Corned beef, pastrami, matzoh ball soup, and chopped liver are just a few staples on any Jewish deli menu. While these menu items might appear on all menus in the Jewish deli food scene — not all delis get it right.
Many quality Jewish delis throughout the United States are family-run and operated restaurants that have stood the test of time. Their meats are homemade, their matzoh ball soup draws crowds, and their overall attention to quality and detail make them standouts in the American food scene and often the most sought out places to grab a sandwich while traveling to a new city. Another defining factor of a great Jewish deli is a very large, very extensive menu with what seems like endless combinations and offerings.
While Meg Ryan’s infamous scene in When Harry Met Sally might be a bit of an overstatement, the food at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City is something worth screaming about. The charm of this landmark deli, that’s been the backdrop for many a movie scene, is the complimentary slice of corned beef or pastrami while you order, in case you’re swayed either way due to their intense, yet different flavor profiles.
In Ann Arbor, Mich., crowds have been flocking to Zingerman’s Deli, opened by Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig in a historic building near the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market in 1982. The delis widespread sandwich menu might seem overwhelming to new visitors, but also encourages guests to sample the products before purchasing — it even allows a sampling of its $200 olive oil. All of its bread is homemade in its bakery, creating a freshness for its sandwiches that is hard to beat.
Shapiro’s Kosher-style Deli in Indianapolis, Ind. has been open for 107 years and delights customers with its matzoh ball and chicken noodle soup as well as its smoked pickled tongue. Their corned beef comes from Vienna Beef in Chicago and the pastrami is shipped in from the Universe in Brooklyn, New York.
New Jersey’s Harold’s Delicatessen brings the traditional aspects of the Jewish deli to life and then super-sizes everything and anything. Meals and sandwiches are meant to be shared here and it is home to the world’s largest pickle bar. It also has a stellar cold smoked fish menu including sandwiches and platters to share.
The Daily Meal compiled its list of America’s Best Jewish Delis by taking into account the popularity and overall importance of how each restaurant impacts the food scene in their respective towns, as well as the quality of the homemade deli meats and specialties it serves to its loyal constituents.
Have a favorite U.S.-based Jewish deli that didn’t make the cut? Email The Daily Meal to let us know.