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What??? No more Jewish Delis???

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  1. They have to evolve, like everything else.

    79 Replies
    1. re: Bob W

      How does tradition evolve? What should they do?

      1. re: mucho gordo

        While the Jewish deli may be a tradition - it was a tradition that originally emerged in response to immigrant single Jewish men who kept kosher/kosher-like. The delis served to provide these men nearly 3 meals a day.

        As their clientele changed for single men to families - the delis have changed. Traditions change and evolve. And businesses definitely need to.

        Also - there are large numbers of 'sandwich competitors' that compete in the market place these days. No matter how Jewish I may be - a burrito or pad thai for lunch, speaks to me more than a cornbeef sandwich. So there's the option to double down on authenticity (which will benefit Katz's and other name brand delis) or to evolve and attract business that they've lost.

        1. re: cresyd

          How would you have them evolve? Should they start making chopped liver burritos?
          Sure, one day you may prefer a burrito to corned beef but the next day a nice piece of kishka might be even more appealing. There's room for all types of food just the way they are.

          1. re: mucho gordo

            Ultimately, a Jewish deli - no matter how great the tradition - is a business. And if people stop frequenting the business, it won't last. No matter what the cultural significance.

            Down-thread I have a post where I mention an "evolved" diner in Chicago called Eleven City Diner. Just by looking at its website, it's clear that it's not a traditional Jewish deli at all, but it has a lot of traits of one in a fun way. That's one idea. I'm sure there are others.

            I have a lot of personal love for the traditional Jewish deli - as a food institution and as a cultural one. But as they are, they're not financially surviving. No matter the sentimentality.

            1. re: cresyd

              You're right; they are not surviving financially and I don't think it's the food, per se. IMHO, I think it's due to a younger, trendier generation.
              True delis are left for us old geezers and there aren't enought of us left.

              1. re: mucho gordo

                Mucho, I am baffled that there are not more non-jewish customers at the good jewish delis. By my estimation, only 30%. Not enough. I try to do my share. I recognize a good thing and I hate to see good traditions fade away. Panera Bread and Jason's Deli and the invasion of similar chains hasn't helped, but they are not a shadow of the real thing. I will detour across the Delaware River on the Walt Whitman bridge for one more sandwich at Koch's on 43rd and Locust in Philly.

                1. re: Veggo

                  I knew I could count on your support.

                2. re: mucho gordo

                  As far as trends go - I agree that Jewish deli style eating as it is has gone out of fashion. That being said, I don't think the food itself is going out of fashion - but it would mean changing how the "deli" presents itself.

                  1. re: mucho gordo

                    My wife & I are a couple of goyim in our 40's and we LOVE Jewish Delis. For the last 20 years at least, we just can't get enough.. we used to drive 30 miles out of our way to Flakowitz, and Zinger's when we lived near West Palm Beach... now we're stuck in Grand Rapids where there is NO deli to speak of. My wife's from Manhattan... & this is a desert... Going to Chicago soon, and we're going to try Kaufman's, and Eleven City Diner. Can't wait. We're also going to Alinea & Next on the same trip so I don't know if we're trendy, but we LOVE good food.

                    1. re: skipgorham

                      I had a great time at Manny's Cafeteria and Delicatessen in Chicago last year. Delicious. Lots of fun. Might want to check it out if you haven't been.

                      Roast brisket sandwich and chocolate iced cake donut were fantastic. Wasn't crazy about the matzo ball soup and the latke could have been warmer but was delish.

                3. re: mucho gordo

                  Well said.

                  I cannot imagine a world without restaurants that offer the best pastrami sandwich or chicken soup or kishka or loaves of stellar rye.

                  A burrito isn't going to cut it when I need a quart of chicken soup for my cold and don't physically feel like making it.
                  Alot of us only have a few relatives or friends left who'll, without asking, show up at the door with a pot of soup.

                  1. re: latindancer

                    A few months ago my boss did this for me - showed up at my apartment when I was ill with a pot of soup. We often do not get along, but it was a truly lovely gesture and very much appreciated.

