1. Arts & Entertainment
  2. /
  3. Food

Restaurant review: Cass Street Deli brings a New York-inspired Jewish delicatessen to Tampa

Pastrami, matzo ball soup and rugelach are all on the menu at Hyde Park’s new East Coast-inspired deli.
A pastrami sandwich is ready for to be served at the Cass Street Deli. ANGELIQUE HERRING | Times
Published Aug. 12
Updated Aug. 12

TAMPA — A neon pink sign advertising “Hot Pastrami” glows in the window. The storefront, a nondescript building neighboring a barbershop, has the word DELICATESSEN spelled out in large black and white lettering. Behind the window, an employee carves away at a thick block of smoked meat, the dark red slices falling away effortlessly from the blade.

Inside, the lunch rush is underway. Beyond a glass case displaying the likes of smoked salmon, chopped liver and whitefish salad, a small team of cooks is piling sandwiches high with corned beef, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. There are shelves lined with jars of pickled herring, matzo, kosher salt and copies of the New York Post. This isn’t Katz’s or Barney Greengrass, and we are not in New York. But one could almost be forgiven for thinking so, because Cass Street Deli, a new Jewish deli in Tampa’s North Hyde Park, does a pretty spot-on impression of the genre.

A hot bowl of matzo ball soup is ready to be served at the Cass Street Deli. [ANGELIQUE HERRING | Times]

For owner Sean O’Brien, designs for a New York-inspired deli have been years in the making. Born in Connecticut to a Jewish mother and raised in the Tampa Bay area, O’Brien made frequent trips home to the East Coast, the visits always peppered with outings to Manhattan’s many delicatessens. Every time he returned home, however, he realized that finding the perfect pastrami sandwich was not easy.

A former music promoter who had never run a restaurant before, O’Brien reached out to friends Edward Shumard, who was part of the opening team at the Refinery in Seminole Heights, and Garrett Garcia. The trio decided to go into business together and, following a series of popups around town, they opened their brick-and-mortar location in June. The place is partly an homage to the East Coast deli tradition, partly a testament to the foods O’Brien grew up eating at home. The matzo ball soup is his mother’s recipe — chock-full of carrots, onions, chicken and plump matzo dumplings bobbing in the broth ($5) — as is the buttery coffee cake ($4).

Leading the kitchen is chef Suzanne Crouch, formerly of Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe, who is the mastermind behind Cass Street’s powerhouse pastrami: the result of a roughly two-week process that involves brining, air-drying, smoking and finally steaming a beef brisket until the end result is impossibly soft, fatty and melt-in-your-mouth.

Suzanne Crouch slices pastrami for a pastrami sandwich at the Cass Street Deli. [ANGELIQUE HERRING | Times]

Sandwiches can be ordered whole ($13 to $15) or half ($5 to $10) and really pack in the fillings; a half paired with a side or a cup of soup is plenty, unless you’re truly ravenous. From the hot sandwich selections, diners have their pick of pastrami, smoked turkey or corned beef, all of which are great when paired with the sweet and spicy mustard from Ba-Tampte, a New York delicatessen standard O’Brien swears by. The hot options can all be ordered as a Reuben ($15), and while corned beef is the traditional pick, the slick slices of smoked turkey are a surprise hit with the classic combo, which comes with melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and a creamy and tangy Russian dressing.

Bread is sourced from Jamison B. Breadhouse Bakes, meaning the quality of the sandwich meat is matched by equally superb bread. The seedless rye might be my favorite, a flavorful light brown loaf that doesn’t overpower the fillings yet is sturdy enough to stand up to them. That and the pumpernickel are both ideal with the whitefish salad, a mild and creamy spread made with smoked cod that gets a nice bite from celery and carries a citrusy dill flavor.

A hot dog topped with mustard and relish. [ANGELIQUE HERRING | Times]

Loaves of challah, also from Jamison B. Breadhouse, are good when used for sandwiches eaten in-house but don’t hold up too well when taken to-go, especially with heavier choices like the tuna ($11). That tuna is excellent on its own, flecked with parsley and plenty of red onions and celery for that requisite crunch. Sides include a sweet and vinegary beet salad laced with just a touch of orange and cumin, and a cucumber and onion medley, which is light and refreshing, dressed with little beyond white vinegar, salt and sugar.

