The delicatessen - otherwise known as deli - is the cornerstone of any neighborhood. According to Wikipedia, “Delicatessen is a German loanword that first appeared in English in 1889” but the term was “originally a French loanword, délicatesse, meaning ‘delicious things (to eat).’” In the United States - and cities in particular - consumers have grown to know and appreciate the deli as a place to grab a great sandwich or cup of matzo ball soup.
Below are some of America’s most famous delis - the ones that are set in the popular psyche for what a deli should be. If you’re thinking of opening up a deli, it’s worth taking a look at these gastronomic hits - what are they doing right, and what dishes or style should you emulate for your business?
Katz’s Deli, located in the lower east side of New York City, is a kosher-style delicatessen. It was founded in 1888, and their pastrami sandwiches and hot dogs are considered some of New York’s best. Wikipedia notes that Katz’s goes through “10,000 pounds of pastrami, 5,000 pounds of corned beef, 2,000 pounds of salami and 12,000 hot dogs” each week. Katz’s can be spotted frequently in popular culture, and has been featured in When Harry Met Sally, Donnie Brasco, Law & Order, and many more films and television shows.
This Jewish-style deli opened in 1931, and can be found in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. The Canter family was originally from New Jersey, and brought their eastern US tastes with them to southern California. According to Wikipedia, Canter’s has served “4,900 pounds of pastrami per month, 1,500 US gallons of chicken soup per week, and 4,000 knishes per week.” Their Monte Cristo sandwich was named one of the best sandwiches in America by Esquire, and the deli has a bar - The Kibitz Room - on the premises. This bar has live music every night, and has launched the career of many popular musicians, including the Wallflowers and Fiona Apple.
Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen
Kenny & Zuke’s is located in Portland, Oregon, and is the “first artisan Jewish deli in North America making all of its foods from scratch.” It was founded by a Brooklynite, and was recognized by Bon Appétit as one of the top 10 sandwich shops in America for having “a reverence for all the classics - pastrami on rye, chopped liver, chicken soup with matzo balls, and even egg creams.” Kenny & Zuke’s is relatively new on the deli scene - it was founded in 2007 - but has been described by The New York Times as “the deli of the future” due to its emphasis on sustainability and locally-sourced goods.
Although these delis are all across the country, they have at least one thing in common - a Jewish, east coast tradition with a penchant for pastrami. Regardless of the direction you take your deli, it’s important to keep track of the details. Although you may not be selling 10,000 pounds of pastrami a week, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep stock of your inventory in real-time. And, when your deli is the scene of the next major romantic comedy or crime drama, you’ll be ready.