Get your jaws ready.
The cat is finally out of the bag. Though I’ve known it for some time, and the date has changed at least five times before this moment, it is now official. The Second Avenue Deli will reopen….
wait for it….
Next Monday, the 17th of December, 2007. Mark that day.
The news came by way of New York Magazine, who ran an interview with the deli’s owner, Jeremy Lebewohl.
For the unreconstructed Jewish-food fresser, the second coming of 2nd Avenue Deli—shuttered two years ago after a rent dispute, and reopening next week in Murray Hill—is a culinary event that trumps even the Manhattan debuts of Thomas Keller and Alain Ducasse. Into their vaunted ranks steps neophyte restaurateur Jeremy Lebewohl, the 25-year-old nephew of deli founder Abe Lebewohl and keeper of the kosher-deli flame.
It seemed like the whole city went into mourning when the deli closed. What made it so special?
You have other places in Manhattan that have good deli cases. But our kitchen—and I say this very confidently—nobody can touch. I won’t take away the counters from them, where you can get a good sandwich. But there aren’t that many places where you can get good soup. We have chicken fricassée, goulash, all these things that come from the kitchen. There’s not a single deli in Manhattan that can compare.
Have you changed the menu?
I did not subtract. I only added. Most importantly, I added a full line of appetizing. The people who eat smoked-fish appetizing eat deli meats. It’s the same client base.
Considering all that, is this a good deli moment?
People have asked me, “Do you think opening up a deli filled with fatty foods is a smart thing to do in modern times, when people are on diets and eating tossed salads and all this type of stuff?” I happen to think that now is the perfect climate. If you go to a lot of in-vogue restaurants, you’re going to see pork belly, and barbecue is back in a big way. Food tastes move in cycles. When I was a kid, in my house, in all my friends’ houses, there were all kinds of cookies and Entenmann’s cake and bags of potato chips. That’s what you ate. Then all of a sudden, God forbid you eat anything but a Diet Coke and maybe a crouton if you’re lucky. That’s not the way to live.
I can’t stress what this means for the cause of save the deli. The closing of the 2nd Ave Deli was a watershed moment in New York delicatessen history. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the signal to deli’s devoted masses that the time for action was upon them. You have answered with a roar, that the era of salt and fat and peppery mustard slathered schmaltzy meats is not over. If the closing of the original 2nd Ave Deli was our Bull Run, let this be our Gettysburg. Let us embrace it and show the world that this food is worth preserving and eating and loving.
I’m flying into New York on wednesday, and will update with news about the opening, a preview of the food, and photos from opening day. If you’re in the area, stop by next Monday, fight the crowds, brave the lineup and say hello. I’ll be the shmuck taking notes.