Can you feel the excitement start to build? It began as rumors, was confirmed briefly, descended into silence, and now prepares to rise anew. Yes, the Second Avenue Deli is ready for the most stupendous comeback in New York’s Jewish deli history, and the time is almost upon us.
I have been speaking with Jeremy Lebewohl for the past few weeks, who is ready to open, save a few regulatory roadblocks that we should all pray get settled real soon. The staff is in place, the meat is about to pickle, and the Berkel slicer is sharp as a sushi knife. Deli fans wait with bated breath.
So today, in the always on top of shit New York Times, there is a small preview in the Magazine by way of a wonderful article called “A Counter History“, written by staff writer Alex Witchel. The piece briefly profiles the Lebewohl family, with a focus on Jack, Jeremy, and the departed and beloved Abe, founder of the 2nd Ave Deli a half century ago. It’s a wonderful ode to a New York family dynasty, and a tempting forshpeis to what we all hope will be another legendary kosher delicatessen in a city that has lost so many.
From the article:
The Jews who immigrated here during the first half of the last century ate at delis — most of them kosher — regularly. Eventually they moved to the suburbs and traded salami for salad. In the 1960s there were 300 kosher delis in the city and suburbs and a Greater New York Delicatessen Dealers’ Association. That group is long defunct, and you can count the number of marquee delis left in Manhattan on one hand: Carnegie, Katz’s and Stage, none of them kosher. Assimilation is one reason; also, the need to separate dairy from meat limits menu choices (kosher meat is more expensive besides), and New Yorkers do not like limits. The staples of deli food, like matzoh-ball soup and corned beef, migrated in nonkosher form to diners and coffee shops decades ago; you need to be Jewish to eat deli the same way you need to be Italian to eat pizza. But for aficionados of the real thing, the high-quality, old-school kosher renditions of brisket or flanken or center-cut tongue like silk, the Second Avenue Deli was it.