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Jun 21, 2013 12:02 PM

Types of Delis

Those of us in the US know all about kosher delis, non-kosher Jewish delis, and Italian delis, but surely there are other types. What other types of delis have you seen? Unfortunately, delis are not heavy on the ground in my part of the States, so I ask the question from genuine ignorance.

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  1. The "Jewish" deli didn't come out of nowhere. They're derived from Polish, German, French (the charcuterie) and countless other nationalities. Here in Chicago, with our massive Polish, German and Italian immigrant populations we've had countless ethic groceries for well over a century. And feel free to add in the occasional Hungarian, Slavic and even Swedish variation. It was a place where the homesick could go for traditional breads, cheese, cured meats and other prepared products and the proprietors could make do with a small storefront space. Pick a nationality and there's likely a variant.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      When you speak of "ethic [sic] groceries," do you mean places that also sold sandwiches, pickles and various other prepared foods, and offered seating to dine? Because when I think of a deli, that's what I think of.

      1. re: Perilagu Khan

        Yes. If you visit Chicago there are still concentrations of these places in various neighborhoods. Many offer dining in, nearly all offer sandwiches and prepared foods to go. But the deli was the ethnic grocer. It was a one-stop shop for bread, prepared foods, cured meats, cheeses, sweets and other tastes of the homeland that were difficult to procure elsewhere. Although some were sandwich shops, others were more elaborate stores but the deli guy was always ready to make a sandwich. Some are still small operations, others have evolved with their customer base.

        1. re: Perilagu Khan

          I think the question of "what is a deli" is interesting, particularly in differentiating it from "ethnic grocery store".

          Personally, I would put the emphasis more on having a deli-counter providing traditional meats, cheeses, pickled/cured items - than strictly sandwiches or prepared meals. In Israel, you have a number of Russian grocery stores - but I do consider the places that make their own pickles and cure their own pork products to be "Russian delis". Whereas the stores that just sell packaged Russian goods to be Russian grocery stores.

          1. re: cresyd

            My reference was that the "deli" concept came from immigrants trying to get familiar foods from their homeland, so the deli was both a place to get prepared foods as well as other ethnic items that weren't easily found elsewhere. The grocery store as we know it didn't exist until the 1920's and ethnic selections were slow in appearing for many decades thereafter, so the deli served a dual role.

      2. They are slowly (or not so slowly) disappearing here, but in the Aloha State, if you see a "deli" it is almost certainly an Okazu-ya, a Japanese-style deli selling noodles, musubi, mochiko chicken, namasu, beef teriyaki, etc. Of course being Hawaii you might also find potato or mac salad, hot dogs, kal-bi, and other foods from other cultures

        2 Replies
        1. re: KaimukiMan

          Wow, what a wild assortment of food. I'd be clueless as to what to order. But the prices sure seem right.

          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            like deli's worldwide, most of it is in a case right in front of you, point and pick

        2. I always thought German delis were right on top, at least in the olden days. Most of the traditional salad recipes seemed to evolve from there anyway.

          Recently though, here on Long Island, I think one of the delis most encountered are the South American: Mexican, Guatamalan and Ecuadorian mostly. Good, homemade south of the border food, at a reasonable price.

          4 Replies
          1. re: coll

            I don't recall any German delis growing up, but there were plenty of "hofbrau" style German restaurants. They've mostly disappeared, sadly. Not sure why.

            Italian delis seem to be the most universal style.

            1. re: aynrandgirl

              Sort of depends on where you grew up. In Chicago and nearby Milwaukee German delis were plentiful. I remember going to Meyer's in Chicago even as a kid because my Eastern European-born father wouldn't accept anyone else's rye bread (and I'm pretty confident they didn't bake it there, he just thought it tasted better passing through). Sadly gone now, although their sign lives on it the far ritzier Gene's Sausage Shop:


              1. re: ferret

                New York too. It was kosher or German when I was growing up. But it depends on where you are, obviously.

              2. re: aynrandgirl

                Italian is sort of retro now, at least to me.

            2. I live near an Italian Deli so I am satisfied; however, in Los Angeles we have something known as a Mexicatessen style Deli


              1. My favorite deli here in Austin is Tam Deli, a banh mi and profiteroles slice of heaven. I really miss kosher delis, a lot.