"Warning: May cause Pastrami On Rye cravings"
November 28, 2012 10:39 PM   Subscribe

Deli Man Trailer on Vimeo. In 1931, there were 1,550 kosher delis in NYC. Today: 150 Jewish delis in all of North America

(First scene unfortunately features Alan Dershowitz)
posted by growabrain (28 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
As a Jewish person, sad. As someone who has eliminated meat, most fat and salt, and non-whole grain bread from my diet, meh.
posted by bearwife at 10:48 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like either that second number has to be manipulated somehow for effect (maybe "Jewish deli" isn't the same as a "kosher deli," I have no idea) or else I must have lived, visited, and eaten in only the most Jewish cities in America my entire life? That can't possibly be right.

Is it that deli food in general is much more popular now, so there are a lot more delis and many of those serve kosher food as well as other kinds? Is the lament that not as many delis are 100% kosher as they used to be?

I am confuse.
posted by trackofalljades at 11:02 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


In my book, pastrami is right up there with bacon.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:17 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


David Sax' book Save the Deli points to several reasons for the decline in delis. One is that the target customer - kosher Jews seeking lunch - have, since the 1960s, been influenced by the ultra orthodox and Hasidic ideal of "glatt" kosher (a level of extreme kosher beyond the basic old testament rules.) Most Deli food is not glatt kosher. Furthermore, in cities like New York, real estate prices are too high for a downtown lunch place to serve a "cheap" lunch - hence Katz's $16 pastrami sandwich. At those prices... go to Chez Shwartz in Montreal and get three smoked meat sandwiches, and ask for them "fatty."
posted by zaelic at 11:25 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


I was going to complain about no link to the movie's site for more info, but the Vimeo doesn't have a link or any other information, even though it appears to be the Vimeo account of the director himself. I've found a couple of interviews with the director about the movie, but still no site.
posted by thecjm at 11:26 PM on November 28, 2012


In my book, pastrami is right up there with bacon.

It's worth investing in a proper bookmark.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:28 PM on November 28, 2012 [22 favorites]


It's kind of weird, when you see how popular the good Delis are. I've mostly been to Langer's in LA, but that place is always full, and there's often a line out the door and halfway up the block around lunchtime. At least from what I can tell from looking at people, it's not a majority Jewish clientele, either. Langer's itself is in a Mexican neihborhood.

So, what I'm saying is, why aren't there more delis, when they're so delicious?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:36 AM on November 29, 2012


"Houston's more of a shtetl. I mean everyone knows everybody. It's like Deliverance for Jews."
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:05 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I die, my soul will haunt the 2nd Ave. Deli, regardless of where it's located at the time. This doc looks fan-fucking-tastic.
posted by dbiedny at 4:53 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anecdata: there was a very popular deli in New Haven that was famous for its baked goods (babkaman.com RIP) as well as the sandwiches and bagels. They were considered kosher for many decades, until a new kosher sheriff showed up in town. The owner closed his shop rather than deal with that. A Brueger's Bagel shop opened up in the same space.
posted by drowsy at 4:57 AM on November 29, 2012


Yes, clarification needed on the difference, if any, between kosher and Jewish delis, as used by this thread author. (Is "Jewish" a looser term, just a style rather than meeting strict criteria? Is the author just being sloppy with terminology?)

I think of Rein's NY Style Deli, a roadside place we used to stop at east of Hartford on our way to NYC from Boston for gigs. Seemed authentic enough to me, but no idea if it was kosher.
posted by Philofacts at 5:13 AM on November 29, 2012


Rein's is good, but very far from kosher. Five entries down on its breakfast menu: "bacon." On the off chance they mean turkey bacon (which I'm 99.9% sure they don't), one has but to look at their sandwich menu to see they serve reubens, which, containing both meat and dairy, are by definition treif (i.e., not kosher).
posted by cerebus19 at 6:20 AM on November 29, 2012


I love your Dershowitz disclaimer, heh.

Fun clip, growabrain. I'm just an Irish catholic girl and we don't know from food, I grew up thinking salt & pepper were herbs & spices, so I may not be the world's best judge of authentic Jewish delis - but the hands-down best delis I ever went to were the erstwhile Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House and Wolfies in Miami Beach. This was many years ago - decades even - but I still get a yen for the stacked corned beef sandwich, and this clip brought that taste memory back.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:55 AM on November 29, 2012


thecjm: I've found a couple of interviews with the director about the movie, but still no site.

