America's 10 Best Jewish Delis (Slideshow)
March 6, 2014
There are plenty of great Jewish delis in America, but only a few were good enough to make our list
10. Shapiro’s Delicatessen — Indianapolis, Ind.
Shapiro’s Delicatessen and Cafeteria, a kosher deli, has been serving loyal customers in Indianapolis since 1905. Best known for its cured meats and sandwiches piled high on rye or egg buns, it’s also world famous for its smoked pickled tongue. Their corned beef is sourced from Vienna Beef in Chicago and the pastrami is shipped in from the Universe in Brooklyn, N.Y. The chopped liver is also a specialty as Shapiro’s adds a little schmaltz for good measure.
9. Harold’s New York Deli Restaurant — Edison, N.J.
Everything at Harold’s in Edison, N.J. is super-sized. A cold smoked fish platter filled with whitefish salad, sable, or another option feeds two to three people. The deli sandwiches feed the same (maybe even more) and offer items like corned beef, brisket, hot pastrami, and beef tongue. Whatever you decide to go with at Harold’s, be sure to swing by the world’s largest pickle bar — a real sight to behold.
8. Zingerman’s Delicatessen — Ann Arbor, Mich.
Zingerman’s opened its doors in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1982 and has since grown into a large corporation including its flagship deli, a bake house, and a candy manufacturing division among other businesses. All of their soups are made from scratch, showcasing traditional Jewish varietals like matzoh ball, Jewish chicken broth, and kreplach soup. It also features knishes, chopped liver, potato latke, and noodle kugle. As for the main event, most customers flock to their corned beef, reubens, and other specialty sandwiches like the “Jon & Amy’s Double Dip,” made with Zingerman’s corned beef and pastrami, Switzerland Swiss and Wisconsin muenster cheeses, as well as hot and regular mustards on pumpernickel and rye breads.
7. Second Avenue Deli — New York City
Abe Lebewohl was a true New York original: a Polish immigrant who came to America in 1950, his first job was a soda jerk at a Coney Island deli, where he graduated to counterman. In 1954 he invested his life savings in opening a small luncheonette on Second Ave. and 10th St. in Manhattan, which over the years became the beloved institution known as the Second Avenue Deli. In 1996, at the height of the restaurant’s success, Lebewohl was murdered while walking to the bank to make a deposit, and his death made national news.
The original location closed in 2006 after a landlord dispute and is now a bank (such is sadly the way of many New York institutions), but Lebewohl’s legacy lives on at the two locations that have opened in Manhattan since. One of just a handful of strictly kosher delis remaining in New York, Second Avenue isthe place for authentic Jewish cuisine in New York: kasha varnishkas, knishes, matzoh brei, cholent, noodle kugel, kippered salmon… the possibilities are endless, artery-clogging, and delicious. If you have to order one thing, though, make it the hot pastrami on rye. Thinly sliced, perfectly spiced, and smoky, it’s one of the most delicious things you’ll ever eat. So drop by, raise a glass of Dr. Brown soda to Abe, and enjoy some real-deal Jewish deli.
6. Canter’s Deli — Los Angeles
After its humble beginnings on the East Coast in Jersey City, N.J., this 24-hour Jewish deli has been a Los Angeles staple since 1931. Its bakery is the heart and soul of the operation where it pumps out items like bagels, rye bread, pumpernickel, and challah among others, twice daily. All of its signature sandwiches like pastrami, corned beef, chopped liver, or oven roasted turkey are served on rye, unless instructed otherwise. Today, it also caters to the vegetarian and gluten-free community by offering gluten-free buns, bagels, and matzoh.
5. Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant — Los Angeles
Opened by Russian immigrants who relocated from New York to Los Angeles, Langer’s is a deli steeped in tradition. The deli is known best for its #19 sandwich made with hot pastrami, cole slaw, a slice of Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing on hot rye bread. What makes the rye bread so special is the process of double-baking. The bread is received from the bakery, and then re-baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to give it a crispy crust. It also has its own take on matzoh ball soup which includes chicken, noodles, matzoh balls and vegetables served in a warm pot.
4. Mile End — New York City
This delicatessen, located in the heart of New York City, pays homage to the Montreal Jewish delis made famous up north. Everything in Mile End is homemade and created from scratch, including the rye bread which is the vehicle for its delicious, slow-cooked cured meats like smoked brisket, all-beef hot dogs, salami, smoked turkey, and lamb bacon just to name a few. Also made in-house are a variety of baked goods such as challah bread, pumpernickel bread, and hand rolled bagels which are perfectly paired with its smoked mackerel or smoked whitefish salad.
3. David’s Brisket House — Brooklyn
With multiple locations throughout Brooklyn, the Brisket House is famous for, well, brisket made three ways. One of the most popular menus items is the brisket with brown gravy on the side. This Jewish deli was originally opened in the 1970s and is now run by observant Yemeni Muslims who very much appreciate a good breakfast sandwich. A line can be seen stretching out the front door in the morning for their specialty items including a non-Kosher breakfast sandwich stuffed with eggs, pastrami, and American cheese.
2. Carnegie Deli — New York City
The family owned and operated Carnegie Deli has been a bonafide New York City landmark since 1937. All of their meat is smoked from its own factory based in Carlstadt, New Jersey. The deli is known for its double-sized corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, but is also unique as it makes its own cheesecake on premises and cures its own pickles. Other Jewish specialty dishes include matzoh ball soup and knishes.
1. Katz’s Delicatessen — New York City
Iconic Katz’s Delicatessen is arguably one of the best-known and best-tasting Jewish delis in all of the U.S. It opened its doors in 1888, originally serving many of the immigrant families on the Lower East Side who landed in New York. What you must try when dining at Katz’s is either its corned beef or pastrami sandwiches or platters. The meat is cured using a slow cook method without injecting chemicals, water, or any other additives to speed up the process. While it may take up to 30 days to cure the meat, the final product is well worth it, making this deli a standout in the community.