Can the Jewish Deli change?
Or must it always stay the same to be good and authentic?
Anthony Bourdain opposes change in the Deli:
It’s a classic refrain of Deli Mavens.
Here are some changes to Deli that Saul’s has made over the years. They’ve been a bit controversial . . .
Smaller sandwiches – not twelve or eight ounces, but six. Those mountainous pastrami sandwiches were made possible in the postwar deli heyday by cheaply, industrially produced meat. A typical Italian Deli sandwich has 2-4 ounces on it. But a “real” NY deli does towering sandwiches.
No more Dr. Brown’s sodas. Cream and Celery is scratch-made in house, and Black Cherry is made only when black cherries are in season. One of the saddest changes in Jewish deli history has been consolidation of the soda industry, from hundreds of small-batch, regional and local soda alchemists in the New York area alone, to just a few brands recalling that era and those flavors, in name only. For example, Dr. Brown’s is made from high-fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients, and owned by Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group. Plus, shipping it to Saul’s logs lots of food miles. We won Best of the East Bay in the East Bay Express for our seasonal housemade sodas.
Seasonality, a changing menu. Vegetables, legumes, grains, seafood back on the plate. And often at the center of the plate. Sephardic-inspired dishes. Deli heresy!
Smaller, regional menu – Chilled borscht only in summer and when beets are in season – “What kind of a Deli are you that doesn’t have borscht!?” Gefilte fish is housemade, fresh. We have it for the holidays, not year round.
Grassfed flavor and texture: Our brisket, corned beef and cabbage rolls are made with local, grass-fed beef. Americans hadn’t tasted corn-fed beef until after WWII. But today’s palates are accustomed to corn-fed flavor, texture and fat content, so for some customers, grass-fed doesn’t seem quite right. More here on the challenge of sourcing local, grass-fed pastrami to replace the not-as-sustainable Niman Ranch.
Handmade Acme rye from rye flour and sourdough starter, not the white flour “rye” that has evolved as “real Jewish rye” because it works better in bread machines than sticky rye flour. More here.
Wanted: Local, clean salami – Salami has been taken off the menu until we know where it’s coming from. We have many loyal customers who love salami, even industrially produced salami, and are very upset that we don’t serve it.