Delicatessens!

November 29, 2012 • 1:39 pm

If this 12-minute clip, from the movie “Deli Man,” doesn’t make you hungry (and make you laugh), there’s something wrong with you. The food is wonderful, and the characters colorful. (Click on the Vimeo icon in the movie box to enlarge.)

I love delis, and, as the movie says, there just aren’t many left. My favorites in New York are the Second Avenue Deli and Katz’s, but I don’t spurn the Carnegie Deli either. The one I really want to visit is Harold’s New York Deli, in Edison, New Jersey. It’s famous for its huge portions, as are many Jewish delis. Some of the pastrami sandwiches at Harold’s look like this (btw, Harold’s has a “bread bar” where you can rectify the imbalance shown below):

Now that’s a sandwich! Like the best French bistros, Jewish delis are known for their largesse, and they’re no good if the portions aren’t copious.

Oh, and I don’t want to hear people kvetching about the portions being too big. You can always schlep the leftovers home.

h/t: Julius

35 thoughts on “Delicatessens!

  1. Only 150 Jewish Delicatessens left in North America? Say it ain’t so! Oh, what I would not do for a steaming, orangey chunk of stuffed Derma oozing schmaltz! And the attitude of the staff is as monumental as the food.

      1. Well, going by the pic of that pastrami “sandwich”, I’d guess too many of their customers dropped dead of heart disease.

  2. Oy gevalt!

    That HAS to be one of the most appetizing photos of a pastrami sandwich I’ve ever seen.

    I’m off to lunch!

  3. By the way, Katz’s Deli in Austin, TX, is now closed. 🙁

    I literally wept when I found out last July.

  4. Apparently the World’s Best Pastrami Sandwich is to be obtained from a cart at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in rural Grass Valley, California. How do I know this? It said so right on the sign.

    1. LOL.

      That reminds me of the extreme over-use of the brag “World Famous,” which virtually any restaurant seems to feel entitled to slap on any dish they want to sell you.

      I literally just saw a small, new food cart sitting on a corner in downtown Toronto, declaring “World Famous Jerk Chicken.”

      Somehow…I doubted the claim.

      Vaal

      1. Joël Robuchon and his restaurants are world famous. El Bullí is world famous. Some guy in Toronto serving jerk chicken… yyyeeee not so much

  5. I have wonderful memories of the salt beef on rye bread at the Nosh Bar, Soho during the late 60’s. Alas, it closed around ’87, I think, but apparently it reopened three years ago. I haven’t been in London since then. Perhaps, some contributor has and can give us a review.

  6. As marvelous as that “sandwich” may be, the one thing it isn’t is Authentic, Just Like In The Good Old Days. I can strongly suspect that no deli 50 years ago made a sandwich even 1/10 as thick as that.

    I know that for sure for bagels — I grew up eating them from a Jewish bakery in our neighborhood, long before most Americans had heard of bagels. They were about half the volume of present-day bagels and actually had a hole in them, whose diameter was about 1/3 the diameter of the bagel. Virtually no present-day bagel is that thin or has that large a hole. Also there were only a few flavors: in Philadelphia those were plain, poppyseed, onion, and sesame.

    This is part of the American tendency to believe that if something is good, more is always better. Compare an American “Steak Fry” with the French or Belgian original. The American one is much thicker, and for that reason cannot be cooked properly.

    1. Agreed, bagels have deteriorated to the point where it’s virtually impossible to get the real item (much better than the new Wonder-Bread version), even in New York. But pastrami hasn’t gotten worse, at least in my lifetime. So giving you more of it isn’t a bad thing!

      1. I agree about pastrami. I am not sure why that is called a “sandwich” since one couldn’t possibly put all the meat between the two slices of rye. If I were given it I would request some extra slices of rye and eat it as a bunch of sandwiches.

        Then there is the issue of rye. A good Jewish Rye (basically a central-European rye “with kimmel” — caraway seeds) is one of the wonders of the food world. I think Americans are very very slowly appreciating rye bread — good ryes are slowly becoming more available. Here in the Bay Area (where I am for a couple of more weeks) we have discovered Semifreddi’s “Odessa Rye” which is the best rye we have yet tasted in North America.

  7. My family lives near Harold’s. I haven’t been in a while, but I remember that it does indeed have *huge* servings (you get one sandwich for every 3-4 people, or more), and it’s delicious. It’s close to Rutgers University, Jerry. I’m sure you can figure out a way to have some professional business there, and make your way over to Harold’s!

  8. The ultimate monument to the evocative power of the hot pastrami sandwich — pace the madeleine of Proust — was hewn out of brined, partly dried meat, seasoned with various herbs and spices, then smoked and steamed, by none other than the great S.J. Perelman.

    Form Carry Me Back to Old Pastrami, the fifth chapter of Westward Ha!:
    [Perelman and his traveling companion, cartoonist Al Hirschfeld, contemplating the panorama of colonial Hong-Kong and Kowloon:]

    “You know what I’d do if that were mine?” he asked. I turned toward him impulsively, knowing that in the wellsprings of his heart there dwelt a true libertarian, a man flash-quick and whippetfast to sympathize with the oppressed and downtrodden. I was not disappointed; when he spoke again, it was in a voice vibrant with feeling:
    “I’d trade it all for a hot pastrami sandwich.”

  9. I love many types of food, but I put Jewish deli food just about at the top of the list. A corned beef sandwich with cole slaw & russian dressing on rye is almost enough to make me convert. If it weren’t for the whole believing in God thing, I’d be all over it.

  10. No fan of delis should miss Adelman’s, located in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, on Kings Highway. Fresh knishes, big sandwiches, kasha varnishkes better than your grandma’s, Dr. Brown soda and the best hot dogs anywhere. It’s worth a trip to Brooklyn.

  11. The real question remains unanswered: did pastrami evolve, or was it created?

    And there’s a secondary question: should our eminent webmeister rename his website “Why Food is True?”

    I won’t even mention the ferocious debate between the old sandwich believers and the young sandwich believers.

  12. I wonder why we don’t have any Jewish delis here in London. Golders Green is a Jewish neighbourhood but as far as I’m aware there isn’t a deli there of the type you find in New York. It’s not far from where I live and I go there occasionally for a falafel at Falafel King.

    1. Very likely has a lot to do with the respective histories of the English and NYC Jewish communities.

      English Jews are English to the core, food, accent, and all, and they have been present in England for hundreds of years. (Not forever! At some point, the Jews were expelled from England, but a later monarch allowed their return.)

      New York Jewry, on the other hand, is largely descended from nineteenth century immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe fleeing oppression. The New York deli is a modern expression of the culinary traditions of those areas.

      Approximately, of course! I welcome correction or refinement of these statements by those more intimately familiar with the history of the Jews.

  13. I like Manny’s Deli in Chicago. It is perfect for me as it is a short walk from the UIC campus. Is it considered to pretty authentic Jewish Deli?

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