Last Update
Sep 5th, 2019

Top Hat Deli

415 NE 3rd
Fort Lauderdale FL, 33301
954 900-3896
Overall Rating
1.7
Food
Service
Ambiance
Value
Last Review
09/05/2019

Details

Hours: 7 days 7:30am-3:30pm
Dress Code: Casual
Parking: Private Lot, Street Metered
CC: yes
Alcohol: Full Bar
Outdoor: No

Pros

Modern Decor
Good Cole Slaw

Cons

Absurdly Overpriced
No Overstuffed Sandwiches
No Combos
No Pickle Service
Terrible Deli Meats

Critic's Review

It's hard to believe it's been 4 years since my last visit to Top Hat. I had some really bad, overpriced pastrami, and there seemed little reason to return. I though I'd see if they figured out The Meat.

They have a small "free" parking lot which fills up quickly at lunch time, so I got here at 11:35 before the "rush". The more comfortable back room didn't seem like an option, as it appeared it was more important to seat me at a particular server's table than the most comfortable one. I got a window seat with a great view. The building across the street has been. under construction for over a year.

The place was pretty dead with about 8 people; yet it was EXTREMELY loud. Every plate clunk and silverware cling can be heard. A design problem that I guess they didn't thing needed correcting.

There'e a fully stocked bar at the counter where you can have a bourbon with your pancakes. I'm not sure how much liquor they're serving closing at 3:30pm.

Coffee comes in a white mug with a black interior; this makes the coffee look stronger than it is. More on this later.

Decent coffee; no creamers unless you ask for it. I ordered the Corned Beef Hash, which comes with 2 eggs and your choice of toast, tomatoes or fruit. I'm amused by people who eat fruit with corned beef hash.

Butter is optional; it comes out first; giving the nearly frozen balls time to thaw.

Music is decent; adding to the loudness of the room, with Hanson, Spin Doctors and Dave Matthews mixed in with Paula Cole.

The food came out in 7 minutes.

It looked like a hearty portion, with a few extra slices of corned beef.

There was an odd smell coming from the plate. Breaking the yolks and tasting the food; the potatoes were completely unseasoned and the big problem; the corned beef didn't taste like corned beef at all.

I taste some of the standalone "corned beef". It tasted like roast beef. No salty or spice taste; if you soaked a rump roast with a couple of drops of food coloring you could duplicate this recipe; plus the meat was ultra-lean. Easily the worst excuse for corned beef I've encountered in recent memory. The Deli corned beef at Duffy's is much better than this.

One issue with the black interior cups is that servers can't tell when the cup needs refilling. My cup was completely empty before someone came around with a pitcher.

I was about done; and a server dropped off the check, face down as to not ruin my meal.

I'm usually pretty good at cleaning my plate (a habit learned in leaner times), but I had no interest in eating this meat.

Over $20 for this. I really don't know how places like this survive for 4 years.

Conclusion

Yet another bad food experience at a Be Nice restaurant. I get that all restaurant owners are delusional in that they only listen to positive feedback, but don't they have taste buds? How can serving corned beef that tastes like boiled roast beef get past ownership for multiple years?

The Delis in NY are great because the owners have spent 50 years tinkering with their recipes to achieve near perfection in their deli meats. Top Hat is only 4 years in the making, but it appears they haven't improved their process one iota.

Review 9/16/15

Yesterday I pulled into the Top Hat parking lot and I sat for a minute, and then I went to Fresh Market. There were only 2 people visible in the front room. Today there were some more people, and I decided to go in. The menu is so insulting that I didn't want to, but it's what I do. I pay $20 for $12 lunches all of the time, so I'm not sure why it bothered me so much.

Before they divulged the name of this Deli we only knew the business name, which is Oy Vey. So we knew something Jewish was happening.

There are a lot of cars on the west side of the building in a dirt lot, but they have parking along the East side of the building. There's another dirt lot with a tow away sign; I found a spot so I didn't examine it too closely.

Inside, the place is very sterile. White and beige; no decorations. Tasteful lighting. There's a nice counter with stools and Big TVs. I never sit at a counter in a Deli.

What you can't see from the street is the back room, which is lined with huge beige booths. There are 6 6-person booths and 4 lower rise 4-person booths; they offered to let me sit where I wanted, the big booth seemed like too much.

I then realized I was right next to the order window, which may not have been ideal. I prefer a bit more privacy. I know that open kitchens are in, but this would be better with a wall between the booth and the window.

My server started by telling me that they have a full bar, and that they have milk shakes. I'll have an unsweetened Iced Tea please.

I ordered the tea not thinking that I might order breakfast. Some items on the menu are only available until 11am, but you can get omelets all day. I asked about the pastrami/corned beef/brisket omelet, surmising that I'd be able to sample all 3 meats, but my server told me I had to pick 1. That wasn't good, so I told him I needed another minute. It was then that I realized that I didn't want iced tea with an omelet, so I should order a sandwich. He came back to tell me that he was wrong; that you DO get all 3 meats; usually the "meat" omelet at a Jewish Deli has pastrami, corned beef and tongue; but there's no tongue here. I assumed he had to be wrong, although they don't have the standard corned beef / pastrami combos here either, so maybe not.

