Disclaimer: This is a food-related review and all opinions are my own. I do not believe in the notion that food critics represent the tastes and preferences of the majority. I believe that food is a very personal experience and all we can do is express our own likes and dislikes. Always try the food for yourself to see what you think.
I first learned of the BlackForest Deli on Facebook after I noticed a few of my high school alumni mentioning how good the food is there. The BFD utilizes social networking extensively, which gives them a great web presence. I had started my food blog and wanted to start reviewing local restaurants, so I thought what better establishment to start with than the BFD.
The BlackForest Deli is located on 745 Union Boulevard & 7th Ave. in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It is owned and managed by a mother-daughter team of Milana & Victoria Shparber. The BFD is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 AM until closing time. They offer free delivery with a minimum order of $20 during the business lunch hours of 11 AM – 3 PM. If you are your business wants to take advantage of the free delivery, be sure to get your orders in as early as possible before 1 PM. The BFD contact information is found at the end of this review.
The BlackForest Deli began, in its current state of ownership, in 2003 when Victoria Shparber took over for a convenience store with the same name, which had been there since 1997. The previous owner also sold subs but Victoria created a completely new menu, which includes healthier sandwiches, soup and salad. A big change from the original menu is that Victoria and her mother added authentic Russian/Ukrainian items, making it a very unique experience that should be tried by everyone.
The menu at the Black Forest Deli is mainly what you would find at most delis with a few extras tossed in. Some of the items include the following:
The breakfast menu includes various sandwiches, yogurt, French toast, omelettes, Danishes, muffins, croissants and bagels. Breakfast is served from 8 AM until 10:30 AM and each item on the menu costs under $5.
The lunch menu includes hoagies and hot sandwiches under $7 each, Specialty salads under $8 each, wraps for $6 or less, paninis under $7 each and different daily soups for $3 for small and $4 for large. The BFD also includes soup and sandwich combos including, soup and sandwich for $6.95, or the all 3 combo, which includes half a sandwich, soup and a salad for $6.95. Not a bad deal!
The BFD also includes an extensive catering menu including, breakfast trays, homemade yogurt cups and finger sandwiches to vegetable letters, salads, wraps, nachos and much more. Prices start at $15.95.
Russian Dinner Nights
One unique feature of the BFD is their Russian Dinner Nights every Thursday. It is an exclusive RSVP (found on their Facebook fan page) due to limited seating and for about $30 and will receive a huge 5+ course dinner of fresh homemade Russian dishes including, soup, appetizer, specialty salad, and entree with mashed potatoes and herb salad, dessert and more. Russian Dinner Nights are a complete Russian experience with Russian food and Russian music.
What Makes BFD Unique?
In addition to the food at the BFD, the atmosphere and ambience of the deli are what keeps customers returning. Victoria and her mother know their regulars by name and everyone is like they are home. Victoria says that many of their customers call the BFD of “the “Cheers” of the Lehigh Valley because every time someone comes in they seem to know someone who is dining in.” She says that the BFD is “is not just a deli but maybe 50% comedy club!”
In the near future, BFD customers can expect a bigger Russian/Ukrainian menu, more Russian Thursday Night Dinners and the possibility of online ordering.
My Order & Review
I decided to place my order on May 5, 2010 by credit card. I gave my nurse my order, in addition to her own, to relay to BFD that around 9 AM that day. Everything went well but my nurse had a slight difficulty communicating with the person who took the order of their phone. I assume this was Milana, the mother of the BFD owners, due to the European accent. It was not too much of an issue.
My order included halupkis, a Boston Grinder, borsch, pierogies and homemade macaroni salad. My nurse ordered a turkey & bacon melt, borsch, pierogies and cheesecake. The total came to $37.10 and my credit card was billed at 11:12 AM, a few minutes before the delivery person arrived. He was very punctual.
I know I ordered several items but I did not eat all of them in one sitting! I did, however, try some of everything that night. I just couldn’t resist! On with my review.
The BFD halupkis tasted just like the homemade ones we make here at home. Theirs contains ground beef and rice stuffed inside of cabbage leaves in a tomato broth. The only difference is ours uses a little less rice and stewed tomatoes instead of a tomato broth but the actual halupki tastes just like ours. I tasted garlic and maybe onion, just like ours. I was pleasantly surprised that this is the best halupki I have ever tasted outside of my home. The tomato broth is a great addition but I do miss the stewed tomatoes. All in all, I highly recommend that BFD customers try their halupkis, even if you have never tried them anywhere else before or if you think they are not homemade because the certainly taste like they are, as advertised. The cost is 2 for $6, which is moderately priced but taste like they should cost more.
A variation of halupkis is stuffed peppers, which, at my home at least, contain the same ingredients inside but stuffed inside of green peppers instead of cabbage leaves. BFD served them occasionally during a special.
