DONNA E. NATALE PLANAS / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
The historic Wolfie Cohen’s Rascal House, an institution in what is now Sunny Isles Beach since 1954, is closing its doors. Pictured here is waitress Lorraine Willow wiping tears from her eye thinking about leaving her job of 22 years.
What I found most disheartening about last weekend’s death of Miami’s famous Rascal House was what little public outcry there was in the area before it happened. I searched in vain for articles or editorials lambasting Jerry’s Famous Deli’s decision to first turn the Rascal House into condos, and then into a luxury supermarket…all to no avail. I think using the words “death” to describe the end of a deli’s life is appropriate. To us lovers of deli, they are more than simply food service businesses. Because they contain the warmth of family, with a vibrant, organic feel, they are more like living creatures than buildings. We feel their hot, garlicky breath, we kiss their meaty lips, and we feel their pains. A business closing is sad, but death we feel in the heart.
So as the final danish went out the door, it’s nice to read two articles on the last grand dame of Florida’s delis closing.
From the Miami Herald’s “Death of a deli: Rascal House closing for good”
The last of the old-school New York-style delis, specializing in hearty Jewish fare, was built by Wolfie Cohen in 1954. A seemingly eternal staple at Collins Avenue and 172nd Street — outliving legendary delis like Pumperniks, Wolfie’s and Corky’s — it thrived for decades. Hungry diners lined up around the building, recalled Michael Scheck, 69, an Aventura retiree who first visited the restaurant in 1956, when he was 17.
”You couldn’t get in, you had to wait,” Scheck said. “I was told this was the busiest restaurant in the world.”
Busy it was, and for good reason. It wasn’t just the oversize portions, the no-nonsense waitresses or the comforting ambience, like the framed poster of Jackie Gleason, the fading black-and-white photos of the beach and the wooden counter where familiar faces gathered day after day. What most diners yearned for were the heaps of food that were handed out with every meal: rolls, pickles, muffins — and, in years past — coffee cakes and an assortment of pastries, including five different types of danishes. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE
And a further look into the problem from the Sun-Sentinel’s Michael Mayo “Dying delis: With Rascal House’s demise, another South Florida landmark gone”
“You didn’t have to be Jewish to love the place. My very goyisha father-in-law, a thoroughbred trainer from Ohio, thought the corned beef was to die for.
Changing times and changing demographics brought the end to the Rascal House. Jerry’s Famous Deli, a California-based restaurant chain, bought the deli a while ago and now plans to convert it to their Epicure Market brand.
That goes better with the Trumpification of the north Miami-Dade barrier island, with its mega high-rise condos and international clientele.
And so goes another slice of South Florida tradition. The original Wolfie’s in South Beach is long gone. So, too, the original Pumpernik’s that once stood across from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. A Wolfie’s in Boca Raton also closed a few years ago.” CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST