So This 2nd Avenue Deli Reopening — Is It Good for the Jews?
The 2nd Avenue Deli is back. But is it a harbinger of a Jewish renaissance or just the last fading pang of New York’s Jewish twilight? The question is raised in today’s issue of The Jewish Week, and it’s a good one. Despite the return of Chez Lebewohl, the world of Jewish food is already little more than a memory: Take away a few landmarks like Russ and Daughters, Katz’s, Yonah Schimmel, and Sammy’s Roumanian, and the entire world of Jewish food would be as forgotten as the Punic Wars. All the dairy restaurants, Romanian steakhouses, cafeterias, candy stores, bakeries, appetizing stores — they’re already forgotten, even in distant Brooklyn and Queens. The Week asked Arthur Schwartz, probably the city’s foremost authority on old-time New York food, and he gives a dismal picture: “Schwartz maintains that Jewish food has suffered greatly in quality over the last few decades, since Jews tend to eat their own food only on holidays — ‘and then we make everything we know, and then everyone gets sick.’” Add to that contemporary Jews’ horror of the fatty meats that were the Jewish kitchen’s stock in trade, and you have a recipe for cultural oblivion. Can a revived 2nd Avenue Deli, or the brisket revival staged by a few barbejews, stem the tide? Stranger things have happened.
‘Not Just A Deli Like Any Other’ [Jewish Week]
Related: It’s Time to Get Excited About the Second Avenue Deli
NYC Deli Owners Try Out a Barbecue FranchiseJust when you thought the New York barbecue marketplace was sated — and believe us, we thought so too — comes word that yet another megabarbecue is coming to the city. And not just one location, either: Famous Dave’s has sold a territorial franchise to open seven restaurants in New York and Westchester to Sammy Benmoha, owner of Maxie’s Deli, and, with his father Jacob, the Roxy and BenAsh Delis. What is this Famous Dave’s anyway? And how can there possibly be room for seven more megabarbecues, with Spanky’s, Hill Country, Virgil’s, RUB, Blue Smoke, Daisy May, Dinosaur, and half a dozen others already feeding the masses, and B. R. Guest’s Wildwood on the way?
Grub Street Meets ‘Food Talk’Just in case you weren’t tuned in to WOR this morning, we thought we’d let you know that “Food Talk” host Mike Colameco had us on his show and that you can hear our conversation by going here (click on “Food Talk November 28” in the lower-left corner of the page). We covered classic Grub Street topics like Bar-B-Jews, Cesare Casella’s zoological experiments, and plans for a bollito misto debauch. So rest your eyes and give it a listen.
Back of the House
Barbecue: The New Kosher Food?Reading about the launch of Blue Smoke in Danny Meyer’s new book Setting the Table, we had an epiphany. It’s somehow happened that, in the midst of the greatest barbecue boom New York has ever seen, nearly all of the cuisine’s major restaurants are either owned or operated by Jews. Given the wide berth our people have historically given pork, this seems worth commenting on. Meyers’s launching of Blue Smoke was just the beginning. Josh Cohen has just reopened Biscuit in Park Slope; Adam Perry Lang has become a major star in competition BBQ, in addition to launching his Daisy May’s empire; Andrew Fischel’s RUB was anointed by Adam Platt as the city’s best barbecue; and the field will only become further Semiticized this spring, when Mark Glosserman and Robert Richter launch Hill Country BBQ in the Flatiron district. Don’t get us wrong. There are some very fine Gentile barbecuers in New York: John Wheeler at Rack & Soul and John Stage at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que are both expert practitioners. Still, we’re surprised someone didn’t coined the phrase sooner: Bar-B-Jew.