Suburban House claims to have the world's largest matzo balls. When asked if there is any empirical evidence to support this claim, however, our waitress just shrugged. Soon she returned, balancing a shallow soup plate with what looked like a softball resting in its center, surrounded by bright-yellow chicken broth and wide slithery noodles. This dense dumpling is not just big; it's seriously good.
The restaurant is now in a new location a scant half-mile or so from its digs of some 45 years after a fire damaged the old spot in 2009. It has the bright and airy atmosphere of the suburban Fuddruckers that once occupied the space. But this is no Fuddruckers.
On a weeknight, Suburban House resembles a place known for its early-bird menu, with scattered tables of older folks, many in threesomes and foursomes, busy digging into platters of open-faced turkey sandwiches with gravy or scoops of tuna and potato salad arrayed across leaves of iceberg lettuce. The fact is, everyone here is an early bird, considering the place closes nightly at 7.
The menu survived the move pretty much intact. Regulars will recognize the upbeat fonts and attention-getting graphics listing everything from a smoked-fish platter to triple-decker sandwiches.
There's breakfast all day, with the requisite bagels and blintzes, salty Nova salmon, and matzo brei (eggs scrambled with the unleavened cracker, served here year-round). There are also such diner faves as burgers, cheese-steak subs, onion rings, and milkshakes. A platter of fried chicken is enough for a family: half a bird, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and served with a pile of thick, hand-cut fries.
There are a few shortcomings. Some of the side dishes like the mac and cheese and the bland kasha could use an update.
The biggest innovation in the new place is the "you-design-it" salad option, which lists about 100 mix-and-match items, including a choice of greens (romaine, spinach, and spring mix in addition to the tried-and-true iceberg) and toppings that range from sliced almonds and feta cheese to Mandarin oranges. You can even get corned beef, roast turkey, or tuna for an extra $2.99.
While the salad is a nifty departure, what's kept the place in business for nearly half a century is classic Jewish cuisine, a style that is, for many, synonymous with comfort food. There's nothing quite like biting into a Reuben, the sliced rye somewhat greasy from the grill, a string of melted Swiss clinging to the plate, dressing oozing from the folds of pastrami or corned beef—and chasing it with a forkful of crunchy slaw and the tangy snap of a dill pickle.
Servings are more than generous, and you can double the meat on any sandwich for $4.99 (and any burger for $3.99).
Desserts are a classic selection: white cake with coconut frosting, New York cheesecake, and apple pie. They're visible in a glass case near the entrance, and available to go. It's easy enough to add a slice to the collection of takeout boxes—one of which invariably contains the remainder of a softball-sized matzo ball.