Save the Deli

Rascal House: The Final Indignity

Barbara P. Fernandez for The New York Times

I know, I know. Enough with the Rascal House already. It’s done, dead, finished. Toyt Fahrtik Gishtorbin.

But what can I do? This was THE deli of south Florida, and its death is pure tragedy. It’s been closed for three days, but I was sent this story in the New York Times from my publisher, and there was something inside that just ground my gears.

The red counter stools were empty. Wide plastic menus sold for $25 each. Platters once full of food cost $5.

The restaurant’s more famous items were priced like antiques. That large photo of Jackie Gleason, young, arms wide, smiling on Miami Beach; it cost $2,500, according to the tag. The restaurant’s interior signs with the Rascal logo ran too high for Mrs. Rothman’s budget at $5,000 each. She said she had hoped to pay $500.

Ken Joyce, 70, a law professor in Buffalo who always ordered the corned beef, said he was deciding whether to buy a board with a Damon Runyon quotation: “As I see it, there are two kinds of people in this world; people who love delis, and people you shouldn’t associate with.” It was $250, even though the “it” had fallen off.

So here we have this great institution, shut down by the extremely wealthy Starkman family of Jerry’s Famous Deli fame, because it was:
a) not profitable
b) not in line with their corporate vision
c) in a prime spot of land where they wanted a condo

Some sixty five or so staff are now out of work, but the Starkman’s have the nerve to auction off chunks of the restaurant for ridiculous prices. These are the same people who charge $10 for a glass of orange juice down in South Beach. Now, they’re selling off menus for $25!!!! Photos for $2500???

LIke the sign said “As I see it, there are two types of people in this world: people who love delis, and those you shouldn’t associate with.”

The Starkman’s bought Miami’s great delis and slowly bled them to death, selling off the real estate to developers or replacing them with Jerry’s Famous Deli (a deli in name only). So guess which type they are.

A shonda!

19 Responses to “Rascal House: The Final Indignity”

  1. Jay Parker Says:

    A short Deli history; New immigrants arriving had 3 needs to fulfill; food, shelter and work. This business supplied all three (my grandparents lived in the back of the store). A work day was just that, a day (24 hrs). Open in the ery early A.M.; wives would shop for lunch items for their working husbands,(there wrer only Ice Boxes), and close late (1:00 A.M.). And in between restocking shelves, beer, soda… and of course making product to sell the nextday. They just made a living. They couldn’t spell “food cost” .. it wasen’t a business… it was a living. Kosher delis were woven into the social and religious fabric. We, unlike any other restaurant were involved in the Jewish Life Cycle.. Brit.. bar/ bat mitzvah wedding and shiva. Business models and profits took a back seat, we had to be there for the community.
    Years later we see major enterprises like Jerry’s who forgot or traded our traditional role for greater profits. I’m all for making profits, but not at the cost of our historical place in the Jewish community.

    Jay Parker
    Ben’s Best Deli

  2. Matt Brookman Says:

    This was a sad dad indeed. The Rascal House didn’t need to close and Jerry’s Deli’s are pure poison. Since Jerry’s took over the Rascal House, the food slowly declined. He killed this one great deli where people came from around the world to enjoy and now will replace it with a high end market. Is this is a good businessman? Maybe Epicure will be more succesful, but I have a hard time understanding it. If places like the rascal house keep closing what will happen to jewish culture and the recipes and traditions that our ancestors brought over with them to this country? This is indeed a shonda and I hope people wont support his new product. Long live the traditional jewish deli!

  3. Ziggy Says:

    Dovid, It does not suprise me. These people are not real deli people. They are grubber yings who only care about money and always have, They killed a great instutution who at one time, was in the top 5 highest grossing restaurants in the country. They can blame the times, but that is not what killed the Rascal House. The blame falls on them for not keeping up the standard of food and service that the great Wolfie Cohen kept. They cut corners on qualtiy and their volume suffered because they turned it into another Jerry’s Famous Deli. To add insult to injury they now pick the place clean to extract every penny from the dead. Such a spit in the face and truly a dark day in the history of delis.

