Save the Deli

Katz’s doc in progress

Monday, March 26th, 2007

I was contacted today by Yura Dashevsky, Katz’s so called “Creative director in residence” who directed me to this wonderful site with interviews and tidbits that are going to make up a documentary about the legendary delicatessen in the Lower East Side. Check out the youtube stuff here, it’s great.


Schmaltz by Southwest: Arizona, Texas, and New Orleans

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Charlotte, North Carolina

It’s been a while since my last area roundup, due partly to the fact that I have driven across the entire country in a week, and largely to the fact that the following week I spent by the beach in Florida. So sue me.

Now I’m in for my final night in the south, before heading north to DC and then back home to Toronto in time for pesach. It’s been a hell of a trip, but at this point I can barely keep my eyes open.

This dispatch covers what I found once I left Las Vegas and before I arrived in Miami. As the crow flies that is about 2500 miles, though I took the longer route, which had me driving most days for about 5-10 hours at a time.

There aren’t a lot of delicatessens along the southern US border, packed as it is with sagebrush, vast tracts of inhospitable desert, drug smugglers and illegal aliens. But in the enclaves of Phoenix, Austin, Houston, and New Orleans there was haymish tastes to be found. (more…)

Calling out for Pesach Recipees

Saturday, March 24th, 2007


Pesach is almost upon us (Passover to my Americanized bretheren), and the week filled with dry goods and constipation is as tempting as ever. So to ease the collective suffering (for weren’t WE slaves in the land of Egypt) I’m calling upon the faithful to help me out.

Send in your favorite passover recipees, be they matzo brie and macaroons or brisket and borscht. I’ll post them on the site so we can all revel in the singing of chad gad yah and other classics. Original, creative, and whacky are all appreciated as are traditional offerings.

Ess Gezunt,


The King of Kibbitz: Freddie Roman

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Boca Raton, Florida

Freddie Roman: legend of standup, king of the Catskills, Vegas stalwart and opening act for the likes of Tom Jones, Shirley Maclean and Sammy David Jr…not to mention the dean of the Friar’s Club.

Freddie Roman: deli lover, deli maven, deli macher. No one on earth can match the encyclopedic knowledge of delis, past and present that Freddie Roman contains in his noggin. You say a city he’ll name a deli. “Atlanta…oh yeah, Tom Jones and I stocked up on matzo ball soup for his jet from this place thirty years ago…”


And so, a classic deli joke, as told to me yesterday by Mr. Freddie Roman, comedic and delicatessen king. (with credit to originator Myron Cohen):

A man comes in to the same deli for twelve years every night and orders a matzo ball soup. One night he pulls on the waiter’s sleeve and says “Taste the soup.”
“There’s nothing wrong with the soup” the waiter says,
“Taste the soup” the man insists, shoving the bowl toward the waiter.
“What the heck are you talking about?” the waiter says, “it’s the same soup you’ve been eating every night for 12 years, nothing’s the matter with it, we make it the same way.”
“Taste the soup,” he says again, sending the waiter over the edge.
“Ok Ok stop hollering, I’ll taste the soup!…where’s your spoon?”
“Ah Ha!”

*sorry Freddie, I butchered it.

LA Deli Story 2…the Podcast

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Miami Beach, Fla

This is much delayed, thanks to my lack of technical knowledge about RSS and other such crap, but have a listen, it’s worth it. What you’ll find are stories about several great LA delis which rounded out my trip, and left me wondering whether LA could be the best deli town in the country.

Click here to subscribe to the podcast and listen to the latest from LA

All the factors are there (even at Factor’s):
-a strong family run tradition over 2 or 3 generations
-haymish feels and looks though still fresh and not tired
-deli happy crowds, happy to be nourished on old time classics (though with Hollywood demands…no milk…scoop out my bagel…can you do it without the onions dear?)
-most importantly it tastes great.

Below are some photos of the places you heard about in the podcast with addresses and food porn to match. (more…)

Shmear and Kasha in Las Vegas

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Austin, TX

I was 20 miles out of Barstow when the acid kicked in.
…acid indigestion to be precise, the remnants of an In-N-Out Burger that was deciding whether to stay in or get out. The situation called for action: a fast car, desert road, and pills…tums to be exact.

Forgive my indulgence, but every writer is entitled to some form of ripping off the late, great, Hunter S. Thompson when writing about Las Vegas. And in that city of plastic fantastic sex, sin, and oversized t-shirts, the spirit of the Dr. would best be found in the delis…quietly fueling his drug crazed madness with some matzo ball soup or bialy.

This was my first time in Vegas and I was both overwhelmed and dissapointed, both with the city and its delis. I expected a trace of Sammy, Dean, and Frank but instead got NASCAR, oversized plastic cups, and a whole lot of decoration without much substance. But I won a few hands of blackjack, got a comped drink or two, and had quite a bit of deli over the course of 12 hours.

For a town founded by old time Jewish gangsters, and now boasting a growing population of new school Jewish retirees and real estate tycoons, Las Vegas is sadly lacking in a critical mass of homegrown delis. There are a few though, and they do quite well for themselves.

Genetically Wired for Deli?

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Phoenix, AZ

The 2nd half of the LA story, via Podcast, is ready to go and will be downloadable in a few days. Just arrived here in Phoenix from Vegas, which had some interesting things…so look for that update sometime this week.

Just a quick note before I pass out though. The stomach is currently churning and grumbling from the Middle Eastern meal I just had. Nothing new here, to me hummus is a little Hamas bomber in the stomach. Even though I consume tons of the stuff on a regular basis it never fails to plant a bomb in the gut. The past two times I’ve been to Israel, I spent the better half of the trip in the sheroutim.

