[FoRK] Yay! Proper Jewish deli reopens around the block from our
<rohit at xent.com> on
Tue Dec 18 07:46:44 PST 2007
[How do you get a lucky middle name like 8?! :) -- RK]
The New York Times
December 18, 2007
The Second Avenue Deli, Now in Midtown, Reopens
By JENNIFER 8. LEE
The clear matzo ball soup was the same, the blue and brown tile
floors were the same, even much of the kitchen staff was the same.
The waitresses recognized their old customers of the Second Avenue
Deli and the old Second Avenue Deli customers recognized them — even
though they had reconvened a mile north and were no longer on Second
Avenue. Instead, they were now on East 33rd Street, between a nail
salon and an eyebrow-threading place on the south side of the street
between Lexington and Third Avenues.
The deli — a reincarnation of the 1954 original on Second Avenue at
East 10th Street that was closed in 2006 — combined nostalgia and
curiosity. Customers came by taxi, flew and walked in, waiting in
lines 20 to 30 deep in the crisp cold. Many had tales of Abe
Lebewohl, the World War II refugee turned deli owner who was murdered
in 1996. A reward poster hung in the window seeking leads for that
crime, yet to be solved.
After his death, the deli continued as a memorial to his legacy until
a rent dispute shuttered it nearly two years ago. Now Jeremy
Lebewohl, 25, his nephew, is determined to revive the family’s
legacy. The family bought the building where the deli now occupies
the first floor.
The first customers after the 6 a.m. opening were a couple who had
flown in from Los Angeles on their way to Boston and had taken a cab
into Manhattan. Other customers began streaming in, young and old,
tourists and natives, Jewish and gentile.
“I wanted to be here for the grand opening,” said Jerome Wolf, 80, of
Jackson Heights, Queens, who had his own Abe Lebewohl story to share,
one involving an upside-down clock with Hebrew letters.
The Second Avenue Deli used to be one of the first stops for Heidi
Slimm Dolman when she visited New York City from Canada. Now a
resident of the Upper East Side, she took a $12.10 cab ride on Monday
with her daughter, Sadie, a self-described “three and three-quarters”
years old, to indulge in the matzo ball soup, which Ms. Dolman
praised for its “clarity.”
“It’s sunny, not murky,” she said, pointing at the glowing yellow
broth. She took home a turkey sandwich, two inches thick, for her
The New York delicatessen may have been born as a Jewish institution,
but the Second Avenue deli is as New York as New York itself: its
clientele is as multicultural as its employees. Even in the age of
Atkins, everyone loves a good bagel.
Heaping plates of latkes, kugel and pastrami were passed around the
65-seat dining area and free challah, cole slaw and gribenes (fried
chicken skin rendered in chicken fat, good for Atkins) were
distributed at every table. Take-out customers waited at the 25-foot
The Second Avenue Deli is almost the last of a breed. “This place
adheres to tradition, so it gets a certain amount of respect,” said
David Sax, who has traveled the world eating at delis for a pending
book called “Save the Deli.” There aren’t many more where this one
came from, he said.
Unlike Chinese and Mexican restaurants, Jewish delis cannot draw on a
fresh influx of immigrants to staff their counters. “You can’t call
up Poland and say, ‘Send us six Jews,’” Mr. Sax said with a laugh.
The restaurant is open 24 hours a day, the young Mr. Lebewohl said.
Then why are there locks on the doors?
Because it will be closed for Passover, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur,
he replied. Even the city that never sleeps still defers to God.
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