How New School Jewish Delis and Bagel Shops Share Trade Secrets

One of the walls at Wise Sons in Culver City is adorned with more than a dozen frames holding vintage-style pennants. But they don’t pay homage to sports teams from another era; they are adorned with the names of local Jewish delis – from Langer’s to Nate ‘n Al’s.

“I grew up eating at many of these places and wanted to show respect to those who shaped Wise Sons and served the local community before we came here,” said Evan Bloom, the 35-year-old co-founder.

Boom, who grew up in Ventura and often visited his grandparents in West Los Angeles, spent his childhood visiting local restaurants like the now-closed Junior’s and Pico Kosher Deli. He currently resides in the Bay Area (there are six Wise Sons in Northern California) but hopes to eventually return to Southern California where his family resides. Opening a restaurant in the area was a step towards that goal.

When Bloom entered Food Space in LA, he stumbled across a community of new-generation Jewish deli and bagel shop owners, like Nick Schreiber, co-owner of Belle’s Bagels in Highland Park. The two men were already virtual cheerleaders for each other’s businesses on Instagram, but they became friends a year ago. Bloom was working on opening in Culver City, and Schreiber was preparing to convert his current bagel shop into a deli and bar, which he plans to open in mid-2022.

Now they text each other regularly with details on the best ovens, retailers, and ways to heat pastrami. Schreiber’s team visited Wise Sons in October to see how the lunch service works. Bloom stopped by Belle’s to test out a rotating oven; In the end he bought the same.

“There was this interesting symbiosis where we were helping them navigate the LA landscape and they were helping us navigate the delicatessen landscape at the same time,” said Schreiber, 35.

This willingness to share practical information—even trade secrets—is a mindset associated with many participants in today’s modern Jewish delicatessen movement. They seem to have unwittingly followed in the footsteps of their LA predecessors and even taken them to the next level.

LA’s traditional delicatessen culture began to flourish in the first half of the 20th century when descendants of Jewish settlers migrated west from the East Coast. Some of their restaurants also moved, including Canter’s Deli, which first opened in New Jersey and moved to LA in 1931.

“In other cities, Jewish deli owners seemed to silently pray for the demise of their competitors as they viewed any approach to camaraderie with open suspicion,” wrote David Sax in his 2011 book Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye. and the heart of Jewish delicacies.” But LA’s Jewish deli culture was different.

Today there is a sense of solidarity among many longtime Jewish deli owners in LA. Jacqueline Canter, the co-owner of Canter’s Deli, said she recently shared a meal with friend and co-owner of Factor’s Famous Deli, Suzee Markowitz, as they chatted about their restaurants. Canter’s family have shared and compared notes on brisket recipes with fellow deli owners – and shared supplies. “Any time another deli runs out of rye bread — let’s just say a deli in the Valley is running out of rye bread — they call me and I’ll give them what they need. All delis share.”

The same goes for the newer restaurants. Many traditional stores have closed in recent years, such as Greenblatt’s Deli in West Hollywood, Label’s Table in the Pico-Robertson area, and Jerry’s Famous Deli in Marina Del Rey. But over the past decade, new interpretations of Jewish food have emerged, from places like Wexler’s Deli in downtown LA and Santa Monica, Birdie G’s in Santa Monica, and pop-up The Bad Jew. The new chefs and restaurateurs update traditional dishes on many levels; For example, Birdie G’s offers a matzo ball soup with miso.

One of LA’s first modern interpretations of traditional Jewish cuisine, Wexler’s Deli opened in 2014. Its founder, Micah Wexler, who has a background in fine dining, used traditional methods to smoke and smoke his own pastrami and salmon from the start. House. “A lot of the delicacies of my generation really wanted to go back to basics and figure out how to make a lot of these products,” said Wexler, who is no longer involved in the restaurant’s operations. “Whether it was the smoked meat, the smoked fish, or the bagels — and bring that back to artisan, handmade, and homemade thing.”

As the modern Jewish delicatessen movement developed in LA and people became more interested in the craft of making things like pastrami, smoked fish and bagels in-house, it became commonplace for people – Bloom and Schreiber among them – to turn to them Wexler to ask questions. “I’ve always tried my best to help them,” said Wexler, 39.

It seems to accomplish a lot. Recently, Rebecca King, who smokes corned pork and pork pastrami under the moniker The Bad Jew, reached out to Bloom. She’s done pop-ups, including selling at Smorgasburg, the downtown grocery store, and wanted to get into the wholesale business. A friend suggested she consult Bloom, who also started his business as a pop-up company.

She took her cured meat to Wise Sons and they talked for an hour and a half. “He sent me his business plan because I’m so new to the business,” said King, 32. “He was a bit of a mentor and super sweet.”

King has also found camaraderie among other Jewish delis like The Nosh of Beverly Hills, where she’s held pop-ups, and Birdie G’s, where she performed under chef Joel Spadafore and learned about curing and fermenting.

This willingness to share knowledge has extended to the bagelmaker community.

Writer is in a running text thread with Jason Kaplan of Maury’s in Silver Lake and Trevor Faris of Hank’s in Burbank and Sherman Oaks, sharing dining and business tips. (Writer jokingly dubbed them “The Real Bagel Boys of Los Angeles.”) They would lend each other sacks of flour when delivery orders were tight, chatted about the best ways to attach seeds to the bagels, and even shared appetizers.

Kaplan recalls a time when Bagel Broker owner Jason Tarnol let him in to check out a bagel machine at his West Hollywood restaurant. He wanted to pass on this spirit of helping others.

“In the days of one-upmanship in Manhattan, there was a lot like, ‘We have the biggest bagels,'” said Kaplan, 53, who used to live in New York. “There was a lot of secrecy about how things were done. You had to join the union, be able to get through a certain number of bagels in an hour – and things were really cutthroat. I’m not like that. I’m more of – as Oprah says – run your own race. [person].”

Kaplan and Faris aren’t afraid to share, believing that everyone makes their own bagels. Faris, 37, who has worked in the food and beer industries for the past decade, has found the bagel community — not just in LA but across the country — to be “unusually supportive”: “There’s just a sense of community and sharing how everyone wants everyone to be happy while I’ve worked at other restaurants where it felt a little more competitive.”

Wexler believes the openness is something that’s blossomed across the industry, a marked departure from his earlier days in restaurants: “Everyone still has their bag of tricks, which they might hold tight to their waistcoats, but broadly are people are much more open with communication and mutual help.” How New School Jewish Delis and Bagel Shops Share Trade Secrets

Russell Falcon

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