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A lucky break for downtown Tampa

A two-foot skyscraper holds the door open, photos of New York crowd the walls, the skyline etched on the windows wears yellow ribbons on the twin towers. No question where Lucky Dill's heart and palate comes from.

Actually this deli has come a circuitous route, from New York roots to Miami to Palm Harbor, where the Mitow family had people standing on line for years before opening this branch in Tampa recently.

There's no time for pastrami and eggs or brisket dinners here. The deli hustles to keep a daily queue of office workers moving with the same husky sandwiches, bagels and blintzes and the same clamorous clatter as in the original Palm Harbor location.

Lucky Dill has the classic ingredients: lox, knish, Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray, chopped liver, corned beef, pastrami and beef tongue (thick end or tip?) on a menu of silly names and strict rules (no substitutions please). The pastries filling the bakery case and the breads are baked on site.

On its thoroughly modern side, there are salads aplenty, a "Jewish Cuban," a panini and wraps _ with blue corn tortilla chips yet.

Service is usually fast and always generous. If you finish a whole pastrami sandwich stacked 2 inches thick with fresh juicy strips, you shouldn't tell; a half sandwich embarrasses most diners. Even "lites" with sprouts on seven-grain are hearty. Not to mention the double deckers, clubs and 10-ounce burgers.

My smoked whitefish platter held half a fish bigger than anything I've caught in the Gulf and enough for several breakfasts; cole slaw is tart and peel-on potato salad has punch. Pickles come dill and half-sour with no shortage of bite.

Ex-New Yorkers will get everything they want, including something to complain about, too. Maybe the rye crust is soft that day or matzoh ball soup a touch onion-y. The rest of us wait eagerly for this Lucky Dill to open for dinner as well.

Lucky Dill Downtown, 400 N Ashley Drive, Tampa; (813) 222-3455. Lunch, $3.75 to $10.95.

_ CHRIS SHERMAN, Times food critic

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