On Rye Opens with Challah Grilled Cheese, Babka Ice Cream Sandwiches

A modern Jewish sandwich shop debuts in Chinatown.
On Rye Opens with Challah Grilled Cheese, Babka Ice Cream Sandwiches
On Rye, a modern Jewish sandwich shop, opens in Chinatown.

On Rye isn’t your average Jewish deli. The 60-seat sandwich shop, which opens on Friday in Chinatown, dishes up modern versions of the classics—so yes, you can get Wagyu pastrami on gluten-free bread, or opt for five variations on a Reuben (two of which are vegetarian).

The smoked beet Reuben, a spin on the classic with gouda cheese, kraut, and smoky Russian dressing.
The smoked beet Reuben, a spin on the classic with gouda cheese, kraut, and smoky Russian dressing.

Owner Ilyse Fishman is a former attorney who entered the hospitality industry as a host at Per Se. A New York native, she first introduced her modern-Jewish fare at Nationals Park this year. The babka ice cream sandwich was a particular hit at the vending stall. Patrons at the fast-casual restaurant will find the same swirly chocolate bread-gelato sandwiches, made with local Dolci Gelati vanilla.

Sandwiches go on the plate and the wall thanks to DC-based design team HapstakDemetriou.
Sandwiches go on the plate and the wall thanks to DC-based design team HapstakDemetriou.

True to name, Jewish breads play a starring role. Uptown Bakers in Hyattsville, Maryland provides marble rye for the many Reubens. The pressed sandwich can be ordered traditional (corned beef, kraut, Russian dressing, melty Swiss cheese), or as a vegetarian item with either smoked beets and gouda, or mushrooms and charred broccoli. Uptown also makes challah for grilled cheese sandwiches, and a holiday-themed special: turkey and charoset (an apple-nut compote served at Passover). All can be washed down with a classic egg cream, or canned wine and beer.

The fast-casual restaurant offers 60 seats for lingering over an egg cream, or canned beer and wine.

Not everything on the menu is meant to be indulgent. Fishman offers healthier riffs on traditional recipes, such as oven-roasted vegetable latkes with lemon-yoghurt sauce alongside the traditional fried potato. The menu also includes a variety of meatless sandwiches and salads. And, of course, matzo ball soup.

On Rye. 740 Sixth St., NW; 202-794-8400. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Try pastrami in the Reuben, or a simple sandwich with deli mustard on marble rye.
Try pastrami in the Reuben, or a simple sandwich with deli mustard on marble rye.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.