Posted in: Food & Dining

Jewish Delis Closing, Tradition Dies As Diners Flock To Hipper Joints

jewish delis closing

Have you noticed Jewish delis closing in hub cities like Los Angeles and New York?

While Jewish delis closing may not seem like a huge food industry trend, those who grew up in a culture where the institutions were a staple may realize what we stand to lose in urban neighborhoods as diners are distracted by flashier, less traditional options — leaving it so storied establishments are dying off with little fanfare.

As a gentile and lifelong New Yorker, the risk posed by Jewish delis closing is one I can deeply appreciate, and dread. My Italian-American father brought me to Katz’s and Second Avenue Deli early and often, and if you’re used to the availability of that quality of deli food and the pure and unpretentious offerings, it looks like we all have to get unused to it. Or start patronizing the joints more than hot sushi spots.

The Los Angeles Times took a bi-coastal look at the phenomenon of Jewish delis closing in a piece that is enough to make you stop what you’re doing and rush out for a real freaking pickle and a pastrami on rye while you still can.

Some horribly uninformed 32-year-old IT professional told the paper of a recent Groupon induced visit to L.A.’s Junior’s Deli before it closed:

“The food was unremarkable… Given that there are so many good places to eat in L.A., I have a really hard time saying yes to that.”

Ted Merwin, who is an expert on Jewish culture and a professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, said to expect the trend of Jewish delis closing to increase and not decrease — sad news from someone knowledgeable in matters of all things traditional deli. He explains sadly:

“There’s nothing that can bring back the centrality of the deli in either Jewish life or American life… There’s no way they’re going to survive in the numbers they once did… It used to be that delis had a very loyal customer base who would come in every day. But now, with the restaurant industry in L.A. exploding with thousands and thousands of new options, why would they?”

jewish delis closing 2013

However, others think that legacy Jewish delis closing is actually paving the way for a renaissance of sorts in the genre — David Sax, author of Save The Delis, tells the paper that a “number of new delis have folded in with the artisanal movement and made the food trendier for the younger generation.”

Have you noticed the trend of Jewish delis closing, and do you have fond memories of the staple institutions of New York?

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Comments

130 Responses to “Jewish Delis Closing, Tradition Dies As Diners Flock To Hipper Joints”

  1. Tess M Fenm

    Did the writer stop to think that the sharp rise in Latin American and Asian immigrants over the past 20 years may have something more to do with it? I'm seeing more Mexican, Korean, and Filipino restaraunts opening over Italian and Greek Diners wher I live in Westchester County. People's eating and work habbits have also changed greatly during the past 10 years (especially with the bad economy). Many people no longer have lunch hours (more like Lunch Half Hour these days). People need something quick and not too messy to eat and that big ass pastrami just doesn't cut it while you have to proof a report, or crunch numbers out. The demographics and life style changed a great deal so this trend is not too shocking.
    s

  2. Paul DeSantis

    Oh yes, I remember the Jewish Deli's rather well. I often went to the ones in Brooklyn where I lived. I remember the cornbeef just melt in your mouth tender, and the spicy mustard. Heaven! I now live in SC and so miss those deli's! The problem today is that the newer generation doesn't care about Quality food, they are concerned about how fast they can get it.

  3. Sally Miles

    My grandmother used to go with my great aunt to a kosher deli in Brooklyn at the trun of the century. I grew up in the suburbs, but once we made it to the city for a visit,, my dad would hunt out a deli for us to eat lunch. I'm not Jewish, but an Italian American who grew uo eating lots of diverse foods. Ahhh the pickles, the mustard, the corned beef, the rye bread, the pastromi and all the goodies…Oy Vey what is this country coming too…rush Limbaugh, I'm ashamed of America too, for letting this happen!

  4. Ralph Benitez

    How does anti-semitism factor into it? When you consider the rise of Mexican food's popularity is at an all-time high despite strong anti-Mexican immigration sentiments…

  5. Jason Wheeler

    Ralph Benitez, I agree with you. I don't believe that anti-semitism has anything to do with the closings. They are just having trouble competing with the chains. Here in the south we have Einstein's Bagles and we don't have a large Jewish population, but the restaurants are quite popular. But they are a chain…

  6. Anonymous

    I'm so lucky to have one right near my house in Portland, ME… the Reuben is to die for! It's always busy when I go in.

  7. Bootes SoldierforLife

    thanks Ralph…… can't say jew without getting sued nowadays. Food as politics is pretty much a losing argument except when your an Israeli soldier burning up a Palestinian food convoy…Oy Vey! ….Charles Knott has an issue with zionist, not gentiles…….

