Save the Deli

The First Nosh of Many…

Ann Arbor, Michigan – Day 3 of USA road trip
The First Nosh of Many…

Welcome to Save the Deli, a space dedicated to the preservation of the finest salted, cured, fatty Jewish treats to grace the world’s tongues.

deli.jpg
photo by Christopher Farber

I write with an urgency in my first post, because we are living in desperate times. The Jewish delicatessen, that treasured temple of scuffed formica, sawdust floors, and nose ticking garlic aroma, is dying. Where once Jewish delis numbered in the thousands, today there are scarcely a hundred scattered around the Diaspora. Just look to New York, the once teeming capital of deli. Barely a dozen remain in Manhattan. A handful in Brooklyn. A mere pair in the Bronx.

From Paris to Montreal, Chicago to Antwerp, London to Miami…the deli is dying. Recent casualties have included Ben’s in Montreal, the 2nd Ave Deli in New York’s East Village, and soon Rascal House in Miami Beach. Restaurants which were anchors of stability in cities have been uprooted and expelled, paved over by the bulldozer of history. They have been felled by increased rent, slim margins, a health conscious (and slightly maniacal) eating culture, and assimilation. Delis now serve sushi and spring rolls, while items like rolled beef, braised ribs, and schmaltz herring have fled from menus.

At the current rate, the Jewish deli as an institution is facing the very real possibility of extinction. In ten, twenty, or fifty years, how many delis will your city have? Where do you think you’ll go for a pastrami sandwich, a bowl of matzo ball soup, and a few full sour kosher dills? Friday’s? Sizzler? Wal-Mart? Forget it.

And so, the arduous march begins…a grassroots campaign of love and preservation with the aim of saving the Jewish delicatessen from extinction.

This is a site for all deli lovers, whether those who are born Jewish or those who discovered their Semitic leanings the first time their tongue was blessed with the feeling of tangy mustard meeting a pile of glistening corned beef on soft rye. Here is a place where flunken fanatics can kibbitz with lox lunatics, where devoted fans of New York’s Katz’s Delicatessen can compare, contrast, and argue with followers of LA’s Langer’s, or Montreal’s Schwartz’s. It will be a community of like minded fressers, craving those flavors so sacred and salty, that the mere mention of the word knish tugs at the heartstrings.

Over the coming weeks, months, and years, this site will touch upon all aspects of Jewish delicatessens, delving into everything from listings of chopped liver temples to poems over pastrami. There will be essays on deli culture, a growing database of Jewish delis around the world, podcasts, video, photos, and even Save the Deli merchandise to buy (wholesale price…of course).

So stay tuned, tell a friend, and above all else…go eat some deli.

David Sax

16 Responses to “The First Nosh of Many…”

  1. kenny hotz Says:

    it’s too late!
    there are only 2 left -Katz’s & Shwartzs
    hopefully i’ll be dead before they are, but i doubt it!

  2. Cap Says:

    That’s one hell of a sandwich. I always thought Reuben was just a maiden name….

  3. Adam R Freedman Says:

    Dave! You are a genius and a pioneer! Keep up the good work. Love, Freeds.

  4. Syd Schatzker Says:

    Try to get into Steeles Deli in Toronto on a Saturday night or for lunch without a lineup.

    You are right, the Deli like the Shvitz, once part of the culture of our youth & of our forefathers of Eastern European descent is disappearing.

    Zy gezunt!

    Syd

  5. allergic girl Says:

    what a great idea, mazel tov–looking forward to the book as well! best, AG

  6. Ellen Levine Says:

    David, I love reading about your adventures on the road.Your accounts are entertaining, informative and well written. Watch your cholesterol level and drive safely. xoxoEllen

  7. Mark Saxon Says:

    Hi David

    This is your long lost cousin Mark from L.A! Heard from your folks you’re on a great deli adventure. My brother Winston said you’ll be around L.A. first week in March. We both look forward to seeing you and if needing a tour guide on the weekends (deli’s or whatever) we’re here for ya. Take Care….Mark Saxon

  8. Marsha Slivka Says:

    David, one of your mom’s ‘cooking’ friends ….well done …all my Montreal friends loved it….would love to be at the book signing. On a personal note your webcreator is he interested in any other creations I have an inspiring project in Africa that needs some young inspiration. Mazal tov and I am headed out for a pastrami at Centre Street Deli….Marsha

  9. barbara simon aka "all that and a bag of chips" Says:

    at last, somone understands and speaks our language……..the true language of love!

  10. Robbin Hudson Says:

    Hey David;
    Any ideas on how to cook flunken??
    or a book to refer to ??
    robbinhudson@sympatico.ca

  11. Randi Says:

    Hi David,

    Where is the best place in TO for deli? I’ll gladly drive up from Exeter for some. I’m just back from Florida and I’m missing my deli something fierce!!

  12. Save The Deli » Blog Archive » A Year in the Life of Deli: STD turns 1 Says:

    [...] wrote those words a year ago tomorrow, as I prepared my first ever post for this site, while I sat in the cold condominium of my friend Dara, on the first day of my road [...]

  13. Sheila Wolfe Says:

    Is this still going on? We don’t have any Jewish Deli’s here at all! Our synagogue’s big fundraiser is our Jewish Food Faire -any connections in the Sacramento Ca region?

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