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Can the Jewish Deli Be Reformed? A virtual cross country deli tour of the US and Canada


The article recounts how local, locavore fresh ingredients are influencing the end product of many delis throughout the country. Is there a good Jewish style deli in YOUR area? I have always wanted to take a cross country trip starting in NYC and working my way up to Canada and down to Miami Beach and across to LA. If I were making this trip, what stops should I make along the way and what specialties or local items must I consume in order to really get the "feel" of the place? Thanks!

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  1. jfood just finished the book "Save the Deli" by David Sax. A nice rendition of what may interest you. Plus the website below is what you might be looking for


    1. My frustration having spent time in 48 states is not about what jewish deli's have, but the vast lonely expanses where jewish deli's aren't.

      1. The Metro Diner in the San Marco neighboorhood of Jacksonville has excellent pastrami: home made, peppery, smoky and a little fatty. Worth the stop on the trip to Miami.

        1. A couple of random comments:

          The article had me until the first snot-nosed neo-deli owner derided traditional deli as merely "blessed by a rabbi." If he's so ignorant about the very basics of kashrut, how much else is he making up as he goes along?

          It's nearly impossible to find decent deli in either NY or FL these days. Adelman's in Brooklyn is still good but doesn't seem quite like I remember it from 30 years ago. The delis by my in-laws in Delray Beach, FL are just plain bad but it's hard to excel when you're serving the early-bird crowd exclusively. I seem to remember LA still having good deli, though.

          The best Jewish onion rolls I've had in recent memory were from Joe's Stone Crab in Miami.

          And, although I haven't been to Neal's in Carrboro (in my area), we have a tendency here to deify the multi-paragraph menu description, ie Guys! I really don't need to know who was the grandsire of my entree or where you sourced the sustainable, organic mulch you used to grow the plate garnish. Having said that, Neal's is probably perfectly good and it is well thought of locally, but I find it disconcerting to find biscuits and Italian subs on the menu. What? No kinishes? A shanda!

          Face it, the days of old world deli are almost over. My arteries will be grateful but my tastebuds sure won't.

          1. Shapiro's Deli in Indianapolis. The corn beef sandwich called by USA Today the best CB in America and it made the cover of America's Best Deli's published three years ago.. Not lotsa local items, but their specialties are pastries and breads baked on premises. Brownies are sublime, and try a CB or Pastrami on their egg bread roll. And holler for some challah.
            The deviled eggs are heavenly -- oxymoron they be.

            They use organic eggs ... because the yolks are yellower. And ingredients cleaned by bugs not pesticides.

            Full disclosure, my family founded it over a century ago (thus Old World), but that doesn't stop me for recommending it on any grand deli tour of the US. Not all great Jewish cooking esclusive to the two coasts or Montreal. And an old world deli can belong in this Brave New World.

            1 Reply
            1. re: louuuuu

              Oh, I would love to try it, Louuuuu, the next ( and first ) time I'm in Indianapolis!!

              PS - How far from Chi-town? I'm due to go there again for another foodie tour!

            2. In Boston the best corned beef is at a little hole in the wall called Michael's Deli, in the Coolidge Corner neighborhood of Brookline (Brookline is a separate town that's partially embedded in Boston). But call first to see when they're open, they keep odd hours.

              In NYC there are several great ones still, but my favorite is Second Ave Deli (now on E. 33rd). Where else do you get served gribnetz as an amuse-bouche?

              6 Replies
              1. re: BobB

                Oh! I was just thinking of the delis we used to frequent in Brookline when I lived there as a college student. And I believe they were in Coolidge Corner. Can't remember the names, tho, and there were two right next to each other on the south side of the street. Brings up good memories tho.

                And rockycat, just a quick question.....is a shanda like a schiksa?? Or more like a meschugunah? Just curious, I love Yiddish!

                And believe it or not there used to be a really good Jewish deli in Rocky Hill (I think) CT, near where I was brought up.

                And LA still does have decent delis: Langers, Canters, and Brent's in Northridge.

                1. re: Phurstluv

                  <is a shanda like a schiksa?? Or more like a meschugunah? >

                  A shanda is a shame, or a sin; it would be a shanda to put mayonnaise on a pastrami sandwich. A shikse is a non-Jewish woman. And a meshugener is a crazy person. For future queries:


                  1. re: small h

                    Thank you for the clarification and the link.

                2. re: BobB

                  on harvard street in brookline is reuben's ...they have really good traditional deli sandwiches..kosher meat at it;s best....

                  1. re: sberc

                    Rubin's sucks big time, for toooo many years they have been the only kosher meat reastaurant in the area. High prices, surly service and food that is fair at best.,

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      I haven't found them surly, but overpriced and inferior food for sure. I live around the corner from Rubin's but prefer to walk seven blocks to Michael's where I can get a larger, less expensive, and hugely better tasting corned beef sandwich any day. The ONLY thing Rubin's has going for it is that it's glatt kosher.

                3. Such a long article on delis, and the word KNISH shows up only ONE time ?
                  The world is coming to an end, no doubt about.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: RicRios

                    It's a shanda, to quote my new friend small h.

                    1. re: Phurstluv

                      So many shandas, so little time. And where's the kugel? I ask you.

                      1. re: small h

                        Oy vey, the kugel?? I'm just a shiksa, and don't know how to make a kugel, but I know a good Jewish deli when I find one!!