  8. Anonymous

    fucking muslims are after my hogeys.. I love jewish delis..its the support of islam that s driving them off, FUCK ISLAM.

  9. Anonymous

    its the support if islam that is driving them off. fucking muzzies leave the delis alone damnit.

  10. Kim LaCapria

    Heck, I live out on Long Island and if I didn't have a kid sleeping over, I think I would have driven out for a late night sandwich just writing this! It pains me to think these delis are a dying breed. :(

  11. Kim LaCapria

    I would guess it is more not having a depth of appreciation for the genre than anti-Semitism. It's just not a flashy, hipster thing. Which is SO SAD.

  12. Anonymous

    how much is a pastrami on rye in KATZ?
    that's y there r closing! its l18 dollars for a SANDWICH! o its w/ a pickle.

  13. Jill Ledet

    deli's are the best in Brooklyn, you just don't see food like that here, in Oregon, miss them. They have the best baked pastries.

  14. Gil Hoffberg

    I now live in the Jackson, Mississippi, ya just can't imagine how hard it is to find a "new dill pickle" which were always served along side lean corned-beef on rye!

  15. Randy Knight Shandle

    I remember Corky and Lenny's in Cleveland…..could not pass the place without getting a "lean cb on rye" Man they were good….what passes for a corned beef in SC is shameful…..For an excellet homemade corned beef look at Alton Brown's recipe on Foodnetwork.

  16. Bob Miller

    Gee, couldn't be because of skyrocketing prices on food and fuel, and heavy taxes, and unconstitutional obamacare, and the ultra heavy numbers od unemployed, could it?

  17. William Breese

    What else do you expect in the hurly-buryly life of NYC? Everyone in such a rush they can't stop long enough to enjoy REAL food. Where else are you going to get Latkas with sour cram, or a Reuben sandwich? I'm not a jew, but I do like the food you can get in those delis.

  18. Derek Dreizen

    If you're drunk outa yer goldahmned mind it doesn't matter where the faeuck you eat! Who cares anyway? What's important is how many pigs in Wyoming die very year. If we keep track of that, no delis are going to close! Huh? Heh heh heh heh heh!

  19. Ted Reisner

    What has me peeved is the loss or lack of GOOD Jewish Bakeries. I'm not saying that Panera's bagels are not good, it is just that Bagels made in a Jewish bakery have a much beter taste.

  20. James Koral

    Besides the great food, I love the unpretentious ambiance and service at delis. A big city without Jewish Delis is not a big city, period. Would Paris be Paris without freshly baked baguettes?

  21. Joseph Corral

    Paul, nouns made plural only need an "s" not an apostrophe s. Pay attention. An apostrophe before an s denotes the possesive form of a noun. In other words: Mike's bike. The bike belongs to Mike. Deli's? What belongs to the deli?

  22. Joseph Corral

    I make my own new dill pickles. It's easy. It's a little harder to make your own pastrami, but I've done that too. Nevertheless, there is NOTHING like a good pastrami on rye from a good deli.

  23. Sherry Morrison

    Paul, I lived in SC for 24 yrs. A friend turned me on to an irish pub in North Charleston that has the most amazing corned beef and cabbage and you can ask for the mustard to go with it. If you haven't tried it, you owe it to yourself. Can't remember the exact name…2 words…(something)roja…means red fox. quiant little pub on the main st. of North Charleston.

  24. Dan Landis

    Yes, back in the day there were tons of delis. Remember growing up in LA and going to Cantor's and along fairfax there were tons of delis plus at least 8 Eastern European Restaurants. Last time I went to a true deli the prices were outrageous – $15 for a sandwich, $8 for a loaf of bread. Yes, it's too bad but maybe it's time to get into the 21st century with this food. Realize that one has to lower the prices and get cross ethnic. Get a food truck and serve pastrami tapas or corned beef empanadas along with that chicken adobo on a gluten free bagel.

  25. Ken Mathias

    Jewish delis used to be a place for great reasonable priced food. The price is not reasonable any longer and my favorites from the deli are not that hard to make at home. I do miss having a Rabi tell me I can't have cheese on my sandwich.

  26. Nancy Masi Muller

    Irish corned beef and cabbage is different than Jewish corned beef and cole slaw.

  27. Richard Stremmell

    Toojays is OK, but the old Wolfie's on Miami Beach was fantastic, and also a few blocks down A1A was Junior's consistantly good food and lots of it.