Yet, despite the daily onslaught of chopped liver, fatty/salted briskets, marinated fish, creamy kugels, spicy mustards, and smoked meats my stomach has remained in tip top shape. I can only attribute this to my Ashkenazi genes, which welcome to my stomach deli food with open double helixes, as has been done for millenia in my bloodline. This is probably the same reason why my Israeli friends can’t really stomach deli, and why there isn’t a single deli in Israel. I’m sure there’s some scientist genetically engineering stomachs to handle both foods, but for now I’ll take the shmaltz over the chickpeas.


Pea Soup Wednesdays

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

Los Angeles, California

I meet far too many people who tell me how much they love deli and the site, but when I ask them when the last time they were in a deli they turn red or say months or even years. If deli is a passion to be supported, than please do so with your mouth and stomach and not just heart…because caring about deli is a long way from eating in a deli, and those that do so earn a special place in my heart.

What you might want to do is emulate the Pea Soup Wednesdays club. Here’s a crew of Canadian actors/directors/writers and producers who spend most of their time in LA. They are coiffed and weight conscious, pretty, talented, and just a bit cocky, but goddamn it they make sure that every single wednesday for lunch they are sitting at a deli “enjoying the food of our forefathers” to quote member Jonas Chernick.

Jonas Chernick and his brisket.

It’s all very LA…but blessedly so. I sat today at Canter’s with Chernick and his friend David Hirsh as they joked, kvetched, and fressed throughout a meal of herring, bagels, sandwiches, and a plate of meat “with no bread, because I’m on the actors diet”. These guys could be eating at Spago or Tupo or Lamda or any number of duosylabic restaurants but they’re not. They could be gazing on a patio through shaded eyes, talking loudly about accomplishments and parts and ideas, all the while flashing pearly whites and shaved pecs at the lithe waitress…but instead they are piling in slices of juicy brisket slathered in mustard, joking with sixty year old waitresses and acting like …well… actually NOT acting for once in this town.

David Hirsh and his herring.

So you want to support the deli?

Go out and start your own Pea Soup Wednesday club. Call it Knish Fridays or Lox Mondays, get a group together of your oldest, dearest friends and make a point to go out for deli on a regular basis. It will ground you in reality and keep you young…all the while connecting you to the past and supporting your local deli in the best way you can. By eating there.


LA Deli Story

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

Los Angeles, California

Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there…the sun’s in my eyes and I was driving and talking with my agent on the phone while thinking up titles for the documentary treatment of the book. You look fabulous! Me, I’ve been jogging and I’m on the pastrami diet, but I’m entertaining the idea of going for lipo if that fails…just a little touch up.

Yes, LA, that’s wonderful, decadent land where there is no center, everyone has a story to tell, you live by the car, and it’s never cloudy. So far it’s been a blast, and I’ve discovered that the deli scene is thriving like nowhere else, with a tremendous offering of both quantity and quality. I’m only halfway through my research, but I’ve eaten a hell of a lot of delicious stuff and there’s more to come.

I could write about it, but that would be just so, like, New York. So instead I did what this town lives for and made a movie:

If that got the juices flowing here’s a little more info on what you saw:

Izzy’s Delicatessen
1433 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 394-1131
-real nice NY style spicy pastrami and a bevy of killer soups including the matzo ball number featured here

Brent’s Delicatessen
19565 Parthenia St., Northridge CA 91324
New Location:
2799 Townsgate Rd., Westlake Village CA

The Peskin family does killer food in the most family oriented and unpretentious joint in the Valley.
-the absolutely best cabbage soup ever, with sweet whole chunks of tomato, pepper, and tender brisket in a delicious broth
-homemade golden kishke that tastes and feels light yet crisp and warm
-wonderful blintzes
-marvelous whitefish salad…fresh, cool, and waiting to be smeared on a bagel chip
-a brisket taco…SO-Cal fusion at its finest
-great chocolate eclairs (tell Marc Hernandez to share one with you)

Art’s Delicatessen & Restaurant
12224 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, California 91604
(818) 762-1221
-real haymish food from Mr. Art Ginsberg himself and family. He calls the sandwich pics on the wall “Jewish Erotica” and has a phone built into the wall by the corner booth for studio execs to take calls.
-try the outstanding eggs, lox, and onions which are stupendous due largely to the simmering vat of onions carmelizing on the stove throughout the day

Canter’s Delicatessen
419 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA
(323) 651-203
A giant! A classic! An absolute madhouse where the crowds nosh 24/7 and Guns and Roses got their start. Eat, hang, or get wasted in the Kibbitz Room. Old school waitresses, retro decor, and lots of neon. A factory for characters and late night celeb sightings (I saw that kid from the OC).
-huge bowls of matzo ball soup
-overstuffed sandwiches and great Reubens
-big baked knishes
-crisp, garlicky, homemade pickles
-the most amazing baked goods including chocolate, raspberry, and poppy seed rugelach that are a sin to eat and an even bigger sin to ignore

Langer’s Delicatessen
704 S Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90057
(213) 483-8050
Coming up on 60 yrs in the same location with Mr. Al Langer himself at 94 still holding the place down. I could talk about the decor or the area or the great servers, but you go to Langer’s for one thing: The best f$%ing pastrami at any deli anywhere. It is sweet, savory, a bit spicy and oh so tender. Hand cutting makes all the difference, plus six decades of family owned and operated care and knowledge. You will not find a better pastrami sandwich anywhere…even that other city on the other coast.

Oh, I have to take this call…you’re the greatest.


Save the Deli Podcast

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Welcome to the information superhighway! Multimedia! CD-Rom

Which basically means I finally figured out how to do a podcast.

Check it out here

The iTunes people take a few days to put it on their store, and the RSS feeds and all that bs, but you can listen to it now and maybe even see the pictures.


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