I ordered a pastrami sandwich on Rye; he said it comes with Lettuce and Tomato; "On the side please". It comes with a side as well; I opted for Cole Slaw. The first thing I notice in a "NY Deli" is the mustard; the tables here are noticeably missing the mustard. Maybe too much color for the table?

My server dropped off a sandwich and the extras; the only problem was that it was a corned beef sandwich. I tasted a piece to make sure that their pastrami didn't look like corned beef; but it was corned beef. I flagged him down. "this looks like corned beef to me", I said. "Isn't that what you wanted?". No. He apologized and took the sandwich away.

Meanwhile I was trying to figure out what to do with the extras; was I going to put lettuce, tomato and onions on a pastrami sandwich?

I like the beefsteak tomatoes, but not the white stuff.

It was a few more minutes of waiting. I didn't really like sitting over here; too many servers flying around. I don't need to see this. Meanwhile, I noticed that many of the patrons seemed to be from the "Be Nice" family of restaurants; a lot of young people who the servers all seemed to know quite well. One even wearing a Be Nice tee shirt.

The sandwich came out; the owner Elliot came over himself and introduced himself. I'm not sure if he knows who I am, he mentioned that he'd seen me around but didn't let on. He asked if I needed anything else: "I'll need some mustard". I was kind of shocked that they were serving corned beef and pastrami sandwiches without mustard.

We've seen the pictures on the website, so we knew this wasn't going to be a huge, overstuffed NY Deli sandwich. For $14 you don't even get a whole pickle. For reference purposes, this is what you get at the Carnagie Deli for $20. You get a full pound of pastrami on the overstuffed sandwiches there.

Here's what you get in a NYC Deli when you sit down at the table.

He brought out the mustard; a brand I've never seen before, but clearly of Jewish origin.

Sy Ginsberg is the brand of premium cold cuts sold by United Meat & Deli that has become like Dietz and Watson. I guess everyone has their own mustard now.

And it is a good mustard; not as spicy as Gulden's brown, but better than some of the other knock-off brands that some places have.

I liked the cole slaw; creamy, not too sweet; not ruined by vinegar. I don't like these half sour pickles; I'd rather have two Claussen Deli Dill spears from a jar than this.

Good bread, but I didn't like the pastrami. It was tough; cut too thick and frankly didn't taste enough like pastrami. It can be cut thicker if it's more tender. Pastrami is heavily spiced and should be bursting with flavor; this recipe needs work.

I found myself completely indifferent about finishing the sandwich, which isn't a good thing.

I got my bill, $18.02 for a sandwich, cole slaw, 1/2 pickle and an iced tea. I'm not going to kill the service on the 3rd day open, but they need to get off pushing the booze as soon as you sit down.

Conclusion

It didn't take me too long to just brush it off when a pizza place opened down here claiming to serve NY Style pizza; it's just a marketing term; there's no correlation to pizza in south florida and pizza in New York. Down here, we don't have too many delis. The "NY Deli" in LBTS is a joke, and H & E Marina Deli recently Closed. When Larry Vogel ran Pomperdale, it was a real Jewish Deli; not just because the food was authentic, but because the Vogels were in the business of creating satisfied customers. You didn't get the crazy overstuffed sandwiches, but their prices were more than fair for the very good food they served. Pomperdale has gone corporate; it not as good and a lot more expensive; but it's still the best we have available.

Bring on Top Hat, which on the surface seems like a pretty good idea. A Jewish Deli in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Here's the difference. In NYC, rent is $160/ft and secretaries make $85K. At real NYC delis, you're getting age-old recipes and the best meat that money can buy. And you're getting crazy portions of great food that have you leaving the restaurant practically giggling and totally satisfied. That's not the case here. There is no justification for these prices.

I'm not going to restaurants that charge $14 for a medium sized sandwich and who nickel and dime me on pickles. For $14 I want 2 pickles and a 3/4lb of meat that makes my eyes roll back into my head. Otherwise I'm driving up to Boca or Delray to get my Deli Fix. Heck, even Pastrami Club was better than this.

Pre-opening Musings

The Top Hat Deli is now open. I was going to go check it out; but THEN I saw the menu. I drove by and with 2 people in the one room, I decided to pass for the time being.

It appears that owner Elliot Wolf thinks that he's opened a Deli in midtown Manhattan. I have to admit I was wrong; I said this place would be $2 more than it should be; but it appears to be $4 more than it should be. $12 hot dogs, $12 for a tuna fish sandwich, $8 for Matzah Ball soup. They don't have the 1/2 sandwich and soup that every Jewish Deli on the planet offers.

$10 for an egg sandwich. It's actually insulting.

"Come on in, you big dope, and pay $10 for $1 worth of food".

"Red Cow" Bacon. Wow!

At a Long Island deli you get an egg on a roll with bacon, cheese and a small coffee for $3.25.

Somehow they got 150 seats registered for this place, so they have a liquor license. But they close at 3:30pm.

You'd think that a guy with 4 restaurants would know how to communicated his product better. WHAT do I get for my $14? An overstuffed sandwich? A big tub of cole slaw?