  28. Patrick Boatsman

    Thank goodness we have several great deli's here in Palm Springs area including, Sherman's and Manhattan in the Desert. Both are really good and thriving!

  29. Mary Brown

    I have very fond and deilcious memories of Sunday mornings at my Jewish best friend, lisa Friedenreich's, table eating.
    fresh Lox(yum), fresh assorted bagels and soft cream cheese from the deli down the st. in New Jersey! 1970's

  30. Abe Vigoda

    WTF are you talking about? You've mentioned 1 Jewish deli that is closing and Katz's and 2nd Ave Deli aren't going anywhere. No wonder you didn't leave a by line under the title, you brainless Mongrel.

  31. John Dickerson

    Joseph, I caught that as well, but it appears all the time, even in national media. In Australia, it is pandemic, on signs throughout the country.

  32. Ryan Quattro

    Ralph Benitez I agree. It has little to do with it. Anti-semitism has always been prevalent in this country, yet delis have been quite popular for some time. I buy the argument.

  33. Christopher Citty

    Jewish delis are actually alive and well. They migrate. For instance, many New Yorkers move south when they 'retire', and when a Jewish deli owner 'retires', they often relocate their deli down here to the south. There actually tons of them in the south. The article's author needs to do more research. The tradition of the Jewish deli has spread all over the nation.

  34. Joan King

    Could someone direct me and mine to a good Jewish deli here in Seattle or somewhere near there? IM completely ignorant of this fare, but would love to learn more. The pictures shown on this site are great looking!

  35. Ryan Quattro

    I think this is more a case of Jews becoming fully assimilated then people choosing “hipper joints” The repeat customers you write about were largely Jewish who live in the neighborhood or close by to the deli. Now, like Little Italy in NYC, Jewish communities are breaking up and being turned into heterogenous communities that lack the common heritage of the past.Their loyalty to the delis was always temporary because they did not have the emotional connection to the deli that Jews did. When something is part of your culture you are going to feel a deeper appreciation for it then if it is not.

    At one level this is a good thing. Who does not want to see segregation break down? We want to see people mingle and share with each other. It makes for a more perfect union.

    However, at another level it is a terrible development. People are losing their ethnic identity–particularly whites–and are being smashed into a homogenized blob where culture is bland and stale. Italians are no longer Italian. They are simply “white”.

  36. Anonymous

    guess what , the world does not consist of only Los Angeles and New York.

    I am sure there are Jewish Delis other places.

  37. Olive Wiegand Putfark

    I'm a lifelong New Orleanian and a darn good cook. I LOVE Jewish Delis. I make frequent visits to NYC and start salivating about the time I make the plane reservations. Yes, times are changing but that's not altogether good and losing our treasures (like Jewish Deli food) is just awful. And Mr. Corral – loosen your butt. This piece is not about perfect punctuation – or how well educated you are, even though that is one of my pet peeves also. It's about the loss of our ethnicity on our way to becoming a nation of gray people. We're going to be Frack and Frack like the old comedy team Frick and Frack. They claimed that what one didn't know the other did. In this case we'll all be so identically cold and stupid what one won't know the other won't know either. Go buy some good Jewish cookbooks people, while there's still time.

  38. Roger Kaplan

    Nashville Katz!
    He runs a kosher deliii!
    Nashville Katz!
    It's the only one in town!
    Nashville Katz!
    It's not like yer in Brooklyn!
    Nashville Katz!
    He's the only one around!

    We;;, there are fourteen hundred and fifty three different restaurants in Nashville,
    Where you can get anything from hominy grits to Chatex de Tournville.
    But there's only one place for a good Jewish boy, if he really wants to eat well,
    Just tell anybody to take you to Katz' — the kosher deli in Nashville!

    Nashville Katz!
    He runs a kosher deliii.
    Nashville Katz!
    It's the only one in town.
    Nashville Katz!
    It's not like yer in Brooklyn!
    Nashville Katz!
    He's the only one around!

  39. Ben Crompton

    Joseph Corral, he's an idiot for having an opinion? Although I also disagree with Seamus' statement, I don't judge his character or intellectual ability based on his opinion. Calling someone an idiot for having a different opinion than yours is simply bullying and I suggest you take that nonsense elsewhere.

  40. Tony Triche

    You hit the nail on the head Ryan, this is part of the overall homogenization of inner-cities. I'm not calling it a good or bad thing, it is what it is.

  41. John Nicoletti

    You nailed it Paul. Fast food has become king. McDonalds,Burger King and Wendy's.,Cannot compare to a beautiful.Patrami on rye, or a corned beef, and Kosher pickle, and a Dr.Brown soft drink. Am I getting old or what.?