A side order of potato salad. [ANGELIQUE HERRING | Times]

For the most part, the kitchen takes a no-frills, New York approach. But there are a few locally inspired twists, like the Cass St. Dog made with a Wagyu frank sourced from local sausage hawkers Tambuzzo Sausage Company and piled high with relish and sauerkraut, or the tart guava rugelach, a dense and sweet treat. On weekends, the kitchen plays around with specials like pastrami omelets ($13) and challah French toast ($10), but the majority of Cass Street’s operation feels designed for a weekday lunch crowd. With just a handful of tables and a couple of counter seats, the place gets packed quickly, so planning ahead for a little wait is wise. That might be part of the grab-and-go appeal, and with fresh loaves of challah and rye for sale as well as all of the smoked meats available by the pound, it’s easy to see the allure.

Whether dining in or taking out, one would be remiss not to grab one of the cakelike black and white cookies or the chocolate babka displayed on the counter by the door. Like everything else at this deli, it’s a little taste of old New York, right here in Tampa.

Food: 8

Atmosphere: 6

Service: 8

What the ratings mean

1-2: Don’t waste your time

3-5: Fair, but could be better

6-8: Pretty darn good

9-10: What are you waiting for?

Guava rugelach is ready to be served at the Cass Street Deli. [ANGELIQUE HERRING | Times]

If you go

1331 W Cass St., Tampa; (813) 609-6316

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Prices: $6 to $15 sandwiches; $3 to $10 sides and baked goods

Recommended dishes: pastrami sandwich; smoked turkey Reuben; cucumber salad


  1. The French onion soup dumplings at Tropez. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    The approach at this restaurant/bar/lounge might be a little too eclectic. | Restaurant review
  2. Alison Krauss will perform at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 20. Capitol Records
    The Clearwater Jazz Holiday returns with a strong music lineup, Zac Brown Band plays Tampa and Barry Bostwick will be here to screen ‘Rocky Horror.'
  3. Festival goers move through the midway during the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church's annual Ethnic Festival. This year's festival will be Oct. 17-20 at the church on Spring Hill Drive at Coronado Drive. Tampa Bay Times | 2010
    The 28th-annual Ethnic Festival returns to St. Joan of Arc.
  4. Left to Right: Hospitality panel members Viviana Leyva, Steve Westphal and Jeff Gigante talk about the needs of the hospitality industry in Tampa Bay region during a kickoff of the University of South Florida Hospitality Leadership Program last month. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Restaurant and hotel owners say they have a need for finding and keeping talented workers.
  5. Vegan broccoli slaw with vegan burgers in the background for Memorial Day. SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    We have plenty of plant-based eateries to choose from.
  6. Milk and Honey Sprouted Wheat Bread. LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI  |  Special to the Times
    Try to find a local honey for this easy bread.
  7. You can taste more than 100 beers during Brews by the Bay, now in its 11th year at Tampa's Florida Aquarium. Courtesy of Florida Aquarium
    Brews by the Bay samples 100-plus beers, wiener dogs lead Marker 48’s Oktoberfest, seasonal sweets at local restaurants and Mastry’s Brewing celebrates three years.
  8. Blue crabs are seasoned and steamed for ten minutes at the Key West Seafood Company, Gulfport,  Wednesday, October 2, 2019.  SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Not sure where to start? Go from market to table with guidance from local sellers.
  9. CJ Hnilica, manager of Key West Seafood Company, Gulfport, sorts through a box of fresh blue crabs, Wednesday, October 2, 2019. The crabs were steamed for customers.  SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Here’s what you need to know about Florida’s other crab.
  10. Aubi & Ramsa opened last month with an aesthetic that strives more for cocktail bar than ice cream parlor. (Divya Kumar | TIMES). DIVYA KUMAR  |  Divya Kumar | TIMES
    The menu offers 26 flavors, including White Chocolate Merlot and mezcal-infused Chocolate Azteca.