              2. re: Bob W

                Really? Why? It's ok to have Mexican, Puerto Rican, Italian, Indian, etc, but the jewish deli has to evolve? A great pastrami sandwich is a wonderful meal for anyone. I for one do see them going and it's a shame.

                1. re: wincountrygirl

                  Please. Are the popular chinese restaurants of today like the ones of 40 years ago.Same for any other ethic cuisine. And given how unhealthy traditional Jewish deli food is, I'd say there is even more of a need to evolve.

                  Like they say, you can't eat tradition. I grew up eating deli food reguarly, but those days are long gone. And if younger people don't grow up eating deli food these days, why would they start?

                  DGS in DC is an example of an evolved Jewish deli.

                  1. re: Bob W

                    No, they are not the same but they still exist. And please - chinese food is healthy? People who love kosher deli should still have the option, healthy or not. I'm not familiar with DGS, but it's nice to have a healthy option, lets just not forget about those of us who go to a kosher deli for a good brisket sandwich.

                    1. re: wincountrygirl

                      Look, I love deli food as much as the next guy, but I don't eat it regularly and the pool of diners who do is clearly shrinking.

                      As for chinese food, I never said it was healthy, or that DGS is especially healthy either (but its portions are more in line with contemporary dining trends, as in sandwiches that make one meal, not four). The point is that the chow mein/chop suey/egg rolls we happily ate 40 years ago on Sunday night have been supplanted by better, more interesting stuff.

                      It comes down to the marketplace, obviously. Delis can't survive as museum pieces.

                      1. re: Bob W

                        I've never been to DGS, as I haven't lived in DC since 1999, but DC was never a big deli town. I'm not surprised someone would try to make a go of it with smaller portions.

                        Is it kosher, or kosher-style, Bob? Do they have good corned beef?

                        1. re: Jay F

                          Jay, I'd call it a neo-deli. The menu (check it out, http://www.dgsdelicatessen.com/) features traditional foods played down the middle (e.g., chicken soup with a huge, glorious matzoh ball) as well as other dishes with sephardic twists and other tweaks. The proprietors did "reseach" (i.e., ate like kings) at places in NYC such as Kutsher's Tribeca and Mile End. They also made a great move bringing in authentic Montreal bagels, which I had never seen before. They are relatively small and slightly sweet.

                          You are right, DC is not a great deli town. I think Loeb's is perfectly adequate, and does quite well. And the beloved Attman's of Baltimore is opening a branch in the MD suburbs. DGS is a different sort of animal.

                          But the smoked meats -- corned beef and pastrami -- are really, really good. The sandwiches just aren't Carnegie Deli-sized, which of course some people have complained about. 8<D The chopped liver is also outstanding. They offer a Reuben, which was very good. (so not kosher

                          )

                          After two visits, i have found the food to be very good and the portions, for me, more than adequate. You just won't feel like you walked into your family's favorite deli circa 1965.

                          1. re: Bob W

                            I don't need a huge sandwich, by any means. But I do like a regular pastrami as opposed to extra lean.

                            1. re: wincountrygirl

                              Hey, if I'm going to eat pastrami, there better be some nice glistening fat on it! Since i eat deli so rarely anymore, when I do I try to do it right.

                            2. re: Bob W

                              I am pleased, actually, to be able to get not such a huge sandwich.

                              1. re: Jay F

                                <edited> I agree, huge portions seem to be pervasive in that typology and frankly, today a bad marketing move. I have been to some of these places and a sandwich that can no longer be eaten with hands is no longer a sandwich and is not easily transported. if they would offer a choice between a $16 honking big full-lb sit-down version with leftovers, and a 1/3 lb portable version, I'd happily pay $8 (read that price ratio - profit!) for the smaller. just please gimme a choice.

                                I love good pastrami and corned beef, just not a pound at a time piled between two pieces of rye, yeah it's good, but I know it's going to be wasted, so I balk and just get a few knish and maybe a rugelach. or if they just sold the sandwich by the pound and have the customer gesture the desired thickness, that might solve a lot of issues on both sides of the counter.

                                sadly, it does seem to be a disappearing sort of place.