  42. Stephanie Foster

    Just how boring is your life to allow you to correct a on the fly post about a deli story? You sir need to get out more. And you need to do it soon.

  43. Greg Wilkes

    I hope some of them relocate to the gulf South. We're up to our eyeballs in hip new eateries and everyone craves the old family old Jewish delis. Go South, old deli, Go South!

  44. Erwin Sell

    again the complex of Semitism rhetoric!!, please it is not about that, no even Jews said that, among new population of modern generation they have lost any tradition, the same with Irish and Italian or others, new generation just go to wherever place is more popular or romantic, they do not go for the quality or tradition but just for the moment and place, it is not about racism, stop that rhetoric please!!!

  45. Lois Borden

    we have a great German rest. with great reubens–but you won't find reubens in a real kosher deli!

  46. Enid Strusser Berman

    Too bad most of the young people today will never know how good a REAL deli can be. Wolfie's wasn't just a deli but all their food was fantastic. There will never be the likes of them again!!

  47. Charles Merson

    Was in NYC a couple on months ago. Was looking all over midtown and couldn't find one frigging stand selling Sabrett kosher hot dogs! Every stand was "Halal". No thanks, I'll take my dog with mustard and 'kraut, not hummus and tahina thank you………

  48. Bruce Dzamba

    When I worked my first job in Manhattan we went to a Jewish deli at least once a week. I loved it and still miss it to this day years later.

  49. Darsha Doran

    I lived on E. 6th Street in the building behind Ratners on 2nd Ave. I spent a lot of money over the years there. I used to love the chicken liver and cheesecake at the Governor in midtown Manhattan and that place has been gone for years!

  50. Anonymous

    Joseph Corral – PAY ATTENTION! SHE WAS JUST MAKING A COMMENT. IT'S NOT AN ENGLISH LESSON ! DON'T BE SO BOSSY !

  51. Luis R Vazquez

    I am a cuban who lives in Miami; I also love the jew delis. Especially the nova and smoked salmon sandwiches and cream cheese with salmon. I love it and eat every time I can.

  52. Scott Smith

    Best food on the planet…a NYC Jewish Deli…spending time in the City growing up, much time was spent chowing down on a true Pastrami on rye or a Reuben. Now that I live in Oregon, I don't have access, of course, but it breaks my heart that the delis are fading from everyday life…what a crime and the new gens don't know what they'll be missing.

  53. Spencer Burke

    That really hurts, nothing beats the tradition of biting into a good pastrami and corn beef sandwich with a pickle included. It's in a class by itself – so sorry to see it disappearing..

  54. Kenneth Myers

    Sad, to see the "old ways" go… Keeping tradition is what makes us great. But it's either to PC or no one wants to work any longer, we have a generation of laziness and that will be our undoing.

  55. Ted Anibal

    Joseph Corral, there isn't a Jewish deli within 300 miles of here, so I make my own sauerkraut and rye bread. The kraut takes a month to make but well worth it. I'd like to learn to make decent dill pickles as well. I can buy excellent good corned beef locally for $7.50 per pound, but not pastrami, and I haven't a clue how to make it.

  56. Osama Albasha

    halal is the way the animals are killed…it has nothing to do with toppings or hummus and tahina…do your research before speaking. its never a good idea to be ignorant. PS: i take my dog with mustard and ketchup

  57. Precious Valentin

    Joseph, how sad and boring your life must be if you need to troll the comment section just to try to prove your literacy prowess! Not very well done of you. :-(

    I agree with Paul that this Generation X is more about speed and also following the herd! The delis that have update their recipes/menus will stand a better chance of surviving. They will also be able to offer items from the old menu while keeping everything kosher, which was the concept of old.

  58. Paula Betker

    I LUV Jewish delis…they are thee best!
    Enjoyed them while living in L.A. and as well as on the east coast. Wish we had them here on the Central Coast of CA…no such luck & I am not Jewish by the way.

  59. Jennifer Kavanagh

    the rise in the rent is causing lots of the old restaurants to close in Manhattan. the owners of the properties are starting to ask ABOVE market rents, causing the closures. changing the culture and feel of neighborhoods. instead of a Jewish Deli you in up with a rowdy bar.

  60. Alice Fox

    From Los Angeles: I miss the good humor Jewish counter-men/women served with their made-with-love food. Jewish delis and Italian pizza & pasteries were my favorite up until the sleazy mexican/central american/south americans took over their kitchens. There was a time when mexican food was regarded as hand-held slop. This mindless generation is calling it "cuisine" or "food truck Hip" Yuck!

