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?”
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?