                                1. re: hill food

                                  And yet, the simple hamburger manages to stand the test of time. You can buy a hamburger prepared big or small, fast food chain, mom & pop joint, places that boast of special meat blends, loaded with toppings, capped off with a shake and fries...at every price point. New burger places open all the time. Hamburgers aren't known for being the healthiest choice and we adore them. The same prices you pay for pastrami you now pay for a burger.

                                  What gives?

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    I don't think that health factors alone explain this - because while the Jewish deli may be dying, bacon on everything appears to be gaining life.

                                    What I think is a greater issue is the price point of the sandwiches combined with the ambiance. The prices of many delis simply no longer qualifies as a "great deal for lunch". Also most deli environments don't really work as a fancy enough setting for a business lunch. Because most of the places that have the $16 burger (or $10 burger) look far more formal than places with the $16 pastrami. Fastfood and diner burgers do not cost that much.

                                    Combine this with the notion that the sandwiches are perhaps bigger than the size you want - I think that's an easier explanation for the drift away from the deli than rather than straight up health reasons.

                                    Also - the burger has evolved a lot since the 50's. There are now veggie burgers as well as non-beef meat burgers. There are absurd luxury burgers. There have been changes to toppings. There have been changes to buns/bread - going as far as places offering burgers served on lettuce/no carb/no glueten options. The pastrami sandwich....can't really say so much, though I'm sure there are some valliant vegetarians/vegas at non-Jewish delis who've come up with their own Rubens n such.

                                    1. re: cresyd

                                      Cochon Butcher in New Orleans makes an eggplant reuben. We gave it a try on our NOLA visit last year, and like everything else there, it was excellent. This place has such amazing meats, it's to their credit that they offer a veggie option.

                                      DGS also offers an eggplant reuben. Haven't tried theirs yet.

                                      Regarding portion size -- sandwiches such as those offered by places like the Carnegie deli could probably provide me with four meals. I don't want to buy four of the same meals at once. I want to buy one meal at a time, and not have to worry about using leftovers (unless its chinese food, which as we all know makes great leftovers for the most part).

                                      1. re: Bob W

                                        You got it, Bob. Who wants a four-meal sandwich?

                                        1. re: Jay F

                                          And I doubt the Carnegie would look kindly on four people ordering one sandwich and one knish. 8<D

                                          1. re: Bob W

                                            Funny that, Bob W. Shared portions are encouraged by the waitstaff so that line of thinking is not at all what I've encountered. Nor do I believe my eating habits are typical of deli customers judging by the enormous platters being enjoyed by fellow table customers.

                                            1. re: Bob W

                                              I usually share a corned beef sandwich with one person. That much I'm willing to eat in one sitting.

                                          2. re: Bob W

                                            Cochon has a veggie option?! HA! thx for the chuckle of the evening!

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              I know, right? It's a brilliant move, I'd say.

                                          3. re: cresyd

                                            Actually my health factor comment was only one of many in my attempt at an analogy. People are paying good money for large burgers easily for $16.00.

                                            And while the point can be made that burgers have come of age, as well as fried chicken, hotdogs and even salads...I still wonder why the deli (which is a place you can order burgers, hotdogs, fried chicken and salads) gets less support (from some).

                                            Big portions abound and are touted as big values for the dining dollar. I don't actually understand that line of thinking (that deli portions are turning people off) when folks are paying top dollar for other food experiences (like NY steak houses, upper tier sushi, brunch).

                                            I still support delis. I can go with 3 pals and share an entree or take home leftovers. I still (like many) enjoy the experience, the hustle bustle. I don't happen to feel cheated on price at a deli.

                                            We complain that x place wasn't a great value for the price/amount of food and then we also complain that x place gave us too much of a good thing.

                                            Poor deli man! It's an interesting dilemma.

                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              I think part of the problem does remain price - for the ambiance of most Jewish delis - I do think the price for the complete experience remains a problem. I don't know of too many straight up diner environments that get away with a $16 hamburger. "Evolved" or inauthentic delis that cater to a dinner/drinks crowd with less florescent lighting probably have an easier sell.

