Save the Deli

Southern Society: New York Corned Beef Society of Atlanta

Friday, June 29th, 2007

This coming Sunday, as occurs on the first Sunday of each month, crowds of deli lovers will line up at Twain’s Billiards and Tap in Atlanta, Georgia, for their ration of corned beef. Twains is not a deli, and has never been, but it is the gathering point for the most delicious group Southern Society has ever seen. The New York Corned Beef Society of Atlanta is part club, part gathering, and 100% fress.

Howard Wurtzel (second from the left) and family

NYCBSA is the creation of Howard Wurtzel, a New York born and raised psychoanalyst, who moved to Atlanta several years back and craved a taste of authentic deli the way he used to eat it at Katz’s, in New York. But Atlanta is a city largely bereft of deli, and Wurtzel’s cravings only grew. He then recalled a period when he served at a Texan army base, decades back, when he and other Jewish GI’s cooked up some corned beef. Why not duplicate it in the land of peach cobbler? Raw corned beefs were procured from a purveyor, along with mustard and ryes, and notices went out around Atlanta’s Jewish neighborhoods. Dozens came the first month, then dozens more, until a newspaper article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution deposited hundreds of eager deli fans at the door one Sunday, draining the last brisket with the line still forming outside.

These days the New York Corned Beef Society of Atlanta has ample corned beef for the crowds, and is well versed in the cooking and slicing of the meat that customers are always satisfied. Wurtzel lords over the procession, though his children (who own and operate Twain’s), do most of the dirty work. It meets on the first Sunday of every month at Twain’s, and cooking begins in the morning so that the meat is ready to go later in the afternoon. There’s a side of coleslaw, potato salad, fries and a pickle, but thank god no mayo on the sandwich, and plenty of beers on tap.

Wurtzel’s work is astounding and truly deserves to go in some form of deli hall of fame. For the thousands of deli lovers who live far from centres of deli greatness, this should serve as inspiration to you all. No more are you allowed to kvetch and sulk. Order some meat, cook it up, invite some friends and get fressing!

New York Corned Beef Society of Atlanta
211 E Trinity Pl
Decatur, GA 30030 (Cross Street: Church Street)
*Soon Twains will likely have corned beef and pastrami on the regular menu

Al Langer Tributes

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Since word of Al Langer’s death came out this week, an outpouring of grief has spread accross the internet. Here’s some tributes to the legend himself.

LA Observed

Franklin Avenue


Ruth Reichel on


Background Noise


Eater LA

Eating LA

Al Langer 1913-2007 Pastrami Perfectionist

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007


I write with great sadness this morning as I have just received news of the death of a true deli legend. Al Langer, the founder of Langer’s Delicatessen in Los Angeles, passed away this Sunday. He was 94 years old. His loss will be felt accross the entire Los Angeles delicatessen community, around the country, and the world. For Al Langer was a pastrami perfectionist and anyone who tasted the fruits of his labors will forever be in his debt.

The Los Angeles Times published a great obituary of Mr. Langer today.

“In his later years, Al Langer continued to spend part of the day at the deli, reading his newspaper, greeting customers, watching the cycles of his customers’ lives.

“It’s fascinating,” he said in a 1986 Times article. “They come in as children, they get married and they bring in their children. And the older people that used to come in, they disappear. Little by little, they’re gone….”

The constant at Langer’s Delicatessen is good food. The expansive menu includes fried kippers, corned beef, New York steak, and livers and onion. But the deli’s hot pastrami sandwich sent critics searching for superlatives. Part of the secret, Langer said, was that the pastrami is steamed tender for hours and hand-sliced. Hot rye bread is the other key.”

Read the rest of the LA Times obituary here.

Though his death will be mourned by deli fans everywhere, his life’s work and legacy will shine forever in three ways:

-Langer’s name will continue to hang over the delicatessen he founded sixty years ago. Just two weeks ago he lived to celebrate this momentous anniversary, where it was decreed by the city that the intersection of 7th and Alvarado will be named Langer’s Square in his honor.

-He is survived by his son Norm Langer, who has been running the delicatessen for several years, and posesses all the great qualities that made Al Langer one of the world’s finest deli men, and a true mensch. With Norm at the helm, the Langer’s legacy will continue to shine bright.

-The pastrami sandwich he brought to Los Angeles and the world remains at the top of its game. Dark, spicy, and slightly sweet, the tender meat is hand sliced to perfection, assembled on thick slices of warm, double baked rye, and slathered with brown mustard. It is a work of art in the world of Jewish deli, and like all great masterpieces, it will outlive its creator for what we pray will be centuries.

Langer’s will close this Thursday, June 28th for the funeral, which is open to the public. Services will be held at 11 am at Eden Memorial Park 11500 Sepulveda Blvd, Mission Hills, California. You can post your wishes to the Langer family below.

Though no fund has been set up, Norm Langer requests that any donations be made to charities that target the needs of children, a cause that Al Langer championed his whole life.
Here are a few in the Los Angeles area.

Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles

The Aliance for Children’s Rights

Blind Children’s Centre

The Children’s Clinic

Make a Wish Foundation

Alav Hashalom
Rest in Peace

Mall + Condo = The Fate of Rascal House

Monday, June 25th, 2007

I’ve mentioned before the fate of the Rascal House in Miami Beach, which will be torn down sometime shortly to be replaced by a development of condominiums and shopping. The website for this horrendous project is now up, so you can all see what will stand in the place of the once greatest eatery in Florida.

