Save the Deli

The End of a Chicago Tradition

As I mentioned a few weeks back, this week will see the end of several great Chicago kosher deli brands (Best’s Kosher, Wilno, Sinai, and Shofar) by the parent corporation Sara Lee.

There’s a great article in today’s Chicago Tribune about the end of this legacy, penned by Susan Berger, whose family owned Oscherwitz Kosher until they sold it to Sara Lee.

Hot dogs. Corned beef. Tongue. Pastrami. Bologna. By the end of the month, the company that my great-grandfather Isaac Oscherwitz started in 1886 will close. Best’s Kosher Sausage Co., was family owned for more than 100 years. In 1993, Sara Lee Corp. acquired Best’s Kosher. Mike Cummins, a Sara Lee spokesperson, said of the closing: “It was not because it’s not profitableóit’s just not where it needs to be.”

This is a loss not only for my family, but for the millions of Jews who keep kosher and the many millions who don’t but learned to love my family’s hot dogs.

My great-grandfather emigrated from Germany. On his way to Ellis Island, he met Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz. Rabbi Manischewitz asked Isaac to go into business with him. But my great-grandfather had five sons and said he needed to go it alone. They both landed in Cincinnati. Isaac started Oscherwitz’s (later changed to Best’s Kosher and moved to Chicago) and Rabbi Manischewitz started his matzo and wine business.

Click Here to the Rest of the Article

5 Responses to “The End of a Chicago Tradition”

  1. richard Says:

    this is catalclysmic news, disastrous! for those of us who live in the cultural desert of the american hinterlands, best’s hot dogs were a certain and consistent tie to urbanism and the great tradition of the urban jewish deli. oh sure, we can get hebrew national, but our family much prefers best’s. the only place we could find them out here in the boonies has been sam’s club. but they always had them, the dinner size, big package. we bought them by the carload. i tried contacting the company several times about buying online, but either got no answer or was told it was not possible. now what? no more best’s? no more hotdogs, in my opinion!

  2. Herman Says:

    Hello David, I had unsubscribed from your blog a while ago due to some non food related remarks which frankly irritated me. Anyway, I’m back just because no one else has the deli news together as you do. Today when I signed on again, a mystery was solved (recently I tried without success to find Wilno soft salami in my local deli). The counterman couldn’t tell me why it was no longer available or when it might be again. Now I know and although I am disappointed at the update, I understand why and I thank you for your diligence. I enjoyed Wilno for many years; it was much superior to most other brands.

  3. Susan Berger Says:

    Here is also a link to WBEZ radio interview about Best’s Kosher closing
    Hot Dog icon Bestís Kosher Sausage is closing
    By Laura http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Content.aspx?audioID=31897Hansen at 5:24 pm on February 4, 2009 |

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