Many Jewish delis of recent generations have long since closed their doors and put away their pastrami and rye. But a new round of operators is giving the classic deli another go, with some modern twists to cater to the operational realities of today.
Here’s a look at how the old-school Jewish deli is being reinvented.
1. Going plant based
The pastrami sandwich is still a star attraction at Harry & Ida’s Luncheonette, a floral wallpaper-covered, 14-seat, 1,000-square-foot lunch counter that opened in San Francisco in September. But the menu is about 75% vegan, including customizable plate lunches and a plant-based chopped “liver” made with peas and walnuts. “A lot of our clientele is middle-aged Jewish women,” co-owner Julie Horowitz says, noting that the demographic seeks out more health-focused options.
2. Launching a small-footprint offshoot
Steingold’s, a deli that debuted in Chicago at the end of the summer, melds traditional ingredients like smoked meats and fish with Lebanese staples like labneh cheese. The first location has been so well-received, owners plan to launch a takeout-only satellite unit near a commuter train stop. The new location will focus on soups and sandwiches.
3. Giving gluten-free options
Full-service Rosenfeld’s Jewish Delicatessen in Rehoboth Beach, Del., serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a menu of staples like New York-style sandwiches, chopped liver and borscht. The Delaware location, which opened last spring, is the second for the brand, which also operates a food truck. All sandwiches can be served on gluten-free bread (or a bed of lettuce), and the menu features other gluten-free items as well.
4. Taking ‘em out to the ballgame
Milt’s Extra Innings, a new near Wrigley Field in Chicago, is a certified kosher restaurant filled with memorabilia commemorating Jewish baseball history. The deli’s owners run a kosher barbecue restaurant next door. Milt’s Extra Innings donates all profits to charity and employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.