                    2. re: RicRios

                      Stopped off at Hobby's in downtown Newark - over 100 years in business (under 3 different families) and still has a waiting line for lunch. The good news was that their potato knish is as excellent as ever, with well-seasoned mashed potatoes and the best crust around (including those sold by every deli of note in NYC).

                      The bad news was that I wanted a kasha knish, and - due to shrinking demand - I was informed that they don't make them any more. I did have one at Lansky's in NYC the other night, and it was good enough - but not in the class of the ones Hobby's used to turn out.

                    3. You can skip Noshville in Nashville. My wife asked for stuffed derma and the waitress looked at her like a deer in the headlights. Oh, and their rye bread is an embarrassment to the chosen people!

                      1. there are some bad latkes in Boca/Delray and they call them potato pancakes - gasp!

                        7 Replies
                          1. re: jfood

                            Poppies on Military and Atlantic make the best ones IMO. The potato is finely grated. Some of the other delis coarse grate the potatoes and they always seem raw inside.

                            1. re: smartie

                              Thanks S. The ones that jfood has been forced to eat have almost been mashed potatoes formed into a ring and deep fried. blech. even apple sauce cannot save them.

                              1. re: jfood

                                We are blessed to have a deli in Philly called Famous 4th Street, which now has a second store on 19th, near my office. It is incredible, although expensive. Good deli is expensive. Cheap deli? You get what you pay for. http://www.famous4thstreetdelicatesse...

                                1. re: PattiCakes

                                  been there, very nice deli where mrs jfood can wander around to a bunch of stores she likes while jfood catches up on his pastrami craving.

                                2. re: jfood

                                  ask for fresh latkes (not rewarmed or microwaved) when you go there. Oh and ask for the English server (who just happens to be my daughter)!

                                  1. re: smartie

                                    next time down, will do. mrs jfood plays tennis, jfood has fresh latkes...win-win

                          2. In Chicago, go to Kaufman's. It's carry-out only, not a sit down place, but I've eaten a sandwich or two in the parking lot.


                            1. So far, most of the replies have been from delis on the East Coast. Years ago, I was one of the original fressers at Perry's Deli in Chicago (Loop). I know Perry sold the business almost 10 years ago, but I have been craving a Perry's Special for quite some time and will be in Chicago this summer.

                              As I am always thinking of my stomach, was planning to have breakfast at Lou Mitchell's and lunch at Perry's. Worth the hassle of construction on the Edens? I will be staying on North Shore. Max & Benny's, OUAB, Max's - any of them still worth a visit? Hounds, I need to maximize my fressin' as my waistline can only take so much. My favs are corned beef, pickled tongue and dried salami. Would be going to Kaufman's if I had more time, but they don't fit my traffic pattern.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                Kaufman's is 5 minutes off the Edens. I'd find the time as it is by far the best place I know of in or close to the city.

                                I haven't been to Perry's in years, so you might want to take this question over to the Chicago board.

                                1. re: lulubelle

                                  Another Chicago Deli not to miss is Romanian Kosher Sausage - IMHO the best corned beef, pastrami, salami and hot dogs in the city -

                                  1. re: weinstein5

                                    The best (unfortunately non-kosher) deli in Chicago is Manny's on south Jefferson. It's a Chicago institution and the sandwiches are HUGE. I used to work in the area and would sometimes go in for a cup of coffee and watch the movers and shakers try to get two hands around their pastrami sandwiches without getting yellow mustard on their expensive threads. Check out their website:

                                    1. re: lawmann

                                      Law, lived in Chicago for almost 20 years, went to Manny's. The only beef I have is that the location is not central or close to anything. Used to work in the Loop and this was not a lunchtime destination, like Perry's. Lived in the northern suburbs and enjoyed Kaufman's, Max's, Max & Benny's, even OUAB. Years ago, would combine a weekend trip to Manny's with a visit to the old Chernin's Shoes, but that's been gone a long time too.

                                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                        My husband and I were fortunate enough to visit Manny's swinging through Chicago on a beef and pork eating tour and it was great. The corned beef with the Russian dressing, rye bread was terrific. If I lived in Chicago, I would make excuses to be near there when it was time to eat.

                                        Here in SF Bay Area, Jewish delis, not so much. Brothers, long ago in Burlingame was great but has been gone for years, and way downhill before it mercifully closed.

                              2. Just a quick update. It looks like I will have the opportunity to check out Jewish deli food in Boston later this month when I visit for DD's college graduation. Have found a local Boston hound and we will make the rounds.

                                Will be in Denver around Labor Day/Rosh Hashonna this year and looking for some Jewish deli there as well. Recommendations, hounds? Thanks!

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                  I asked my cousin in Denver and here is his reply:

                                  "The only kosher deli in Denver is the East Side Kosher Deli, but there are a number of kosher style places, none of which I have tried. The East Side Deli is nothing to write home about, but it's decent. 3033229862 is there phone number. "

                                  1. re: rockycat

                                    Thanks RC, kosher style is fine. My fav sandwich is the Chicago version of a rueben - corned beef on rye with cole slaw and Swiss cheese, so that definitely isn't kosher! Won't be ordering that sandwich at East Side deli. Interesting that it's on the east side. The big Jewish population I am aware of is in Cherry Creek, on the west side.

                                    1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                      No, the jewish community is in Crestmoor, east of Colorado Blvd. And Cherry Creek is quite central, west only of Colorado blvd, the original wagon trail along with Colfax.

                                  2. re: Diane in Bexley

                                    I'm sure you'll stop in Brookline. Have fun!!