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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.

                1. Just wanted to entertain you with this ... a German Pork Store
                  complete with a DELI case and music. Remember to click on the "Deli" pig.

                  Morscher's Pork Store --> http://www.morschersporkstore.com/

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Cheese Boy

                    Wow, great link Cheese Boy! That is a super deli...

                    I have what I consider an 'old-school' deli nearby, but they don't have nearly the range of pork products Morscher's does..... sigh.

                    Here is 'our' spot, in Burien, 20 minutes South of DT Seattle.

                    1. re: gingershelley

                      The outside has that Bavarian look to it.
                      Seems like a very nice place to visit especially around the holidays. : )

                    2. Growing up in NYC and the NY/NJ/CT metro area I have been to all types of deli's. Italian, Jewish/Kosher, Latino of various types, German, Polish, Nouveau American, bagel deli's as opposed to kosher, Asian of various types, Middle Eastern, Russian, Eastern European, Irish, traditional American, and more.

                      There are also the regional styles when it comes to deli's. When I lived in Georgia there were not many, but the few I saw had a very Southern style to them. Same for when I lived in Maine, a very unique presence to the food. And the same goes for when I lived in Seattle with that whole Pacific Northwest thing. I've visited deli's in CA, AZ, MN, FL, CO, TX, Boston, all though the Midwest and West. Each area, and even within some towns, had their own thing going on. But, also you have the chain sandwich places like Subway and Quiznos that have taken over and the small, local family run places in suburbia and rural areas have taken a huge hit over the past 20 years, and many have disappeared.

                      1. Our delis here on the Space Coast have increased in both number and diversity. Off the top of my mind, we have Jamaican, Italian, Greek, Puerto Rican, Thai, Chinese, Portugese, and American.

                        Our Kosher and German deli's are a fond memory.

                        The most ubiquitous deli is in every Publix supermarket. Better fried chicken than most restaurants and well better than KFC.