly on Fridays and before Jewish holidays. Catering has increased.
"People are economizing for large and small parties and often hold them at home. Our catering has grown, even for non-Jewish holidays like Easter," Elan said.
DZ Akins serves throughout the day. One can get breakfast in the evening, if one wishes. But it is energy boosting to start the day with such delights as blintzes stuffed with cheese and topped with sour cream or with latkes, potato pancakes topped with applesauce.
Salami and eggs, rolled out pancake style, is a traditional favorite.
Salad platters and sandwiches are huge. Some sandwich fillings like corned beef or combination sandwiches filled with several types of meats are so large that it can be hard to get one's mouth around them.
Soup is a sort of specialty. The restaurant phones and emails customers its list of soups, which varies periodically, so people can rush in to enjoy their favorites.
Everything is very tasty and always served quickly. It is amazing how much food can be generated from the tight kitchen and how fast it comes out.
My own litmus test for delis is "chicken in the pot" -- that's the dish I use to compare and contrast. DZ Akins' version is one of those that top my personal list. The soup is full of good taste and less salty than other delis make. The matzo ball and kreplach, a large wonton-like item filled with hamburger meat, are huge. The half chicken was enough to feed a small family. Obviously, I called for a take-home box at once.
With its new exterior and interior expansion, the waiting time has gone down. Seating and service are fast, prices are moderate, the value is great and the food is delicious. DZ Akins is a winner.
DZ Akins deli is located at 6930 Alvarado Road. For more information, call 619-265-0218.
Rottenberg is editor of Dining San Diego Magazine, a member of the California Restaurant Writers Association and the restaurant critic for sdgodowntown.com. Send comments to the firstname.lastname@example.org. All letters are forwarded to the author and may be used as Letters to the Editor.