[FoRK] Yay! Proper Jewish deli reopens around the block from our home...

Rohit Khare <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

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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