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Goodman's Deli Set for St. Patrick's Day

Don Parkin says last year's rush at his Berkeley Heights diner has him and his staff prepared for the corned-beef-and-cabbage rush Saturday.

It’s that time of year again when many claim to be “Irish for a day,” while some celebrate their Irish roots. Regardless, countless residents will devour pounds of corned beef and cabbage, maybe a Reuben or two, and even some green beer this Saturday.

While you can’t grab a green beer at Goodman’s Restaurant & Deli in Berkeley Heights, you can bring your own to wash down a corned-beef-and-cabbage platter, which owner Don Parkin boasts is the best around. And if his 540 customers on March 17 last year is any indication, his customers agree.

“There’s one thing that keeps people coming in all day long and besides our corned beef sandwiches, it’s our corned beef platter,” said Parkin, who purchased Goodman’s in 2010. “It’s corned beef, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. We serve it with rye bread, it’s $13.95 and we are literally pushing them out of here all day. I have friends and family coming in to help me that day. Last year, it was my biggest day of the year. By the end of the day, we’re zombies.”

Parkin, who sold computer software and data analysis systems to corporations for 25 years, grew up in Chicago an lived in Denver for three years before coming to Berkeley Heights in 2005. Parkin purchased a home in New Providence five months later with his family —Lisa, his wife, and children, Keaton (8) and Davis (4).

Last year was Parkin’s first St. Patrick’s Day as the owner of Goodman’s and said he didn’t know what to expect.

“I was told that there would be no dinner. It was on a Thursday and I was told [by my staff and the previous owners] the bulk of my business would be carry-out for dinner, not dining room, but I’d be busy during lunch. We were literally jam-packed. Dinner service was just nonstop. I don’t know what it was, but we had people bringing six packs of beer in, we had families, I had people waiting for tables and lines out the door. People were coming in for platters to go and despite the fact that I had a lot of friends and family who came in to help, it was still [crazy].”

Parkin said his restaurant is typically busiest during lunchtime and for weekend breakfast. St. Patrick’s Day is on a Saturday this year and Parkin said he’s not sure what customer volume to expect. But he’s already getting orders for corned beef and cabbage platters, which he’s selling through this Sunday.

So what makes Parkin and his customers think Goodman’s corned beef and cabbage, not to mention their entire menu, so tasty? As a traditional Jewish-style, kosher-style deli, Parkin said Goodman’s was originally opened in Elizabeth in 1943 by Irvin and Julius Goodman. Since then, the restaurant changed hands three times before Parkin purchased the restaurant in 2010. But the name and the high quality of food remained the same, with 85 percent of it made on premise.

“The bottom line is… anyone who loves hot corned beef or hot pastrami, I know they’ve had this experience. They go into a deli and they order a hot pastrami or corned beef sandwich and they get something that isn’t anywhere near close to what they wanted. It’s made from the wrong kind of meat, it was probably put in a microwave, it’s chewy, it doesn’t have any flavor, it doesn’t melt in your mouth,” Parkin explained. “So when I moved here and came here to eat, it was just like wow, now this is authentic. When I first moved here, this is one of the first places I came to eat. There are no good delis in Denver, there’s really nothing like this so when I came here, it was my first exposure to hot, steamed corned beef that just melted in your mouth so I became a huge fan of this place.”

When Parkin took Goodman’s over, he said he made some adjustments in terms of portions and cooking temperatures.

“The menu stayed the same, I’ve just fine-tuned the recipes and how things are cooked, how things are prepared, how things are served,” Parkin explained. “The second generation [Goodman] owner expanded [the menu] to add the diner portions so we have breakfast all day, wraps, burgers. I don’t know what the original menu was like. I haven’t found anyone who has a copy of it from Elizabeth. The earliest menu I have for Goodman’s was from 1993, which was the second or third menu, which is pretty much what it is today.”

Parkin said the most popular, high-quality meats are his corned beef, pastrami, brisket, roast beef and turkey.

“My turkey, my roast beef, my brisket — everything is made here. My corned beef and pastrami are cooked here, but prepared for me off site to my specifications. I really watch to make sure they aren’t overcooked or undercooked so the quality is really there. My goal was let’s give the customers as good of quality and quantity as we can, let’s market and advertise it, and let’s see how well we do,” Parkin said. “My business is up probably 20 percent since 2010. It keeps creeping up, it’s been hitting 23 to 25 percent.”

With the large office centers on Connell Drive in Berkeley Heights, Parkin said he receives a lot of blue-collar workers for lunch and even caters lunch for the many companies in the area.

Parkin also caters two large St. Patrick’s Day events each year, one at St. John the Apostle in Linden that took place on Feb. 18 and the other at Roselle Catholic High School, which was held on March 3. Both events served around 400 people.

While lunch is popular at Goodman's, dinner is a more quiet time. “I don’t think people really think of us for dinner. And yet, still, my business is doing really well despite the fact that I don’t think a lot of people out there know we exist,” said Parkin, who explained how a lot of his customers compare Goodman’s to well known deli’s in New York City, such as Wolfies, 2nd Avenue Deli and Carnegie Deli, and even Harold’s in Edison.

When asked if customers still come in, thinking it’s the same as the Goodman’s from Elizabeth, Parkin said, “yeah, and they are so glad we still exist.”

Parkin said he even has the Goodman family as customers now.

“I reached out to them when I took over and they are now customers again," Parkin said. "They come in about once a month. Whenever they have a family reunion, they have it here. It’s nice to have them back. They think the food is better and a lot of people think it’s the same. The kids [of the original owners] are glad it’s still around.”

So does Rocky DiPiano, a Summit resident who used to frequent Goodman’s in Elizabeth and has been a customer at the current Goodman’s Restaurant on Springfield Avenue for about four years.

“The food and service is just the same now as it was then,” DiPiano said. “We’ve had the corned beef, the pastrami, the turkey — everything we’ve had here in very good. It’s just good. It’s fresh.”

DiPiano’s dining buddy, Adam Scheppe of Summit, agreed.

“The food is great, the place is clean and everything you get is big,” Scheppe said. “[I’ve had] the reuben, corned beef, and pastrami. The best sandwich they have here is the turkey sandwich. It’s turkey with just lettuce and mayonnaise on rye toast.”

Arnold Siegel, an Engineer at Alcatel-Lucent Technologies in Murray Hill and a Franklin Township resident, said Goodman’s is one of his favorite lunch spots.

“It’s excellent. I’m from Brooklyn so I go to an authentic Jewish-style deli when I see one so this is pretty good. I think their best sandwich is their brisket with gravy, but you have to have it with gravy on the side,” said Siegel, who also said the corned beef and cabbage platter is delicious.

Amber Schmidt, a lunchtime regular who works at a chiropractor’s office in Stirling, said Goodman’s tasty food keeps her coming back two to four times each week.

Schmidt, whose co-worker and Goodman’s regular Maya Morrissey turned her onto the restaurant two years ago, says she loves one of the waitresses, Laura, and always tries to get a seat in her section.

“They know my regular order, which is typically split pea soup, a water with lemon and then I usually get the Greek or Caesar salad with chicken,” Schmidt said. “Their croutons are to die for – it’s the only time I’ll eat a carb. I’ve had a lot of their menu items.”

So whether you’re a Goodman’s regular, like Schmidt, or you’ve never dined at Goodman’s before, Parkin is ready to serve up traditional Irish fare this Saturday.

Goodman’s, located at 400 Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights, will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.

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