Save the Deli

Reichl loves Caplansky’s, Sy gets his due, the battle of Philly, and Irving’s in NJ

I’m staring at an inbox filled with deli news, so I’m just going to get it all off my chest today. At once.

First, I have some great news from back home. Yesterday, Zane Caplansky was treated by a special visitor, the one and only Ruth Reichl, the editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, famed food author, and an early supporter of Save the Deli. Reichl knows her deli. She grew up in Manhattan, and she spent a few formative school years in Montreal, which she wrote about so beautifully in “Tender at the Bone”, her first memoir. She was in Toronto on tour for her new book, and was taken around to various interviews by Bonnie Stern, who is, in her own right, the Ruth Reichl of Canada (and the woman most responsible for what my mom puts on the table). So when Mrs. Stern took Reichl out for dinner, it was to Caplanskys. She Tweeted (I have myself for writing that), and awesome mini-review: “Caplansky’s smoked meat awesome. Along with the single most decadent knish ever made, involving smoked meat, puff pastry, schmaltz…” Zane’s all abuzz about it, and you can read more on his fantastic blog.

But wait, there’s more. Caplansky is off to the lawyer today to sign a lease on a space of his own. It’s going to be on College, west of Spadina, right near the heart of Kensington Market and the heart of historic Jewish Toronto, basically our Lower East Side. Deli is coming back home to roost. More news to follow soon…

Next, I got sent a great article about my friend, Corned beef king Sy Ginsberg, the maven of Motown (and the man who should really be put in charge of GM). It’s written up in the Detroit Free Press by one Sylvia Rector.

ANDRE J. JACKSON/Detroit Free Press
(that’s Sy on the left)


Here’s what she says about Sy:

How good is Sy Ginsberg Corned Beef?

It’s so good, it’s the only one sold at celebrated Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor. And thanks in part to Zingerman’s ringing endorsements, Ginsberg’s company has corned beef customers from Seattle to Miami and California to New York.

Ginsberg, 64, of Novi more or less backed into the business. He owned a deli, the Pickle Barrel in Southfield, until 1980 but sold it to start a food distribution company. One day it occurred to him he could probably make his own corned beef rather than distributing someone else’s, and the rest is history on rye bread.

His company, United Meat & Deli, is both a deli supplier and meat processor, making kosher-style corned beef, pastrami, roast beef and roast turkey. But only one product bears his name: Sy Ginsberg Corned Beef.

It’s Jewish style, of course, with “a sweet, garlicky flavor” rather than what he calls “the Irish flavor” with bay, clove and other spices.

Almost all of his corned beef is sold to delis; in an average week, he ships about 125,000 pounds. But for a few weeks before St. Patrick’s Day, sales triple as retail customers buy it in metro Detroit’s top markets to cook at home. He even adds a spice packet for those who want to go Irish.

Need I say more? No. Because Sy is the man. Pure and simple.

Next up is word from Save the Deli’s special correspondent in Philly, who has relayed the following info:

I am not sure if you are aware of this, but there is a deli war that is about to start brewing. Russ Cowan the current owner of Famous 4th Street Deli is in the process of opening a 2nd location on 19th street, in the business district of Philadelphia. The kicker is that his old deli The Kibitz Room just opened at 1521 Locust Street, also in the downtown portion of the city. Russ sold The Kibitz Room in Cherry Hill, NJ to its current owner. That owner has partnered up with some investors and opened this center city location. He has some deli guys from Phila Deli and another guy who had worked at Steinman’s in Jenkintown, PA and Dovie’s Deli in Jenkintown, PA working there. It is pretty crazy because Kibitz is basically using a similar menu to Famous (as Russ created it). Since Russ bought Famous, he started curing his own meats and makes his own corned beef and pastrami. The Kibitz uses Sy Ginsberg’s product from Detroit.

Rivalry! Meat fights! Chicanery!

Ok, here’s the crux of the story. Russ Cowan is the venture capitalist of delis in Philly and South Jersey. A third generation deli man originally from Brooklyn, he loves to open delis, revive delis, and dream up delis, then sell them and start the next one. So it seems that he’s now competing directly with someone who bought one of his creations. Not exactly a war, but good healthy competition, and I’ll tell you folks, that’s just what the deli biz needs. I think they’ll all do great and create even more buzz, like the Stage and Carnegie, or Schwartz’s and the Main. Good luck to them all!

Finally, I’ve received three emails in the past week that I need to check out Irving’s Deli, in Livingston, NJ. It opened last year, during tough times, but they’ve held on and are getting great reviews. The New York Times even said the “juicy, yet lean, hand-sliced pastrami is worthy of an old-fashioned New York deli.” It got great reviews on Yelp too. I’m planning a trip to the Jerz in early June, and I’ll try to get to Irving’s, but in the meantime, if you live in the area (or near), go check them out. Give them love. And money.

575 Rt 10 E
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 994-5100

8 Responses to “Reichl loves Caplansky’s, Sy gets his due, the battle of Philly, and Irving’s in NJ”

  1. Marilla Says:

    Hooray for Caplansky’s – our favourite smoked meat place! That’s great news, David. Can’t wait to go to the new gaff.

  2. Manny Says:


  3. Steve Says:

    According to a recent post at, Kibitz machine slices their deli meats in the traditional thin sliced Philly style.As such, it poses no threat to Russ Cowan’s Famous and the new Hershel’s in the Reading Terminal Market where hand slicing prevails.

  4. ellen Says:

    I LOVE Irving’s Deli !!
    Been there 3 times already….
    live by AC, but wish I lived closer to that delish pastrami and brisket!

    I wrote a great review on Irving’s Deli, complete with pics on
    (click on “forums”, then click on the “sandwich” forum , then scroll down till you see my Irving’s report ! (it’s mixed in with other threads on Harold’s Deli, the Carnegie, etc…)

    agree with you “Steve” regarding the Kibitz as not being a threat to the famous 4th St. Deli , and Hershels…. as the latter two make their pastrami homemade….

    Irving’s pastrami is homemade, as well!
    …so is Harold’s Deli, in Edison, NJ.

    homemade pastrami is rare nowadays… most places are what I call “slicer joints”…. they just buy already made brands like National and Hebrew National and just slice them and steam the meat up a little.
    I generally steer clear of the “slicer joints”.

    Happy salivating!

  5. amy Says:

    I’m not sure how much dad would enjoy running GM. just sayin’.

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  7. çelik raf sistemleri Says:

    absolutely can’t wait. i already :=))

  8. depo rafı Says:

    That space looks amazing! What great frontage to the Market and college st itself!

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