Save the Deli

Rocky Mountain Rye — Part 1— Six inches of fresh schmaltz on the slopes

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Fernley, Nevada

Another 7 hour, multi-weather pattern drive through the barren desert means that vacation time is now over and I am firmly back on the deli trail. It was a wonderful week of powder skiing, blue skies, quality time with the girlfriend, hot tubs, and non-pickled foods…ahh but who wouldn’t rather be sitting in a Super 8 motel off the side of I-80, blogging on a bed while your eyes struggle to stay awake?

While Jewish delis in this part of the country lack the history found elsewhere (an old deli in Denver is three decades old), and the mystique, there’s some quality product being put out by people who care, and who cook, slice, and serve with true passion. To all Jewish skiers and deli loving snowboarders this is a blessing, knowing now that future trips to Aspen, Vail, or elsewhere need not go without the essentials…no more $15 on-hill hamburgers…from now on they can stock up in Denver before heading to the hills. (more…)

15 minutes of ski town fame…

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Park City, Utah


Had my first TV appearance for the project yesterday here in Park City, Utah, where I’m skiing for a week and eating much less deli than I should. Thankfully, my good mate Jamie Lawson has some close hookups with the local TV station here Park City Television (his girlfriend Amy is a real life Veronica Corningstone). Ori, the host, also happens to be a member of the tribe and a Zingerman’s fan to the heart.


I’m going to upload the full video in a few days (once Amy gets me the DVD), but for now just do the following…

1. Go to

2. Select the date on the right top as Wednesday, February 21st

3. Scroll down below the date and select 7:00 PM Mountain Views Live

4. Scroll on the slider below the screen so the time reads 7:16.

5. Play and enjoy


Knishes in the Gravy Belt: two deli men in middle America

Friday, February 16th, 2007

Boulder, Colorado

When I pulled into Denver a few nights ago I felt blessed. The drive from Kansas City had been a brutal 9 hour ordeal through the centre of the United States. At first it drizzled, and then poured sheets of rain. I passed time listening to right wing talk radio “…the homosexual agenda in the public schools wants to expose our children to…”, counted the anti-abortion bilboards, and weighed them against the equally numbered sex shop bilboards. By the time I was halfway the freezing rain kicked in, which soon turned to slush, which then turned to snow, and then just mixed back and forth. Accidents were everywhere, the road was a skating rink, but I finally arrived in Denver with my car encased in a cocoon of ice. Amen.

During those days between Chicago and here I met two deli men who operate in areas where owning a Jewish delicatessen is a lonely business. Middle America is the gravy belt. Aside from some outstanding Bar-B-Q it is the home of white bread, white folks, and spiceless meat. Hardly a place where deli can thrive. And yet…. (more…)

A bit of naches and love on V-Day

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Denver, Colorado

A nice item came in today from NY deli lover and journalist Steve Viuker.

One is a story he wrote in the New York Post during December, which sums up quickly the deli scene in New York:

Genuinely deli-cious

The Jewish deli is still a city stalwart

FORK out $200 for dinner? $15 deserts? Tasting menus? Bah.

“Give me a Reuben at the Second Avenue Deli any time,” said hockey and deli maven Stan Fischler.

“My first deli was S & L on Marcy and DeKalb in Willamsburg,” he recalled.

With the demise of the Second Avenue Deli, a long-time New York tradition may be fading. Or not. (more…)

A Deli Lover’s Valentine

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Denver, Co

V-Day is almost upon us folks, and for those of you still looking for a gift, I point you to our NEW DESIGNS at the gift shop.

Click here to get a gift for your Pastrami Mommy.

brisket on board hrtdeli.jpg
pastmom.jpg salmmom.jpg

And now, in the spirit of this Hallmark Day….An ode to my dearest love: Delicatessen

My darling Deli…

Does our love know no bounds?

Whether sweet on my lips like rugelach, or salty as tongue by the pound.

I pined for thee all through my years, at summer camp, and trips afar,

When you weren’t there I faced my fears,

And when you came, I cried “hurrah”.

When sick, your hearty matzo balls, battled demons deep within,

When joy struck, I felt such luck, with bagels, lox and cheese (creamed).

And now at night I lie awake, dreaming of your salty embrace,

Of peppercorns, and garlic breath,

and mustard stains upon my face.

Oh deli be my valentine, and hold me in your bubbe arms!

We’ll float through seas of golden shmaltz, on boats of kishe casings,

We’ll dance upon floors of matzo brie, to the toots of indigestion.

And lie down in fields of pickled grass, where I’ll pop the question:

Can I get this to go?

Lauren at Katz’s

A goodbye kiss to Chicago:Manny’s, the Bagel, and a blessed Meshugunneh at 11th City Diner.

Sunday, February 11th, 2007

St. Louis, Mo.

The endless channels of Jesus talk, music, and news on both radio and TV must mean that I am now firmly in the American heartland, moving further away from the core of deli country and into the land that mayo and white bread dominates. That and the biscuits with sausage gravy they had at the breakfast buffet.

Leaving Chicago proved tougher than I imagined, as each day I spent in the city just left me wanting more. I went in hearing and thinking that it was a land bereft of deli, but what I found were people in the delicatessen business making some of the best products I’ve had thus far.

They were dedicated and steadfast, forward thinking and a bit nuts, but not at all united or cohesive. Chicago’s delis are spread far apart, and their owners rarely, if ever talk. Rumors and backstabbing persist, as though the deli owners in the city feel they are in direct competition with each other. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Chicago’s delis are too few in number and too great in need to fight it out. They are competing with the thousands of other restaurants in town, but not each other. I just hope a sense of camaraderie can develop, and Chicago’s Jewish delicatessens can once again be part of a community, and not just remnants of a food scene.

