Save the Deli

NYPL: Mogen Dovid Delicatessen Journals

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Here’s a special shabbat treat for you all:

When I was researching the book, I often came across references to various delicatessen trade magazines from the early 20th century in New York. Despite my efforts to find them at various libraries, I never succeeded, and moved my research efforts elsewhere (mostly eating deli). Thankfully, others aren’t so easily deterred.

Rebecca Federman writes last week on the blog of the New York Public Library about the Mogen Dovid Delicatessen Journals.

I was introduced to these periodicals by Roberta Saltzman, the librarian in the Dorot Jewish Division, who has cultivated a world-class collection of Jewish cookery materials. Among the fascinating items in her collection is the Mogen Dovid Delicatessen Magazine, published in New York from 1930 until 1939.

Firmly union (“Live and Let Live” and “In Union there is Strength” are prominently featured on each issue), and printed in both English and Yiddish, Mogen Dovid covers the world of New York delicatessen culture and features articles related to racketeering, Brooklyn elections, trade overhead and union matters.

One of the most interesting parts of each issue is their Fair Price List which lists “at which the following food should be sold in all delicatessen stores.” The March, 1931 issue, for example, proposes that roast chicken (depending on its size) should cost between $1.50 and $2.50; the Temptation Sandwich (tongue, sliced tomato, and India relish) should cost 30 cents; cream cheese and olive sandwich, 20 cents, and a sardine sandwich, 15 cents.


How cool is this? If any of you have ephemera like this, and want to donate it to the New York Public Library, get in touch with Ms. Federman. If you want, we’re both going to be speaking tomorrow on a panel about Edible Archaeology at Foodprint NYC, along with “Appetite City” author William Grimes, and “Gastropolis” author Annie Hauck-Lawson.

Studio-X (180 Varick St., Suite 1610, New York, NY 10014)

My panel is from 3:30-5pm, but there’s stuff happening from 1pm onward.

oh, and it’s Free!

Dennis Miller and I chat deli

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

When I was a young lad, I worshiped at the alter of Saturday Night Live. Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon, and most definitely Dennis Miller. Possibly the best political comic out there, regardless of whether you agree with his politics or not (he’s become quite the conservative).

So I was thrilled yesterday when I got an email from his producer, asking if I’d like to be a guest on the Dennis Miller Radio show. Here’s our talk from earlier today. I avoided the temptation to compare Putin and the SALT Treaty to a pastrami sandwich at Jerry’s.

View Full Clip

A NY talk tonight, “Delicatessen” in Philly, and an NBC appearance

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

First off for you New Yorkers, tonight I’ll be talking at the Museum at Eldridge St, about the book, the quest, the whole mustard-laden shebang. It starts at 7pm sharp, and it’s FREE! More info here.
*I beg you Jews not to ask any long or complicated questions tonight. I plan to bolt out of there to catch the last period of the Canada v. Russia hockey game.

Secondly, some deli news from Philadelphia, a city where a lot of movement’s been going on in the deli business as of late. It seems that a new place, titled Delicatessen, is going to open in the former Kibitz Room space, which closed last November. Says

Matzo balls are due to start rolling again late next week at 703 Chestnut St., which was Kibitz in the City until it closed in November.

Newcomer is simply called Delicatessen, and the guy behind the counter is Elkins Park native Michael Spector, 32, who describes the concept as Modern Jewish Deli (think bagel and lox meet wasabe cream cheese and tobiko roe, mini-matzo ball soup, and the “Benny Rubinson,” a sandwich that weaves eggs Benedict into a Reuben).

(How about the name of the “Jubano,” a sandwich that has pastrami, spicy brown mustard, half sour dill pickles and American cheese pressed on challah.)

Some vegan dishes (rare for a deli) and all the classics are on chef Michael Yount’s menu, too. They’ll serve “microbrewed” sodas from Multi-Flow, whose syrups are made of cane sugar.

The 40-seater — whose seating includes reclaimed church pews (oy!) — will open at the end of next week, with hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; dinner comes online in the spring.

Very interesting. Hopefully it’s better than that douche-magnet Delicatessen in Soho.

Finally, the old bit of self-promotion. Here’s me, in 30 Rock. The building, not the show.

View more news videos at:

Deli News Roundup

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Some days, the Google Alerts just go off the chart here at Save the Deli.

Here’s what we got.

First off, I’ve got a little thing in Saveur this month, talking about delis in their LA food package. “Deli Capital of the World” talks about some of the best family owned Jewish delis in that great city.