                                              Where I think the Jewish deli has missed a major "trend boat" is that I have seen a rising US trend in charcuterie and house-made or locally sourced cured meats. However, this has largely been in Italian cured meat traditions. I think there are lots of ways for Jewish deli traditions to be saved - but only if they want to change.

                                              I think one quick anecdotal way to demonstrate the waining general interest in the Jewish deli as-is is just how few people are commenting on this thread. Some of us here have a lot to say - but it feels like a conversation of the passionate where the "masses" are just disinterested.

                                              1. re: cresyd

                                                cresyd, again you hit on some very valid points. Anyone with a shrug attitude doesn't change my mind one way or another. We've got a handful of comments here against the actual deli customer "out there." I was in a NJ deli about 3 months ago. Packed room, bakery was busy and the catering business I know first hand is still doing well and none of it is inexpensive.

                                                What I need to consistently remind myself is what a slice of life CH is; not the entire pie.

                                                Hey, thanks for shooting the breeze with me. I really enjoyed it.

                                        2. re: hill food

                                          I really don't get this huge potion thing. If you don't want so much eat what you want and take the rest home.

                                          1. re: wincountrygirl

                                            What if "home" is a hotel with no fridge?

                                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                                              then you don't need to ask for the doggy bag....

                                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                Good grief, really? Thanks fourunder........... I think you miss my point monkey

                                                1. re: wincountrygirl

                                                  I get your point, but if you're in town for a brief visit, eating alone and want a nosh you don't want to be lugging half-eaten leftovers around to meetings. and even if the room has a fridge, far too often they're 'smart' and will charge you if you even disturb the pre-stocked $6 bag of peanuts or $10 shot of scotch. arggh, just sell a smaller version already and I'm there. if I'm in NYC I'll just grab a slice or a bagel with a schmear rather than that.

                                                2. re: monkeyrotica

                                                  In SF after getting some pretty big sandwiches both my wife and I left half of the sandwich untouched. We got the leftover to go and gave them away to two homeless folks (I asked them first if they wanted/minded me giving it to them and they both said not at all and thanks). Just one idea if you are in a "larger" city with homeless on the street.

                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                    Servorg - I found in SF the homeless are very appreciative of leftovers and have rather sophisticated palates. once: "do you like Thai food? it's Larb Gai" "oh hell yeah! with galangal?"

                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                      All I can tell you is that we gave away two half sandwiches in about 5 minutes of leaving the restaurant on our walk back to our hotel, and both the man and the woman who took them said thank you...YMMV (and again, just a suggestion of what to do with too big a sandwich and no real place to keep them fresh).

                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                        I've tried doing that in DC. Both times, the food was refused because (a) the person "can't eat that stuff" or (b) wanted money.

                                                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                          Unfortunately SF has a huge population of homeless in the downtown area, so if the first two people we approached on our walk had refused we would have had quite a few others to ask...

                                                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                            three's a charm....you give up too easily.

                                                3. re: hill food

                                                  While I know the famous NYC delis (Carnegie, Katz's) may have always featured humongoid size portions, I do not recall that being true of most delis when I was growing up. It seems to me that delis have become a caricature of their image, serving ridiculously huge sandwiches and softball-size matzoh balls.

                                                  Just as other restaurants in more recent years have adjusted portion-size downward, why couldn't delis?

                                                  1. re: masha

                                                    It's a Jewish thing. Don't let your guests leave the table hungry.
                                                    I think Italians are the same way.

                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                      I get that. I'm not suggesting that delis go to a small plate format but many could halve the size of their sandwiches and the portion size would still be ample. To pick up on your analogy with Italian customs, it seems to me that many thriving Italian restaurants (at least in Chicago, where I now live) have cut back on the "abondanza" size portions that were common 20 years ago. I'm not talking about petite portions -- just something a bit more realistic.

                                                      And, just to follow up on my matzoh ball comment, am I the only one who loathes the delis that serve one large matzoh ball that occupies practically the entirety of the bowl, rather than serving 2 or 3 smaller ones?

                                                      1. re: masha

                                                        Regarding the matzoh balls; I would think it is more efficient and less time consuming for the chef to make 100 big ones than several hundred smaller ones.