But enough about the philosophy, let’s talk deli. (more…)

Formica Philosophy part 2

Friday, February 9th, 2007

Deli is an opinionated love, shared by opinionated people.

How do you eat your sandwich?
On rye or onion roll?
With caraway or not?
Spicy mustard or plain yellow?
Fries or Latke?
Coke or Black Cherry?

Now you can argue to your heart’s content at the new Save the Deli Discussion board on Facebook.

Here’s a few tidbits from friends below:

“I once at a chopped liver sandwich at The Main and didn’t go to the bathroom for like 3 days because I wanted to keep it inside me. That is all.”
-Mitch Dermer

“Personally, I think it speaks volumes when a deli has only very limited menu offerings. It says to me that they only make a few things, but they make them well. No Rueben on the menu? This is a good thing. It tells me that the owner is proud of his meat and doesn’t believe it is warranted to muddle its deliciousness with cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Ruebens and other smorgasbord-type sandwiches with different combinations of meat, cheese, toppings, and condiments. Shoot, even put some French fries in there if you like – delicious! But if I am fortunate enough to find myself lunching in a quality deli, I always order one of two things – either a pile of smoked meat or a pile of corned beef, sliced thick and sandwiched between two slices of plain rye bread (no caraway seeds).

I’m a little particular in the manner in which I eat my deli. I pick up a half and take as big a bite as I can manage, right from the middle. This allows me to truly gauge the quality of the meat. Sometimes the meat is so succulent that I might decide to eat the entire sandwich this way – plain and simple. Otherwise, I might add just a touch of plain yellow or spicy brown mustard to punch it up a notch – or Nance’s Sharp and Creamy mustard if I am lucky enough to find a jar.

-Michael Mawas

Jump in and declare your passion for deli in the best way possible!

The Formica Philosopher

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Just a little tidbit from me late here in Chicagoland…

“I believe in pastrami — well-marbled pastrami. Hot, thinly sliced, piled on fresh rye bread with dark mustard and a crisp dill pickle.

I believe that pastrami is a metaphor for a well-lived life, for a well-designed institution and even for healthy relationships. Pastrami is marbled rather than layered. Its parts, the lean and the fat, are mixed together rather than neatly separated. Too much of life is lived by adding layers that don’t really connect with one another.”

- Lee Shulman

Have a listen to his NPR essay.

I found this a few months back online and thought it was a gem. Lee Shulman is an educator and academic in deli starved Northern California, but his ode to pastrami and life is a wonderful metaphor. Plus, look at that punim! He’s a true deli man.


Haymish tastes of the Windy City

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

“We’re on a mission from God” – The Blues Brothers

It dawned on me while pumping gas the other night in painfully cold weather that a road trip starting at the beginning of February might not have been the best timed idea. Yet, aside from the sleet covered roads and the twelve times I brushed snow off my car yesterday, there’s a warmth to this town that I’ve seen in few cities.

I’ve come searching for the elusive Chicago deli. Elusive because in a city of big eaters (Belushi and Farley, Ditka and the rest), and loads of meat, sandwiches, and fatty foods, great Jewish delis are few and far between. This wasn’t always the case. My first day I was taken around the historic Jewish neighborhoods by Prof. Irving Cutler, author of two books on the history of Jewish Chicago. As we drove by the facades of once grand synagogues which now house Black baptist churches, he pointed to boarded up shops or liquor stores that were once Chicago’s great delis: Braverman’s, Ada’s, Carl’s, Zweig’s, Silverstein’s, etc… But time had not been kind, and what remained were only fading memories.

Such is the case in Chicago, where the deli still remains in a precarious state. Just last week Chaim’s Kosher Bakery & Deli closed down. Weeks before, Barnum & Bagel closed just down the street, after it was sold to a Greek owner who then never returned from Greece (he supposedly had debts that Zeus couldn’t even pay). Both sit empty…stark reminders that Chicago’s delis are in need of some serious salvation.


And yet, the Jewish food business is huge in this town. Sausages, hot dogs, salamis, meats, blintzes… you name it, there’s a factory that is making it, and selling it at delis all over the country, likely more than they do in this city.

Word is Spreading Like Mustard on Rye…

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

Snowy Chicago- Day 7 of USA road trip

Had a great day at two factories today in snowbound Chicago, but more about that in a later post. This is just a quick one to thank my friends at New York magazine for giving the site a boost online today. Check out the article here. Or below:

“Don’t Delay — Save the Deli!

The logo says it all — and you can get it on a thong.

We’re glad that the Second Avenue Deli will be making a comeback, even if it is on Third Avenue. But there’s no getting away from the fact that — between cultural assimilation and the continued ascendancy of corporate chains — old-time Jewish delis are an endangered species. That’s why David Sax launched Save the Deli, a Website that he promises will include “essays on deli culture, a growing database of Jewish delis around the world, podcasts, video, [and] photos.” (Sax has previously contributed to Daily Intelligencer.) Not only that, but he’ll be hawking merchandise — shirts, hats, and even thongs with the site’s logo on them — gotta pay for all that chopped liver one way or another. Sax will travel across the U.S. and Canada, documenting the delis as they disappear like sour tomatoes from a jar. David, we salute you. Our complimentary thong can be sent care of New York Magazine.”

Josh, I’ll send the thong if you model it for the site.
Wait…no… terrible idea….though it is Fashion Week.


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