Los Angeles and its adjacent municipalities contain more continuously family-owned Jewish delis than any other city in the country. In the hands of third- and fourth-generation proprietors, family recipes for matzo ball soup, knishes, and latkes have evolved into high art. CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST AT SAVEUR.COM

Ruth Tobias at Stuff Magazine Boston is forecasting food trends to watch in 2010, and she thinks a Jewish deli revival is one of them:

Try it: burger on challah at Lord Hobo; corned beef brisket at Franklin Café; house-smoked pastrami-salmon at Henrietta’s Table

Mark my words: between the “scene” that hip New York upstart, Delicatessen, has become, according to Chris Langley, with its “plays on old faves,” and the success of David Sax’s bestselling cultural history Save the Deli, the renaissance of the Jewish deli is nigh. If, a year hence, you aren’t seeing funky twists on kishka, kreplach, and matzoh brei, I’ll eat my hat. (Make that my dear old zayde’s yarmulke.)

And finally, how safe is a hot dog? When I was in the 2nd Ave Deli yesterday, one of the managers there mentioned a campaign to change the shape of those famous sausages, because children were choking on them. A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics has called for warning labels on hot dog packaging, and a thought to redesign hot dogs themselves. See, of all the foods that children choke on, hot dogs top the list.

Without editorializing too much here, and while acknowledging that we need to protect children, shouldn’t this be a bit of a caveat emptor issue? If you feed any large piece of food to a child it can obstruct their breathing. Cut up your food. Chew it like a bird and spit it out if you can’t manage that. Unless manufacturers are going to make baby hot dogs the size of tic tacs, I don’t see how we can reengineer hot dogs in a way that’ll be “safer” and still tasty.

Maybe we should just ban this instead:

Olympic Weekend Roundup: The Saul’s Talk, Commentary, More Haiti Help

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Oh Canada, our home and native land…

Sorry folks, all caught up in pre-olympic fever, but don’t worry, I’m not going to draw some convoluted line to the Vancouver Olympics and deli. Though if you ARE in VanCity for the next two weeks, consider checking out the local delis; Kaplan’s Star Deli (pictured above) and Omnitsky’s Kosher Deli for your fix.

Now, let’s get down to business.

Tuesday night saw the much anticipated Berkeley sustainable deli panel conversation take place, without any major fireworks, or mustardworks. Thought provoking. Check it out below. (more…)

Two Great Deli Events Tonight in NY and Berkeley

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Just a reminder folks that tonight, whatever coast you’re on, there’s a deli event for you.

At 6:30 PM at the Mid-Manhattan Library (5th ave, at 40th st) across from the big central branch.
I’ll be talking deli, giving the full spiel I’ve been giving around the country, but which I’ve yet to deliver in New York City!
So consider it a delayed debut for NYC.

More Details Here

And for those of you out West, the big brisket battle of the Bay Area happens tonight, as Saul’s hosts a referrendum on the sustainability of the deli menu.
The panel includes famous food author Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food), Gil Friend (CEO of Natural Logic, Author: The Truth About Green Business), Willow Rosenthal (City Slicker Farms), and Karen Adelman and Peter Levitt (Saul’s). It’ll be hosted by Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW’s Good Food.

They’ll be tackling the following questions:

Can the Jewish Deli be sustainable?

What does sustainability mean for the future of Deli cuisine and culture?

Many expectations of “real” Deli conflict with sustainability and today’s economic realities.

Even “authentic” cuisine can obstruct progress toward more just, sustainable food. How does a business committed to being part of the solution persuade traditionalist customers of the importance of change?

For example, towering pastrami sandwiches once signified success, security and abundance, an immigrant’s celebration of the American Dream. But given the realities of meat production in America today – 99% is factory farmed – how can we continue to stand by this as an icon?

Even the factory farmed pastrami sandwich has become an unsustainable business model, because of its tiny profit margins.

What culinary memories and flavors of The Deli have been provided by an industrial food system? How can we look at our nostalgia and expectations critically?

How might we evolve a shared cuisine together? How can Saul’s bring more people into the conversation?

Now, the event has already been moved to the JCC of the East Bay because of space concerns, but even that venue sold out completely! So if you want to hear the debate, head over to Saul’s at 6pm tonight, where they’ll be simulcasting the event live on big screens. (no word on whether those big screens are sustainable)

I wish I could be there for this one. It’s probably the most important conversation about the future of the Jewish delicatessen that we’re going to hear for some time.

More information here Read what the New York Times said about the event.

Random Stuff: Deli maps, Roaster’s out of Dallas, Nate n’ Al helps Haiti, and my talk in Seattle

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Ok, all sorts of random things to get through, and none of them even remotely related.

