Save the Deli

An Ode to the Waitress

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.


Mary Anne and KC are co-workers, best friends, and the wheels that keep the Parkway Deli in Silver Springs, MD rolling. When I drove in over a year ago to interview the deli’s owner, he’d neglected to show up, but Mary Anne and KC sat me down, got me fed, and told me tales of the deli’s life over their years. Like many, they’d entered the profession by chance, but soon found that they had become woven into the very fabric of the delicatessen. It was their life. Their clients were like family and a meal served by anyone else would be unthinkable. They had sass, they were honest, and dished up the matzo balls or directed the pickle bar with a certain relish (har har) that makes a deli meal that much more special.

That’s what great deli waitresses do…they elevate the deli experience beyond a simple sandwich and soup. There’s an ability in the best deli waitresses to make you feel that you’re part of some inside joke. KC and Mary Anne,
Faye at the 2nd Ave Deli, Terry Breem at Katz’s, the ladies at Nate n’ Al, Fran at Canter’s, Lori at Moe Pancer’s….the list goes on. They are as elemental as the mustard, the Jewish mother (whether Jewish or, more often, not) inside the Jewish deli. They dish, they scowl, they love.

They make delis great. Give ‘em a hug.

5 Responses to “An Ode to the Waitress”

  1. Randi Says:

    Dont forget all those former waitresses at Rascal House in FL. I went there many times as a kid and loved their uniforms with the pretty handkerchiefs they wore. Oh, those were the days.

  2. JimG Says:

    Silver SpringS is in Florida or someplace. The Parkway Deli is (barely) in Silver Spring, Maryland — across the street begins Chevy Chase, MD. It’s in a good neighborhood, walking distance from two shuls, and has outlasted every other business that ever opened in the strip shopping center where it lives. The Parkway Deli is famous (notorious maybe) for its signature sandwiches, the Deli Delight and the Meal in Itself, both of which approach Carnegian heights of wretched excess. My fave could well be the combination of chopped liver and pastrami on three decks of rye, to be followed by a heartburn remedy. The complimentary, self-serve pickle and relish bar is almost as generous as it ever was. The density and size of the matzoh balls are controversial, but they swim in a chicken soup that your bubbe would have proudly served. Come visit — the atmosphere is warm and intimate, and the menu is complete in all respects.

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