When Mile End Deli opened on a side street in Brooklyn in January 2010, founders Noah and Rae Bernamoff were just trying to recreate the home cooking–and especially the smoked meat–of Noah’s Montreal youth. Little did they know that their converted garage would become the epicenter of what might be the last hope for Jewish delis.
Mile End was a sensation before it even opened. An article in New York Magazine, featuring a photograph of a smoked meat sandwich, had deli lovers showing up at the store front weeks ahead of schedule, and revealed the deep desire for a new kind of deli. By the time the place did open its doors, Mile End was swarmed with eager customers.
The demand continued. Beginning with a few breakfast options and sandwiches for lunch and dinner, Mile End soon started serving hot entrees that were playful takes on traditional Jewish food including roast chicken, trout, shakshouka, and of course, chicken soup. Mile End Sandwich opened in lower Manhattan in 2012; also that year, the restaurant released a cookbook.
Since then, modern Jewish delis have begun to spring up in other cities, like DGS Delicatessen in Washington DC, and Wise Sons in San Francisco. In a broader sense, all Jewish cuisine has had a revival, with Kutsher’s bringing a taste of the legendary Catskills resort to an upscale space in Tribeca, and places like El Ñosh and Shalom Japan fusing Jewish food with unlikely partners.
It was a sorely need resurgence. While New York City (like most major cities) once housed thousands of Jewish delis (kosher or kosher-style), those numbers have dwindled to double digits. Last year saw the closing of the legendary Stage Deli. The Second Ave Deli closed for several years, but reopened with locations in Midtown and on the Upper East Side. Katz’s and the Carnegie Deli remain, but they are the exceptions.