Save the Deli

Is BBQ the New Deli?

Just after I posted yesterday about new incarnations of deli in New York, my good friend and trusty photographer Christopher Farber sent me the link to this story from New York Magazine.

Barbecue, the New Deli? Who Knew?

In it, the authors argue that the void created by departing New York delicatessens is going to be filled with BBQ places, swapping cured and brined briskets for ones that are hickory smoked and slathered in sweet sauce.

“The shuttering of 2nd Avenue Deliís landmark location and the unstaunched rumors about Katzís impending demise have given the corned-beef crowd some major heartburn, or at least a twinge of dyspepsia. If itís true, as the deli doomsayers insist, that New Yorkís archetypical cuisine is on the wane, what will fill the high-fat, high-cholesterol void?

If youíve been out to eat lately, the answer is obvious. New York is in the midst of an unprecedented and seemingly unstoppable barbecue boom, with three terrific new joints opening over the past year alone. And there are enough striking similarities between the two foodways for us to christen Barbecue the New Deli.”

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

Back up the truck a bit Bessie, because I’d like to jump off. I’m all for BBQ. In my brief 28 years on this earth I’ve consumed far more meat from the fire than that from the deli slicer. After deli, there’s no more satisfying taste than that of wood grilled Argentinean mollejas, Turkish kebabs, KC ribs, or good old fashioned burgers.

But declaring BBQ the New Deli smacks of catchphrase journalism. I know that New York Magazine is the trendsetting voice of the Big Apple, trying to stay ahead of the curve by espousing provocative ideas, but I find this a bit of a stretch. Yes, there are paralells between deli and BBQ (brisket, brining, pickled veg), but why declare it the New anything? It sounds like some Williamsburg hipster bullshit to me. “Mondays are the new Saturdays” or “Red is the new Black”. Deli’s not the new anything. It’s old, which is why we love it. We cherish the fact that Jewish delicatessen food remains unchanged while others are chasing fleeting foodie fads and taste profiles. BBQ is the same, and I have no problem with the two existing happily side by side. BBQ, like deli, is a traditional slow food that draws devotees of a similar characteristic. They don’t replace one another…they compliment.

So please, spare me the Anna Wintour/ E! Entertainment titles of who is hot, what is new, who is in, and when they’re out. As long as delis in New York are serving up pastrami, knishes, kasha, and tongue, ain’t nothing going to stand in its place.

2 Responses to “Is BBQ the New Deli?”

  1. Sy Ginsberg Says:

    Well said, David, well said.
    Awmane v’ awmane

  2. extramsg Says:

    While I agree with you, BBQ joints could be the source for a more diverse and tasty pastrami that’s truer to its origins.

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