Deli Diaspora

The best delis in North America and western Europe offer a delicious link to the Jewish foodways of the Old World. These places are run by owners committed to keeping the flavors of the past alive and to satisfying the die-hard customers who come in asking for a side of kishke (sausage made with matzo meal, spices, and rendered fat) or a plate of ptcha (jellied calves’ feet). These places traffic not only in the Reubens and egg creams we all know, but also in unique dishes and great variety

By David Sax

Published on November 19, 2010

2nd Ave Deli
Its variety of Yiddish kitchen classics, as well as stellar smoked meats, makes this the quintessential Manhattan kosher deli. The 2nd Ave (which reopened in December 2007 on 33rd Street after closing in 2006) is one of the few delis in the United States to carry rolled beef, a subtly spiced, tender cold rolled pastrami. It also holds the distinction of being the only deli to serve ptcha, which was prized in eastern European shtetls, and will scare off all but the most devoted Yiddish gourmand. (162 East 33rd Street, New York, New York; 212/689-9000;

B&K Salt Beef Bar
In Britain, Jewish delis serve salt beef, a barrel-cured beef brisket that's brined for two weeks, boiled until soft, and hand-carved. The resulting sandwich, slathered with fiery English mustard, is thicker and softer than American corned beef, and B&K, which opened in the mid-1960s, has undoubtedly the finest in London. It also makes pickled tongue that's unbelievably tender. (11 Lanson House, Whitchurch Lane, London, England; 020/8952-8204;

Brent's Delicatessen
A favorite in the San Fernando Valley for its homemade kishke, beef intestine filled with schmaltz and matzo meal, then broiled until it's brown, crackling, and gloriously greasy; it's a sausage that derives from Jewish cooks' kosher adaptation of a Slavic blood sausage. Of all the kishkes in all the delis around the world, this one is a league apart. (19565 Parthenia Street, Northridge, California; 818/886-5679;

Gottlieb's Delicatessen
This glatt kosher delicatessen in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is run by the third generation of the Gottlieb family, who are members of the Hungarian Satmar dynasty of Hasidim, the most fervently religious and insular of Orthodox Jews. That traditionalism finds its way into the food, including an unparalleled variety of kugel (baked puddings), from sweet noodle to apple, and Gottlieb's famous cholent: a stick-to-your-ribs stew of beef, potato, and beans. (352 Roebling Street, Brooklyn, New York; 718/384-6612)

Maison David
Charcutier Michel Kalifa is an artist with kosher meats, interpreting the traditions of Yiddish cooking with French flair. At his 93-year-old shop (originally owned by a Polish immigrant named David Cohen), you'll find silky cured goose breast, air-dried veal that tastes like prosciutto, chopped liver laced with foie gras, salamis thin as pencils and others thick as baseball bats. (6 rue des Ecouffes, Paris, France; 014/278-1576)

Romanian Kosher Sausage Co.
In Chicago—a town known for its sausages—this store in Rogers Park is beloved by religious Jews and religiously devout salami eaters. Deli meats still retain their original national styles, including Polish hot dogs and Hungarian salamis, fired up with paprika. (7200 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois; 773/761-4141;

Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse
Once, there were dozens of Romanian Jewish steak houses around America, but 35-year-old Sammy's, on New York City's Lower East Side, is the last of its kind: a carnivore's temple done up in wood veneer, with a syrup jar of chicken schmaltz sitting on each table. Hard-to-find delicacies include karnatzlach, a charbroiled beef-and-garlic sausage, and gribenes, pieces of chicken skin, fried in chicken fat, that are the perfect accompaniment to Sammy's chopped liver with fried onions and shredded radish. (157 Chrystie Street, New York, New York; 212/673-0330)

Famous as a temple of Montreal smoked meat, 82-year-old Schwartz's is less well known for being the one remaining delicatessen in North America to brine, spice, and smoke duck and geese according to Romania's original pastrami tradition. The birds are available only by custom order, but the results—spicy, smoky, crisp, and tender—are well worth the effort. (3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; 514/842-4813;

Harold's New York Deli Restaurant
At Harold's New York Deli Restaurant in Edison, New Jersey, everything is big: The place is big (300 seats), the crowd is ibig (14,000 people weekly), and the pickle bar is touted as the world's largest. Not only that, the restaurant cures four tons of corned beef and smokes four tons of pastrami a week, all in the service of Harold's biggest jaw-dropper: the triple-decker sandwich. Offered in more than a dozen variations—turkey, corned beef, and tongue on rye; pastrami, Swiss cheese, and salami on rye—it costs $50 and feeds half a dozen people. —Betsy Andrews (1173 King Georges Post Rd. Edison, NJ. 08837; 732/661-9100;

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