Does Detroit Have the Best Jewish Delis?

Zingermans-Deli

Food website Food Republic has proposed something almost unthinkable: that the North American capital of smoked deli meat sandwiches is not New York, or even Los Angeles, or even Montreal, but Detroit. Writer Brad Cohen’s argument has brought an outpouring of support from lovers of the Motor City’s best spots.

Cohen’s main criticism of the Big Apple’s fabled delis is the rye bread. After visiting the city’s legendary delis, he describes the meat positively as “hand-cut” and “lovingly spiced,” but derides the “two dry, flavorless pieces of bread that pass for Jewish rye by default.”

Cohen cites Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor as proof of Michigan’s rye bread superiority, saying that the restaurant uses a higher ratio of rye to white flour. He also applauds the last-minute steaming method developed by Jack Goldberg at Stage & Co for creating bread that is soft on the inside and crusty on the outside.

But the writer also suggests that the Midwest corned beef is superior too. Many of the delis get raw, seasoned briskets from United Meat and Deli, cooking it on-site, “giving each a slightly different character.”

In addition to Zingerman’s and Stage, Cohen also highlights Steve’s Deli and Bread Basket.

Fans of Food Republic and other websites agreed with Cohen’s assessment, but many added that Star Deli in Detroit deserved to be mentioned, even in the top spot.

In addition to the nationwide decline in observant Jewry and Jewish eateries, Detroit has had to contend with its own well-documented urban decline. But as the city has given birth to new businesses and projects, many young Jews have moved back to be part of the revitalization.

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