What it was:

What it will become:
The Epicure

From the site:
“Introducing The Epicure, a new residential project in Sunny Isles Beach that will completely transform the way we view urban living. Based on the refined style of
the renowned Epicure Market, The Epicure will offer its residents gourmet kitchens and the highest level of personalized services.”

“Fresh and frozen prepared foods, on-premise bakery, aged prime meat, daily-fresh fruits and vegetables, farm-fresh dairy products, imported and domestic beers, wines and champagnes are just some of the market’s top quality goods. Residents will also be able to request a complete stock-up from the gourmet market while they’re out of town, or simply just out and about.”

Believe me kids, they won’t be greeting you with baskets of warm danish and fresh rolls.

Mmmmmm….hideous. One more green glass condo in a strip that looks like Dubai. History will judge this poorly, and the bursting condo bubble in Florida may even judge it sooner.

“Isaac Starkman, Chief Executive Officer of Jerry’s Famous Deli Inc., also manages the concessions at New York’s Shubert theaters and owns numerous Broadway theatrical stores in Times Square and the theater district. In the past twenty-five years, Jason and Guy Starkman accumulated their construction experience by overseeing the completion of more than 15 restaurants and other projects. As owners of the Rascal House in Sunny Isles Beach and witnesses to the area’s growth into a world famous destination, the Starkman family identified a unique opportunity to build a mixed-use edifice in the booming residential real estate neighborhood.”

So let’s see here: Jerry’s Famous Deli bought the Rascal House, and is now tearing it down to make condos named after another luxury food store they purchased. Buy great deli. Run into ground. Build on top of it. That’s a wonderful display of predatory practices.

Remember to sign the petition and express your distate at this abomination. Saving the deli means that you save it from this fate.

Montreal: May the Schwartz be With You (guest appearance by Alan Dershowitz)

Friday, June 22nd, 2007


In the past year, as you can all see, I’ve visited hundreds of Jewish delis. I’ve been to massive places in suburban Detroit, classic diners in Beverly Hills, family favorites in Florida, and kosher classics in New York. I’ve eaten at Katz’s, Carnegie, Stage and Langer’s, Zingerman’s, Manny’s, Canter’s, and the Rascal House. I have had amazing sandwiches and been awed by the atmosphere, but I can not and will not compare these places to Schwartz’s.

It would simply be unfair.


Time Out Article “Death of the New York deli”

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

An article appeared today in Time Out New York by food journalist Jay Cheshes, about the death of New York’s delis. There’s a quote by yours truly toward the bottom, though no mention of this beloved site. It touches on a few of the issues killing off delis, and simplifies thigns a bit (there’s more than just the Stage, Carnegie, and Katz’s), but still, it’s a good read.

“When was the last time you walked into a dill-pickle-scented Jewish deli and ordered an enormous sandwich slathered with mustard and dripping with schmaltz?

Not lately, it would seem. These days there are more “New York–style delis” outside the five boroughs than there are in New York itself. Things were different 40 years ago; then, the city was home to more than 300. Every few blocks there was a neighborhood spot where you could grab a potato knish or steaming heap of corned beef. Today, with barely 50 traditional delis still standing—and rumors that Katz’s, the city’s oldest, may soon close—these institutions teeter on the brink of extinction, rapidly heading the way of Automats, old-line French restaurants and chicken chow mein at the Copacabana….”


One More Demise in the LES: Gertel’s Bakery to Close

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Sad news coming out of Manhattan which is becoming all too familiar and regular these days. Gertel’s Bakery, a treasured Lower East Side institution with chocolate rugelach from heaven, will close this Friday for good (before the shabbos of course). The rumors had been circulating for months, but finally a sign appeared with little warning, and that is the end of that.

Gertels Closing Notice

Read About it Here (Eater)
And here (Racked)
And here (Curbed)

Though I dedicate this site to delis, know that where the bakeries go, the delis will follow and vice versa. I cringe at the thought of the Lower East Side and East Village in twenty years, when the only remnant of Jewish culture will be the copies of The Jazz Singer and An American Tale on sale at the Blockbuster Video that graces each block.

Go to Gertel’s today or tomorrow and stock up on as many chocolate rugelach as you can. They freeze well.

Worry Less, Eat More. An article in Guilt and Pleasure Journal.

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Check out an article I wrote on deli and health, which came out today in the always insightful and interesting Guilt and Pleasure journal of Jewish thought and culture.

Guilt and Pleasure

“….I want you to repeat the following out loud: Deli is good for me. Corned beef won’t kill me. I was born to eat blintzes.

Why should the above sound so ridiculous?

Because we are told by “nutritional experts” that knishes are empty carbs. That a bissel of chopped liver is a guilty indulgence. And a pastrami sandwich? Nothing less than a death sentence. One Jewish cardiologist alarmingly told me how “deli has killed more Jews than the Gestapo”. Somehow the idea that the food of your Ashkenazi ancestors can be both delicious and nutritious seems verboten in this day and age….”


Bye to Ben’s: From

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Thanks to Lara Rabinovitch for passing along her post on the protest to save Ben’s Delicatessen in Montreal from the Jew and the Carrot. A landmark to be sure, though one that will sadly be gone shortly.

Here’s another great post from Midnight Poutine about the protest, including the below seen photo of Klezmer/rapper Socalled, kicking it up real old school in the entrance to Ben’s.


Here’s how to take action to save what’s left of this historic deli.

Langer’s 60th

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Everyone wants Deli

Originally uploaded by Ben Brown

Look at those hungry happy crowds. Thank you Langer’s for 60 years of amazing pastrami and thank you Ben Brown for sending these puppies into Save the Deli. A mensch indeed.

Check out Ben’s flicker gallery for more Langer’s pics from today.

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