                                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                                          We just split the large matzoh ball into four pieces and enjoy. We usually enjoy the matzoh balls more than the broth. Ever order them without the soup?

                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                            They are the best part. There are a few reasons why I don't eat soup any more.

                                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                                              <There are a few reasons why I don't eat soup any more.>

                                                              Care to share? I've never heard of anyone avoiding such a large, delicious food group.

                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                Primary reason is a hand tremor that dumps the spoonful all over the place so it arrives at my lips empty.

                                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                                    I can control it to a certain extent by gripping the spoon in my fist, instead of holding it daintily, and steadying the hand by gripping my wrist with the other hand. But, why bother?

                                                                  2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                    a straw? ask the same portion be served simultaneously in several mugs?

                                                                    I have a slight 'familial tremor' for which no apologies are made, only reasonable requests. although yes, there are some foods I avoid in public.

                                                                    that honkin' big matzoh ball - ugh, the sight is off-putting. IMHO the surface to content ratio is all wrong (meaning it's hard getting that good schmaltzy broth all soaked into the dough just right).

                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                      can I use both hands to bring the bowl up to my lips in public?

                                                                      1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                        If you like miso soup you are in luck...

                                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                                          oh yes, bowl with hands? that's standard practice in many cultures. and just easier anyway. I think Miss Manners would give you a pass as long as you're tidy about it. if anyone asks, murmur something wistful about thoughts of longed-for days in (fill in the blank). sometimes strict Western table manners can be jettisoned for practicality, just not pretensions. I do find myself opting for fork/knife or chopstick foods quite often.

                                                                          although your tactic of 2-fisted spooning reminds me once again of a scene in "Barfly" where an old rummy has the shakes so bad he ties a handkerchief around one wrist and uses his neck as a pulley to hoist his (intact) shot up to his mouth.

                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                            I can just picture that scene and me trying to do it. No DT's here but it should work. <G>. As for Western table manners, I jettison them when I grab the utensil in an unorthodox manner

                                                                        2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                          mucho, what happens in Summerlin, stays in Summerlin..:)

                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                            except, now the whole world knows.

                                                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                              Your secrets are safe from Burkina Faso, Chad, and Myanmar.

                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                I'd best cancel my trip to those places,

                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                  I've pretty much stopped ordering matzoh ball soup in restaurants as none really measures up to my mother's and I'm blessed that she is still around and cooking. So I get my fix when I visit her. The only place where I order mb soup in Chicago is when I am someone's guest at the Standard Club, as their's is pretty good and with reasonably sized matzoh balls. Cannot really wrap my head around eating the mbs without the soup.

                                                                  1. re: masha

                                                                    You're lucky!

                                                                    I'm planning to see the off-Broadway play, Old Jews Telling Jokes at the end of the month and then heading with hubby to a NY deli (haven't decided which one yet) but if the weather is still chilly I'll be sure to order soup.

                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                      Maybe they will tell this one:

                                                                      Guy at a table in a deli sitting in front of a bowl of chicken soup. He calls to the waiter, "Waiter, taste this soup!"

                                                                      Waiter comes over, goes to taste the soup, says, "There's no spoon."

                                                                      "Aha!"

                                                                      1. re: Bob W

                                                                        Which brings to mind:

                                                                        "A man entered a restaurant and sat at the only open table. As he sat down, he knocked the spoon off the table with his elbow. A nearby waiter reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a clean spoon, and set it on the table. The diner was impressed. "Do all the waiters here carry spoons in their pockets?"

                                                                        The waiter replied, "Yes. Ever since an Efficiency Expert visited our restaurant... He determined that 17.8% of our diners knock the spoon off the table. By carrying clean spoons with us, we save trips to the kitchen."

                                                                        The diner ate his meal. As he was paying the waiter, he commented, "Forgive the intrusion, but do you know that you have a string hanging from your fly?"

                                                                        The waiter replied, "Yes, we all do. Seems that the same Efficiency Expert determined that we spend to much time washing our hands after using the men's room. So, the other end of that string is tied to my penis. When I need to go, I simply pull the string, do my thing, and then return to work. Having never touched myself, there really is no need to wash my hands. Saves a lot of time."