***********

TOP HAT IS A DELICATESSEN CONCEPT, ROOTED IN TRADITION WITH A MODERN TWIST.

The "modern twist" scares me a bit. It should be a place to get some corned beef or pastrami. Knowing owner Elliot Wolf, it will probably be $2 more expensive than it should be.

Construction as of 7/15/15:

Construction is underway at Oy Vey, which is apparently going to be a lot bigger than the original building. I'm thinking a Katz Type operation.

********

I reported a couple of weeks ago that Elliot Wolf; owner of Coconuts, Foxy Brown and Red Cow, has purchased this building on NE 3rd for $745,000. It appears as though he'll be opening a Jewish Deli; or at least that's my guess. It could be a Jewish Dance Studio, or a Kosher kitchen, but based on the size of the building, I'd say it's going to be a Deli.

Comment Policy Add Comment
moses
Reply
Im a jew from nu york and this place sells jewish food tastes like junk...Wait till TOOJAYS opens for real jewish cuisine..
Administrator
Reply
I had some pretty foul cabbage rolls at Too Jays in Plantation. So we'll see.
mike
Reply
Did this place move from its original location near the courthouse, and is it a different ownership? the more recent yelp reviews are positive, the original opening reviews were terrible, like your initial review here.
Administrator
Reply
No, this is Elliot Wolf's of "Be Nice" place; he bought the building and built the restaurant.

That happens with every restaurant, because everyone tried it when it opens, the people who don't like it never go back; so 2 years in only stupid people and regulars are going there.
Shar
Reply
Has this place gotten any better since they opened? It's so close, yet I never even think about it. I was so excited when I first heard about it.
Lou
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I haven't saved up enough to go back for a second try yet!
Ralph
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Top Hat epitomizes how bad Fort Lauderdale is for food. This place would be closed in a month in NY. I don't know one person who likes it. Yet here it is.
Jenn
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Does anyone go here except Be Nice employees?
norman schwartz
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WHO EVER HEARD OF A DELI USING RATHER THICK,TOUGH CORNED BEEF AND SMOTHERING IT IN ONIONS... BAD COMBINATION......
WORST CHOPPED LIVER !!! EXPENSIVE!!!
Administrator
Reply
It's easier to have an idea than it is to implement it. The Weird BBQ at Red Cow; the "Deli" food here. There's a reason that the old time places are special experiences.
DanG
Reply
This place would be great if it was about $30 less expensive
Administrator
Reply
They're pushing their ramen noodles and eggs dish because it's about 60 cents worth of food and they're charging $12. People are so stupid it's unbelievable.
Steve
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Who ever heard of Brisket or Pastrami being "Hot pressed" on a Panini Press? It was dry, dry, dry and not at all succulent like the real Jewish Deli's of old.

I asked my server this question and her very curt response was.."I never told you we were a Jewish Deli"!!! I am totally speechless. I brought this issue up with Management and his response was.."We don't steam our brisket or pastrami, we panini press it"...Huh??
Administrator
Reply
So Shoot Us for figuring that a Jewish guy with NY roots serving Challah French Toast, Kugel, Kreplach and Matzo Ball soup would consider his Deli to be a Jewish Deli.
Pam
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Why do people on Yelp lie? It's really quite alarming how dishonest people are.
Administrator
Reply
Restaurants have lots of employees and employees have Mothers and friends. Realize that Elliot has 4 restaurants so his employees from his other restaurants are all probably eating for half price. Thats why you simply can't rely on anything you read where random people write reviews. For every restaurant, there 300 people with the motivation to write embellished reviews.
The Chowfather
Reply
Are they making the pastrami in house or is it National??
Administrator
Reply
I highly assume it's made in-house. First, it wasn't good. And Wolf is a profit maximizer. He may be smoking the stuff at Red Cow (note they serve "red cow" bacon"). When Red Cow opened the ribs were awful.
Carol
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Cookies are Market Price. It's almost like the menu is a joke or something. Like it's some sort of practical joke. Do they give you the whole meatloaf for $21. It's so absurd that is must be a joke.
larry park
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does anyone else know of a Jewish style deli that opens on the first day of R.H.?????
Kevin
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Quality tasting Reuben, filling but nope not overstuffed by any means and agreed it is overpriced. After tax and tip you are getting a $20 sandwich for lunch. FYI the entire back room is booths so you can't knock them for that at least.
Administrator
Reply
So if you have nice booths why put pictures of the bad looking room on your web site? Makes no sense.
Mike
Reply
This guy is hallucinating badly. Somebody get him to the ER where he can come down and correctly re-price this menu.
Administrator
Reply
This is what happens when you let things get out of control. Foxy Brown is overpriced. People go anyway. Red Cow is worse. People go anyway. So now he thinks he can just charge any price. Maybe he's right. I sure hope not.
TinaG
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$22 for Spaghetti and Meatballs at a deli!!!! Now that's insulting!
db
Reply
[paraphrase] That $14 Reuben on their Web Site has about 1/3 of the meat that it should
Administrator
Reply
Agreed. I'd better get more than THAT for $14.

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