Cheap Eats - The Federal Delicatessen

Federal Delicatessen

We didn’t know whether to review Federal Delicatessen or not as it’s not strictly a Cheap Eat. Well it is if you go for brunch (everything is under $20), but not for dinner, but it’s new and it’s fun so we thought we’d do it anyway and just talk about menu items within a Cheap Eats budget.

Al Brown’s latest venture of a New York-inspired deli and retro diner has been receiving rave reviews. We walked past the queues of people waiting to get into Al’s other outstandingly successful venture, Depot, and through the doors of Fed Deli straight into the 1950s. Fortunately we went early so we were able to be seated immediately. They do not take bookings, as is the trend around town right now.

The Deli is set up as a diner, but as a Canadian, no diner that I have ever been to was as slick as this. The female staff wear retro dresses and lots of attention to presentation and detail make for a great atmosphere.

Once seated, a little basket of chips and dip arrived and so we perused the menu. The deli is open from early to late, so it covers breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was keen to try something traditionally deli-style, so veered towards the sandwich menu and ordered the pastrami on rye ($16.50). My pre-teen daughter headed for the Street Dog ($6.50) and throwing caution to the winds we also ordered a side of fries for my daughter ($7) and a small serve of the Montreal Poutine ($9). If you haven’t come across poutine before, this French Canadian gift to hardened arteries consists of fries and cheese curd pieces all smothered with gravy.


Our food arrived promptly, served by Al himself who was working there that night. My daughter loved her Street Dog so much that she ordered a second one, but didn’t finish her fries. We felt that the fries had been a bit overcooked and many of them were the “short ends”. The poutine was the sort of comfort food that you imagine it would be. Do believe the menu when it says to trust them on this one.

My pastrami sandwich was served on very tasty rye bread and while the pastrami had a great earthy smoked flavour, the fact that it was sliced, not shaved, meant that the chewing was a bit hard going at times. I loved the finely shredded coleslaw that came with it. The food is made from quality ingredients and is made with love, typical of Al’s style.

We really enjoyed the Fed and would recommend it to others, especially for lunch or a light meal, but I’m going to go against the general trend here and say that despite the quality of the food, I believe the price tag is a bit hefty on some of the items. We did go on another non-reviewing occasion and despite the veal schnitzel ($28 with no veggies) and the combination plate of three deluxe salads ($29) being extremely tasty I wasn’t sure if they were worth the price. I know I could be tainted by the kind of diner I know from home.

My advice –  do try the Federal Delicatessen for yourself. You will love the retro decor, the food and the service but don’t expect diner or deli prices as you may have imagined them.

Location:  86 Federal Street, Auckland Central
Phone: (09)  363- 7184
Hours: 7:00am  till late seven days
Prices: Breakfast $4-$19.50; bagels and sandwiches $14-$19.50; appetisers $14-$22; NY Steam Kettle soups/stews $16-$28; meat main dishes $20-$28; salads deluxe $14-$16 (3 salad platter $29); sides $3.50-$7; Poutine $9/$12; desserts $11.50; sodas $5-$6; filter coffee and tea $3.50, cocoa $4.
Credit Cards:  Yes
Licensed: Yes
Suitable for Vegetarians: Yes
Takeaways: Not yet
Bathrooms: Good
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
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3 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    The Fed seems to be a bit confused as to whether it’s a Deli or a diner, but maybe I’m just not familiar enough with the Canadian way. The fit out is seamless, but feels like a Disneyland outlet, rather than a real place to enjoy food. The service was excellent as was the Chelsea Bun. But the pastrami in the Mish Mash was way too smoked, with a dry crust – not as succulent as it could have been. Not having a great interest in coffee, the filter only policy didn’t worry me, however I can imagine many disgruntled coffee aficionados.

    • Lynn says:

      Funny you should feel that way about The Fed. It is definitely not a diner of the kind that I am familiar with and is a restaurant not a cafe or deli. Once you know that you can understand their menu better but it can be very confusing. Sounds as though we both had disappointing experiences with the pastrami. Glad to hear that the Chelsea Bun was good. I have yet to find a baker who really understands cinnamon buns as I know them!

    • Bill says:

      Check out the new Deli on Queen Street! Amazingly authentic deli food from Canada. http://www.alsdeli.co.nz

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