Save the Deli

An Ode to the Waitress

Friday, August 29th, 2008

A while back I posted on Alan Richman’s famous story about the last Jewish waiters. But I got an email today from two of the best deli waitresses I’ve ever met, and realized that something was long overdue. (more…)

Friday: Caplansky’s opening party

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

It’s been a crazy couple of months for Toronto’s Caplansky’s deli. After a June opening, Zane Caplansky was flooded with so much demand that he ran out of meat and had to shut down twice. He’s since been written up in every local newspaper, been touted as a deli savior by fans and friends alike, and has even served Geddy Lee from Rush. He’s switched meat suppliers, faced rent hikes, and recently had problems with steamers, ovens, and staff. He’s also received near daily offers from investors, salesmen, and chefs. Oh, and he started a blog.

Ahh the life of a deli man. Great from afar, but often it’s far from great.

Which is why Friday night is special. With summer drawing to a close, Zane is going to open the doors of his deli-in-a-bar even further, cutting up smoked meat and letting the music fly with his official opening party. The festivities kick off at 7pm on Friday night (erev Shabbos no less), and will roll on until the cops bust the place up, the meat and beer run out, or some combination therein.

Besides his hand cured, hand cut, delicious smoked meat, Zane is promising top notch entertainment. Prior to his life as a deli man he was in the music business and you can expect free performances from Toronto rockers Major Maker, hipster soulster Steve Singh, and klezmer musical god Socalled. Honestly, what more could you ask for?

Unfortunately I will be in Cleveland this weekend (don’t ask) but you’d better get over there and rock out with some meat, a beer and Zane. Show up you fool!

The Dangers of Licensed Branding

Monday, August 25th, 2008

A few years ago I was talking with my good friend Jeremy on the drive back from Montreal. We’d just pounded away a meal at Schwartz’s after a ski weekend, and Jeremy, who works in Private Equity, was quizzing me about their business model.

“How do they make money?”

By selling sandwiches, steaks, drinks, and fries.

“What about other locations?”


“What about merchandise”


“Just one 80 year old spot with smoked meat?”


I asked Jerermy what he’d do if he acquired Schwartz’s.

“With a name like that you have a powerful brand recognition. I’d license the name to a bunch of different products; mustards, spices, meats, etc….which you could sell in stores across the country. That’s how you leverage a brand name.” (more…)

Deli Olympics Special: China

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Ok. So we’ve all heard the classic Chinese/Deli jokes right:

“Jewish culture is 7,000 years old, and Chinese culture is 5,000 years old, so where did Jewish people eat for 2,000 years?”

Or like Jackie Mason said, “We spend our whole lives going to Chinese restaurants, but how come you never see two Chinese people asking where they can get a good piece of gefilte fish?” (more…)

Vanishing delis in the ‘Peg

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Ahh Winnipeg. I’ve never really been, but I have some great friends from Argentina who moved there, and a few great friends here in Toronto who are from there. That northern prairie city, known for blasting winter winds and Neil Young, was once a haven of cold corned beef lovers. I’ve heard about this from friends, but these days one doesn’t hear much about Winnipeg delis. The city’s Jewish population has shrunk, and though tradition and spirit still define the Winnipeg Jewish experience (people still do pot-luck dinners for weddings), the sad truth is that tradition is disappearing in the Peg, as are the delis.

“Elegy” with a little help from us

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Friday is always a good film day, especially if it’s raining (as it is this summer), and I’d recommend you go check out Elegy, a new film starring Penelope Cruz and Ben Kingsley. Based on a Philip Roth story (old man falls for young woman, fears age, etc…), it’s supposedly smart, intelligent, complicated, and yes, filled with a few choice scenes of senora Cruz in the buff. Such is lovely life.

“Dark Meat” in the NYT

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Much has been made by Jewish activists, human rights organizations, and immigrant reformers of the May raid on the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa. Some three hundred plus illegal immigrants were rounded up from the largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse in America, throwing much of the kosher meat industry into a panic. However, after the meat supply was secured, there was little outcry from the Orthodox Union or other established orthodox authorities over the practices of the Rubashkin family’s massive plant.

In today’s New York Times, an op-ed entited “Dark Meat” has been published. Its writer is Shmuel Herzfeld, rabbi of Ohev Sholom-The National Synagogue, and a member of the Rabbinical Council of America. It is worth reading. (more…)

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