  4. jordan Says:

    this is a very sad story.i fear there will be more to come.parents no longer take chidren for the traditional dining expierence of great deli food.sushi is top pick now.we need to turn this around.i moved from new york to south florida 4 years ago,and was shocked to learn my childrens friends never heard of a knish.this is a shame!!!!!!!!one bright note.i believe the original owners of pastrami queen new york are opening in boca raton.hope its true.what a treat that would be.

  5. Nick danger Says:

    Knish? How about stuffed derma? My kids looked at it and (almost) wouldn’t taste it; when they did, they were not totally grossed out. It does take time to develop a taste for many things, deli included. Ben’s in Boca is worth it, if you haven’t been.

  6. Vadim Says:

    I’m truly stunned. I can’t believe the feeble minded civic leaders of S. Florida allowed this to happen did not designate the Rascal House as a landmark! This is a tragedy.

    I loved the Rascal House. I live in Brooklyn, but everytime I came to Miami I would stop by. I looked forward to visiting S. Florida just so I can visit my beloved deli. The Delano — F* them— the Rascal House had character. It had history. I ate here with my mother. I ate here with my wife, and my best friend too. The Rascal House was as much a part of me as my family. It was my S. Florida tradition. I loved everything about it, right down to the Jackie Gleason poster.

    I hope the Starkmans a cursed for life and choke on their filthy money. Lord knows, they don’t have enough of it already. F U Starkmans.

  7. Save The Deli » Blog Archive » Isaac “Ike” Starkman, Jerry’s Deli owner, dead Says:

    [...] Famous Deli, and the man ultimately responsible for the closing of Miami’s beloved Rascal House. I’ve remarked at my displeasure for the way Mr. Starkman and his sons cannibalized Rascal [...]

  8. Bear Racoff Says:

    We just found out about our beloved Rascal House closing. We have lived all over the country but while my folks were alive there had to be several visits each time we came to Miami. Rascal House is intertwined with my family’s history. My wife cried when she found out. Oh well, absolutely no reason to come to Miami Beach now.

  9. Greg A Says:

    My Mom worked at Rascal House, I used to eat there all the time.Do you remember the dill & coleslaw bowls.Corned beef-Pastrami-Brisket sandwitches.Cannot forget the potato knishes.To top it all off was the Black & White’s.I am rambling now sorry.
    Do you all remember Wolfie’s on S.Beach,that was my Dad’s favorite place.Also Corky’s on 163rd st.was they are up north west broward.
    Deli Den on Sterling is not bad,good Brisket.Sage’s on Hallendale bch blvd has real good Pastrami on rye they use a steamer,and that is a must.not a microwave.

    love the deli,Greg

  10. Mary from Ocala, FL Says:

    My family had been coming to the Rascal House since 1960, and I could barely walk as a baby. Rascal House was an “institution” to so many and it’s a shame it closed end of March 2008. Now it is a year later and the Epicure is an expensive market with very few customers. They should have left the Rascal House in its original form and had new management. I agree with others, there is no reason to go back to the North Miami Beach area, as Rascal House was the ONLY reason why we came back so often for so many years. I will always remember the place where I had so many great meals, great memories, knew great people and enjoyed a piece of nostalgia, life in its pleasures. It is sad to see it gone, shame on those who took it over and didn’t keep it up to par. We will miss you, Rascal House and thanks to Wolfie Cohen, the original owner, you brought us great joy for so many years!!!

  11. Luisa Says:

    The place is awesome and i can’t help but feel sorry for what had happened with the Rascal House.

  12. Phil Estrin Says:

    Signs of the apocalypse! The Rascal House’s closing is tragic indeed. What memories of my Miami Beach boyhood in the ’50′s the mere name brings forth!

  13. Phil Estrin Says:

    But does anyone remember “Pumpernick’s” on Collins Ave or “The Famous” on Washington?

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  15. Jarema Says:

    What an appealing write-up, continue publishing mate

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