Looks like the official movie site is here.
posted by hanov3r at 7:11 AM on November 29, 2012


Sure there were more kosher delis, but I'd venture a guess that the lunch options back in 1931 NYC were much more limited than 2012 NYC. I'd also guess that out of the 1,550 kosher delis, most were mediocre and only a handful either made exceptional food or had the business acumen/willing descendants to keep the doors open when people got tired of eating pastrami on rye every day. I also disagree on downtown NYC real estate prices being too high to serve a "cheap" lunch. You can get all sorts of different tasty lunches in downtown NYC for less than $10. Just off the top of my head thinking about my own lunch for today, you get spicy cumin lamb noodles at Xi'an Famous Foods for <$10, you can get a shrimp and oyster po boy at Cheeky Sandwiches for <$10, you can get a falafel sandwich at Taim for <$10, you can get a meatball parm at Parisi Bakery for <$10, you can get a delicious panini at Gaia Italian Cafe for as low as $5, you can get 10 fried dumplings at many different places for $2...
posted by pravit at 7:23 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, what I'm saying is, why aren't there more delis, when they're so delicious?
There are some new gourmet kosher deli type places opened by young (meaning as far as I can tell they didn't grow up in a family that operated a kosher deli) restauranteurs, cf. Mile End in NYC and Caplansky's in Toronto.
posted by pravit at 7:37 AM on November 29, 2012


Man, the MeFi synchronicity factor is high this week - I was thinking the other day, "I should go to Canter's this weekend, it's been too long."

Now I'm sitting here in a cubicle, salivating for mish mosh soup and a pastrami on rye!

/shakes fist at screen
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:58 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


We may lament the disappearance of many kosher delis, but on the other hand celebrate the appearance of many kosher pizza places.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:01 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Minneapolis just got Rye Deli, which has traditional deli food as well as new variations. Unlike the delis of old they have an attractive interior and a liquor license. But they still make all their own bread, bagels, and cured meats. If you're in the area you should give it a try!
posted by miyabo at 8:06 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it important that a deli be kosher? Philadelphia has a TON of delis, but not too many left that identify as being kosher.
posted by orme at 9:17 AM on November 29, 2012


My favorite deli item, from when I lived in NYC, was virginia ham. Not very kosher! But the am I loved so much was from a deli in Little Neck, Queens. I had lived nearby at one point, and ever after would stop by if it was remotely close. I'd be surprised if they were still there, this was in the '80s.
posted by Goofyy at 10:40 AM on November 29, 2012


and Caplansky's in Toronto.

Caplansky's is delicious, but it's definitely not kosher. It's "Jewish-style." Which is not the same thing.
posted by mightygodking at 10:47 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


hence Katz's $16 pastrami sandwich. At those prices... go to Chez Shwartz in Montreal and get three smoked meat sandwiches, and ask for them "fatty."

Blasphemy! And don't even start talking about bagels.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:15 PM on November 29, 2012


Caplansky's is delicious, but it's definitely not kosher. It's "Jewish-style." Which is not the same thing.
Yep I used the wrong word. I am told Katz's is not kosher either.
posted by pravit at 2:13 PM on November 29, 2012


"...cf. Mile End in NYC "

Named for the Mile End neighbourhood here in Montreal, traditionally Jewish, among other ethnicities, going back >100 years, and home to the best bagels in the world. Ironically, very few kosher places left here either despite the relatively large Conservative and Lubavitcher Hasidim populations. (Minivans - the official transport of the Hasidim: all those kids - with NY plates are are common sight around that 'hood; probably cousin Moishe visiting from Brooklyn.) There are grocery and fish stores that cater to those populations (I went to one fish place in my 'hood, which also has a substantial keep-kosher Jewish population, albeit increasingly outnumbered by Russians, Tamils, francophone West Africans, Filipinos, Maghrebi Arabs, Jamaicans, Cambodians, etc., and was served very unenthusiastically - practically an "oy, a goy" thought bubble over the guy's head), who seem mostly to cook at home, but I can't recall seeing any kosher delis. (It's not like I look for them, for sure.) There is an OK, maybe kosher patisserie, Cheskie's Heimische Bakery, but they use Crisco(!) instead of butter (making them beloved by vegans; of Crisco's relevance to being kosher I have no idea), but hydrogenated fats are arguably worse for you than butter, so although I tried it once, I don't bother going there any more.

It just highlights the irrelevance of "kosher" as an indicator of quality to goyim like me. If a place makes a good borscht or chicken soup and serves a decent lox and cream cheese bagel, I'm happy. (Only a slight exaggeration.) Add to that the problematics of kosher (and halal, for that matter) butchering methods (cruelty to animals issues, concerns some folks I know have raised; please, no derails of outrage in the name of religious tolerance; I won't respond), and it further reduces the cachet of that K in a circle. My metrics involve other criteria.

btw, I haven't been to Rein's in more than 20 years; forgot they had bacon and milk-meat items on the menu. (I don't eat bacon anyway, not because it's not kosher, but because I don't eat mammals.) Reminds me of the joke told to me on the way to a friend's seder in SF: What's the least kosher meal in the world? - Double bacon cheeseburger with a side of fried clams.
posted by Philofacts at 2:12 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


BTW, LA peeps: what's that deli in Brentwood or Pacific Palisades (I forget which, It's been > 20 years)? Friends in Santa Monica directed me to there, and boy, was it good!
posted by Philofacts at 2:24 AM on November 30, 2012


and home to the best bagels in the world
What did I just say??
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:00 PM on November 30, 2012


Kvetch all you want. Montreal's bagels are the best. And I grew up near NYC - it was "the City" - and thinking that its were the pinnacle. Nope.
posted by Philofacts at 8:26 PM on November 30, 2012


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