I bought the large BFD Boston Grinder (basically a sandwich with a lot of deli meat) and it was huge! It was big enough for three sandwiches and I had plenty of leftovers. This sandwich tasted great with quite a bit of flavor. The grinder contains roast beef, turkey, bacon, mayonnaise, onions and tomatoes, topped with provolone cheese and toasted until the cheese is melted. It was loaded with meat, so it’s definitely worth the price and then some! The meat was cut thin which created an interesting texture in a good way and tasted high-quality. I recommend the Boston Grinder to everyone but the large ($6.50) is big enough for two people or one person and leftovers, so, if you want a smaller portion, go with the smaller size ($5.50) — but it is only a dollar more than the small, so you be the judge.
I had never tasted borsch before but I knew what it was. I was hesitant to try it but hard good things about BFD and their borsch, so I thought I would give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised that beet taste was minimal — I do like beets but never had them in a soup. BFD borsch contains a vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, beets, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, crushed peppers, various seasonings and a secret ingredient. While researching other Borsch recipes, most of them did not contain as much tomato but I found BFD borsch to taste very good and not at all what I expected. It packs a little heat due to the crushed peppers, which I, at 1st, thought was due to paprika but I was close because paprika is a pepper but BFD uses the fresh thing. The heat is not overwhelming, so do not be afraid to try it if you are not a fan of hot food. While the tomatoes taste good, it is not the best thing for people with acid reflux, like me, but you should be safe as long as you do not eat too much. One thing I noticed was that the borsch was not chunky. Everything was finely chopped with just a little bit of chewing required, which is a rather neutral issue for me but makes it a good soup to go along with a sandwich — I don’t like chunky soups with a sandwich anyway. Finally, the dollop of sour cream really adds the great creamy texture to the soup. I highly recommend the soup to anyone, even if beets sound gross to you. You will be pleasantly surprised! As with all of BFD soups, the borsch costs $3 for small and $4 for large — the small is a little over a cup but, if your experience is anything like the one I had with the borsch, you will want more, so I recommend going with the large!
Check out the BFD TV appearance on WFMZ about borsch.
I ordered 3 pierogies and my nurse ordered 3 for herself. Being Polish, she thought the BFD pierogies tasted different than her mother’s but not bad. Her and my mother did not think these were homemade, mainly because of the outside being shaped too evenly. I really could not tell if they were homemade as advertised or not but, regardless, I really liked the texture of the dough, which was thin and not to doughy, and the filling inside, which was not perfectly smooth but a bit grainy, like real potatoes. We received the potato and cheese and they had some flavor but not overpowering, which is what I like. I am sure that BFD’s other flavors including, meat, which Victoria likes the best, or sauerkraut, have more flavor. They are good, not spectacular, but good. I recommend everybody try them out at least once. They cost $2 for 3 pierogies.
Homemade macaroni salad
I have heard great things about the BFD homemade macaroni salad but, sadly, this is the only items I ordered which I did not like. Remember, this is my opinion but do not take my word for it until you try it yourself because everyone has different tastes. For me, this salad really did not have much flavor or depth. I tasted the macaroni, mayonnaise, eggs and a little heat but little else. It is a very thick salad, which is the opposite of what I am usually used to. After I added some Italian dressing, I liked it better. As for myself, I would not order it again but, again, try it for yourself. At $2, you will receive a good-sized serving.
Turkey & Bacon Melt
My nurse ordered Turkey & Bacon Melt, which is a wrap that includes fresh turkey melted with cheese, onions and crispy bacon, lettuce, sweet peppers in the horseradish thousand Island spread. She could not eat the whole thing in one sitting and took the other home. I cannot vouch for this item but she said it was huge and tasted good, so that’s enough from me! It cost $6, which is worth the price for the size of this monster wrap.
My nurse bought a serving of cheesecake for her son. She wanted the chocolate chip but it was not available, so she went with the plain. He thought it tasted fine but it is pretty much your standard cheesecake. I cannot vouch for the BFD cheesecake myself. The cost is $295 per serving.
In conclusion, BFD is a great deli that does exactly what it sets out to do: to serve good, moderately priced standard deli fare items, which, by themselves, are not that unique. However, BFD has added their own unique spin on deli food with a menu that contains a lot of healthy versions of often unhealthy foods, making for very flavorful food that is still healthy for you. What really makes them stand out are their authentic Ukrainian and Russian menu items, which you will probably never find in your standard deli. In addition to their food, BFD offers a warm, welcoming and fun atmosphere that is full of personality.
BFD prices are around the average all of other delis with some items carrying a lower price than other delis. Overall, the prices are very reasonable, especially when you take the huge size of some of their items.
I highly recommend everyone trying BFD at least once. You never know, you might just become one of the BFD regulars! If you discovered BFD through this review, be sure to tell Victoria that John sent you!
I give BFD 4 out of 5 stars.
How to Order for Delivery
BFD orders may be placed by phone or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Hours of Operation
Monday – Friday
8 AM – 4 PM
8 AM – 2 PM
745 Union Boulevard & 7th Ave.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18018
Facebook:BlackForest Deli & Catering
Be sure to check out my Interview with the Owner of the BlackForest Deli in Bethlehem, PA. Also, please try to visit my blog, Gugie Gourmet!