                                                                        "Wait a minute," said the diner, "how do you get your penis back in your pants?"

                                                                        "Well, I don't know about the other guys, but I use the spoon."

                                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                                          You both should go to the show!

                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                            Too busy using my hands and drinking my soup from the bowl...

                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                              Many thanks -- my version of that joke was considerably abbreviated, of course. A stand-up comic like Servorg would have the diner saying "Taste this soup!" and the waiter saying, "Can I bring you something else? What's the problem?" several times before the waiter finally says, "There's no spoon."

                                                                              1. re: Bob W

                                                                                There's a scene in Coming to America where Eddie Murphy (playing an old Jewish man) tells it.

                                                                                  1. re: DoobieWah

                                                                                    I guess you didn't see my post above, DoobieW. Have you seen the show? I'm going again this month.

                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                      No I haven't seen the show, but the website has been around for years.

                                                            2. re: hill food

                                                              Went to Katz's yesterday for a splurge. The sandwich was huge and there must have been a pound of meat on it. Guess what, I took half home. Problem solved.

                                                        2. re: Jay F

                                                          In the past decade, DC has welcomed a lot of transplants who are into trendy food and are health-conscious. You still have the expense account steakhouse crowd, but most of the restaurant growth has been in trendy small plate eateries, cupcakeries, wine bars. Translation: smaller, more expensive portions of increasingly precious "wistful" interpretations of classic dishes.

                                              2. Katz's and the Second Avenue Deli have not closed (from the article you might think they have), though the latter has moved from Second Avenue.

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      Thanks for that. I really enjoyed watching it.

                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                        Great video. It's called a trailer. Is there more?

                                                        1. re: John Francis

                                                          Yes, documentary was suppose to come out in November. I don't know the status of the release but this is the 3rd doc by the filmmaker.

                                                          http://hartleyfoundation.org/en/deli-man

                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                            Thanks, I'll look for it. More, more!

                                                          2. re: John Francis

                                                            Starting around the 1 minute mark they are featuring Kenny & Ziggy's, one of my very favorite restaurants here in Houston.

                                                            Love it, love it, love it.

                                                            Edited to add: I wrote the above before I watched the whole thing and realized that were actually featuring Kenny & Ziggy's.

                                                            Rock on Mr. Gruber!

                                                          3. re: fourunder

                                                            Thanks, 4under, enjoyed it, and now I'm craving pastrami.

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              Pittsburgh used to be a nice place for deli. We had Weinstein's and Iz Cohen in Squirrel Hill, the Gazebo in Shadyside, and Cantor's in Oakland. But that was the '70s.

                                                              I went away, and came back in 2000. All of those places were gone. Weinstein's, which burned down in a fire, was now a bank. The Gazebo was a Chinese restaurant--a pretty good one, but a Chinese restaurant. And I can't quite remember which side street off Forbes was home to Cantor's. I think it's a not-very good pizza place now.

                                                              Iz Cohen was now called Kazansky's, and it was a deli, but not a very good deli. Plus it always looked dirty. Then Kazansky's closed and an Indian restaurant opened. Whoop-de-doo.

                                                              Sometime during the '00s, two guys opened a place called Smallman Street Deli, on Smallman Street in the Strip District. They tagged it "Deli the Way It Used to Be." Which was true, foodwise. Excellent food.

                                                              Their second store, which they opened later in Squirrel Hill, isn't very "Deli the Way It Used to Be" when it comes to atmosphere, though. Instead of a full-service restaurant, it's a order-and-pay-at-the-counter, take-a-number, get a drink in a styrofoam or plastic cup (or in a bottle, from the drinks case), and go sit down and wait for your food.

                                                              They make the food, they bring it over, it's excellent food. I have no complaints. I just wish it really could be Deli the Way I Remember It Used to Be.

                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                I just wish it really could be Deli the Way I Remember It Used to Be.
                                                                ~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                                Me too. 99% of the NJ delis of my youth are all gone. The Russian side of my family tree that grew up in deli neighborhoods is nearly all gone. My kids don't even think about delis when they grab a sandwich. Every now and then I walk into a NY or LA deli just to have the fabulous food smells transport me....then I order a chopped liver & egg!

