“I’ll have what she’s having.”
Everybody knows the classic deli line delivered by Billy Crystal’s real-life mom in the movie WHEN HARRY MET SALLY.
But it ends up that what everybody is having in the traditional Jewish deli may not be what you’re going to get anymore. There is a referendum among deli owners to CUT DOWN ON THE SIZE OF THOSE GIANT SANDWICHES, and instead serve meals that are a little bit healthier and better for the customer.
It started with a discussion about whether the Giant Pastrami Sandwich really is a Jewish tradition or not. Those huge hunking piles of meat on rye? It all comes from poverty and not having enough. The stacked sandwich was a way to symbolize that you no longer wanted.
The trend in delis now is to create smaller sandwiches with higher-quality meat, perhaps focused on local suppliers and sustainable foods instead of national meat manufacturers. The issue is really the food, not the deli itself.
As on deli owner said, “Other ethnicities have reinvented their comfort food, their grandmother’s recipes, and made great restaurants. Where are ours?” Web Watch agrees — we know of plenty of Italian or Greek restaurants, even a Russian Tea Room nearby. But when one thinks of a Jewish restaurant, the only option that comes to mind is a deli — and even that’s more deli than Jewish.