First off, a fan of the site, Mr. Jim Peters, has taken it upon himself to drop some delis into google maps and make deli specific maps of Los Angeles, New York, Montreal, Toronto, and San Francisco/Bay area, based on the information found in my book. The site is called, and it’s the start of something great, I hope. Help Jim out if you can and add in more cities. You can contact him via the site. Here’s an example from LA:

View LA Pastrami in a larger map

Next, we have some sad news via Robert Wilonsky at the Dallas Observer:

Roasters’ N Toasters, Toasted
By Robert Wilonsky in Dish

?Maybe I’ll get around to writing this for City of Ate: Why can’t Dallas do a proper Hebrew deli? Sure — it’s a dying art and an endangered species. So says David Sax in his book Save the Deli; as NPR put it a few months back, he’s on a mission to save the Jewish deli, close to a permanent shalom in the foresaken flyover. Which I mention this morning only because Roasters’ N Toasters, the Preston Road outpost of the Miami mainstay, has served its last pastrami sandwich and bowl of matzo ball soup.

Too bad. I had friends in Dallas who really liked Roaster’s and Toasters. Not to worry though, because the Florida stores are in fine form.

In somewhat better news, the legendary Beverly Hills delicatessen Nate N’ Al, is helping out in Haiti, by donating 20 percent of dining proceeds from Feb 8-10th to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund.
We already knew that Mark and David Mendelson were mentches, but this puts them over the top. If you haven’t visited their new Thousand Oaks store, here’s your reason!

Finally, a nice treat for all of you who weren’t able to attend my talk at the I Love New York Deli in Seattle last wednesday. Journalist Sanjay Bhatt was there to film it for a possible movie he’s making about food, and he’s been kind enough to share parts of the lecture on YouTube. I’ll post one clip below. The others you can find here.

Saul’s debates deli’s future, an ode to my deli porn, and the bacon files

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Lots to talk about today in a week’s end roundup of press and other happenings.

First, if you’re in the Bay Area next tuesday, check out the killer debate Saul’s is putting on in Berkeley. Titled “Can a retro cuisine be part of the avant-garde?”, the debate on the deli menu will tackle issues like sustainability, portion size, and tradition in an event that’s so very very Berkeley, even Michael Pollan is part of the panel.

There’s a great New York Times story about it (I’m briefly quoted), and it’s worth checking out to have your say. Says the Times:

Hello Seattle

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Rainy? Check.

Starbucks? Check.

Lots of weird Boeing planes flying around? Check.

Must be Seattle, which is the last stop on this mini-tour, and should be a fun one.

Last night in Portland was epic. We had about 75 people in Kenny and Zuke’s, and I was there, passing out pastrami and bagels and knishes to everyone. It was the youngest audience I’ve ever had, and the one with the smallest percentage of Jews (about 25%), but it was a real party, and I think everyone had a good time.

Tonight I talk at the I Love New York Deli, here in the University District. It’s free, sponsored by JConnect, and takes place at 6.45pm. Come on out.

I Love New York Deli
5200 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA. 98105
Telephone: 206-523-0606

Welcome Back Portland

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Rainy? Check.

Bearded dudes? Check.

Amazing food carts? Check.

Home smoked pastrami and freshly baked bagels? Oh you know it.

Yes folks, I’m back in Portland, Oregon, home of Kenny and Zuke’s, and the finest eating town in the land. Tomorrow night I’ll be hosting a very special event at Kenny and Zuke’s, and I’d love for all of you who are nearby to come on out. $15 buys you entry, which includes pastrami, knishes, chopped liver, bagels, and the rest of the works that Kenny and Zuke are laying out for you. I’ll give a talk, sign some books, and happily shmooze.

Want to know more? Check out the advance press:

Says Portland Eater:

Nick A. Zukin–the Zuke in Kenny & Zuke’s–writes in to tell the transom about tomorrow’s pastrami-riffic event. David Sax, Canadian, writer, blogger, and author of Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen, will be spending an hour or two at the downtown deli, right next door to the Ace Hotel, tomorrow evening, starting at six. As Zukin reminds, “David spotlighted Kenny & Zuke’s in Gourmet Magazine as one of two shops that represent the future of delicatessen. He also named Kenny & Zuke’s as one of the top 10 delicatessens in North America.” (That was, just FYI, in Maxim, under the headline Stupid Fun.) Resident New Yorkers have been curious about Kenny & Zuke’s seemingly endless appeal in the face of the slightly fussy deli case and all-around not-yelling-at-you-ness of the staff, but word is that the bagels–from a recipe developed by part-owner and Oregonian writer Michael C. Zusman–are good, and the pastrami verging on Katz’s-worthy.

And listen to Ken Gordon talk about the deli and why you should come out tomorrow, in this interview from KPAM.

What: David Sax Pastrami-Ganza
Where: Kenny & Zuke’s, 1038 SW Stark St
When: February 2nd, 6pm
Cost: $15
RSVP:, or 503.222.3354

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