  61. Alice Fox

    From Los Angeles: I miss the good humor Jewish counter-men/women served with their made-with-love food. Jewish delis and Italian pizza & pasteries were my favorite up until the sleazy mexican/central american/south americans took over their kitchens. There was a time when mexican food was regarded as hand-held slop. This mindless generation is calling it "cuisine" or "food truck Hip" Yuck!

  62. Alice Fox

    From Los Angeles: I miss the good humor Jewish counter-men/women served with their made-with-love food. Jewish delis and Italian pizza & pasteries were my favorite up until the sleazy mexican/central american/south americans took over their kitchens. There was a time when mexican food was regarded as hand-held slop. This mindless generation is calling it "cuisine" or "food truck Hip" Yuke!

  63. Alice Fox

    From Los Angeles: I miss the good humor Jewish counter-men/women served with their made-with-love food. Jewish delis and Italian pizza & pasteries were my favorite up until the sleazy mexican/central american/south americans took over their kitchens. There was a time when mexican food was regarded as hand-held slop. This mindless generation is calling it "cuisine" or "food truck Hip" Yuke!

  64. Diana M. Nelson

    We had a little Jewish deli here in Chico, CA which closed recently. Sadly, low class, ignorant people want LOTS of food, not quality food, but cheap food. Only solution is to get a Jewish cookbook and learn how to cook their delicious food. That's what I did.

  65. Diana M. Nelson

    We had a little Jewish deli here in Chico, CA which closed recently. Sadly, low class, ignorant people want LOTS of food, not quality food, but cheap food. Only solution is to get a Jewish cookbook and learn how to cook their delicious food. That's what I did.

  66. Anonymous

    Joseph Corral are you a card carrying member of the spelling and grammar police? Get a life Dude.

  67. Anonymous

    Joseph Corral are you a card carrying member of the spelling and grammar police? Get a life Dude.

  68. Laura Battista Bowe

    I remember Stage Deli…….best in NYC! Are they still around?

  69. Laura Battista Bowe

    I remember Stage Deli…….best in NYC! Are they still around?

  70. Charles Rosenburg

    Get the pastrami sandwich at Katz's deli in NYC while you can. Unbelievable.

  71. Rick Bo

    Aroma in Davie/Cooper city, Florida is a nice jewish Deli, as well as bakery and grocery store, those seeking the old jewish deli style should check this place out.

  72. Danny Shervin

    Steven Stein's Jewish Deli in North East Philadelphia is an absolute delicious treat, with when given the chance I never turn down an opportunity to eat there. I have walked out of there with between 60 and 80 dollars worth of corned beef and rye bread etc, since my family moved away from there and only get the chance to visit every so often. That part of Philadelphia has since been run down and now is considered to be a not-so-nice place (my grandparents moved away after someone tried to break into their house). This scares me that with a different crowd of people (i'm not going to mention which group), Steins will no longer prosper and may have to shut down. :(

  73. Dolores Devereaux Polizzi

    Every neighbor needs a good Jewish deli, Chinese restaurant, Greek diner and pizza parlor. In my neighbor hood, the Jewish deli is long gone, a Greek diner has closed, and the Chinese restaurants are becoming Asian Fusion restaurants. I shudder at the thought of a bleak future for pizza parlors. Oy Vey!

  74. Arthur Wiederhold

    I live in St. Louis. The closest Jewish deli (I always think of Katz, when I think deli) is in NYC. The Jews out here have no clue what real deli should be like. It's as if they've lost their way somehow.

  75. Vermont Energy

    The key word is here is Jewish and the attitude that is changing towards them in general. People in America are waking up after a 60 year media induced coma.

  76. Anonymous

    give me curry(anything) served with rice and peas simmered in cobnut milk any day over deli food.

  77. Anonymous

    love the way people premise their comments with, I am not jewish but…… fools.

  78. Derrick May

    we not jealous of jew , we just question there arrogance, when netttahoo ,[ iknow how to spell his name i just dont respect him] came to this country and told us to attack iran and if we dont he will , guess what i still waiting.. the way you treat the palestine is a disgrace . so why in the hell would anybody be jealous of the jews to be truthful feel sorry for you , we know your going straight to hell

  79. Rich Madowitz

    Grew up on Long Island and now work in Northampton, MA. Our area lacks a great Jewish deli and if anyone is interested in opening up a deli in Western Mass – please contact me.