                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                  Some fantastic delis in Toronto too.

                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                    Agreed about Toronto.

                                                                    And, of course, in Montreal, the North American birthplace of smoked meat.

                                                                2. re: Jay F

                                                                  I think the delis in Pgh went the same way as the Jewish bakeries went. I was born and raised in Pgh,left and returned for a visit and found them all gone. Sad.

                                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                                      Definitly the Waldorf Bakery! I was so surprised to see it gone. I think another one was Rosenbaums or blooms? Both long gone. Their Jewish rye bread was wonderful.

                                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                                    Jay, as you probably know from our board, I've lived in PGH all my life. I would love to know if there is a deli like Katz's around here, where the pastrami is cut thick with the fat cap still on? Is there anywhere like that? I've been to nearly every deli and sandwich shop in the area - smallman st, max's, allegheny, fatheads, etc. - and they all serve deli pastrami, sliced thin, like you'd get at the GE deli counter. Is there anywhere near us that sells real pastrami sandwiches?

                                                                    (I will attest to the Reuben at max's, though. That's a good sandwich.)

                                                                    1. re: MonMauler

                                                                      You know, MM, maybe if you were to call Jeff Cohen at Smallman Street and have him take care of you personally, you could get what you want. He seems like a genuinely nice storekeeper. Tell him you're holding him to his "Deli the Way It Used to Be" promise. The Squirrel Hill number is 412-421-3354.

                                                                      I wonder if you've tried the brisket sandwich at Union Pig and Chicken (I assume it's beef). It was just such a slab as you describe, maybe a half-inch thick. It comes with slivers of red onion (raw), Pommery-looking mustard, drips of some white sauce, and an excellent table sauce in a squeeze bottle.

                                                                      I've not been able to get it completely out of my mind since I ate there last Monday (the only reason I haven't gone back is I've had the flu/bronchitis/whatever since last Tuesday--all I can stomach is soup and sorbet). It might fill that pastrami-sized hole in your appetite.

                                                                      1. re: Jay F

                                                                        Thanks!

                                                                        I'll definitely call Jeff Cohen. I really appreciate the suggestion.

                                                                        I have been to UP&C close to a dozen times. It is definitely the best BBQ in Pittsburgh. The brisket is pretty good but no substitute for real quality pastrami. I do, however, like the thin East Carolina sauce they serve. It's pretty good. So are many of their cocktails. That said, I'm not nearly as enthralled with UP&C as you, indicated as much on our local board. It is good food, but BBQ is more "real" (that's the best way I can describe it), cooked more properly, and tastier at many places in the Carolina's, near Memphis, and in Texas, for sure. Kevin Sousa tries to run a straight edge between all these various styles, and it's super tasty. He's a great chef and pulls it off admirably. But UP&C is BBQ like I've had BBQ in Sweden, meaning that it is meat cooked over an open flame.

                                                                  2. re: HillJ

                                                                    I'm reading this book right now. It's making me sad - but it also gave me a couple of ideas for playing around in the kitchen. Reuben pastries anyone?

                                                                    1. re: flourgirl

                                                                      Sad in a good way, I hope....I miss great delis too.

                                                                      My Uncle passed his copy on to me. He's a big deli lover from way back and his Dad, my Grandfather, was very loyal to neighborhood deli's. He'd bring pastrami from Brooklyn to NJ when he visited us on the weekends insisting we couldn't get the good stuff. I have so many memories tied to these men of deli love that the book made me stop and start many times.

                                                                      Long live the deli man.

                                                                  3. Kenny & Zuke's in Portland is fantastic. They make their own bagels, rye, pickles, pastrami.

                                                                    Re the article: I'm disgusted by all the ugly anti-Semitic rantings.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Leonardo

                                                                      I didn't even read the comments because of what I knew I would find there.

                                                                      1. re: Leonardo

                                                                        Kenny & Zuke's has been on my list for years.

                                                                        Hopefully soon when/if I get to Portland.