The Answers Issue: Why doesn’t the District have an authentic Jewish deli?

Why doesn’t the District have an authentic Jewish deli? The city has a large Jewish population which probably originated from other parts of the country. Why is it so hard to find a good bowl of chicken noodle soup and a traditional corned beef sandwich?

As so many real estate impresarios (many of them Jewish) have said over the years, “Location, location, location!” There is good Jewish deli fare to be had in the D.C. area, but eating it requires a schlep out to Silver Spring’s Parkway Deli, Potomac’s Potomac Village Deli, Rockville’s Bagel City, or other spots in the suburbs where most of the region’s Jewish population now lives. Contrast that with a generation or two ago, when matzoh balls could be had at Pozin’s (on Georgia Avenue in Petworth) or Paul Young’s (on Connecticut Avenue near Farragut Square). Disgraced lobbyist/GOP powerbroker/all-around shande Jack Abramoff tried to fill the deli void for a while, opening Stacks, a kosher joint downtown. But it closed when he went to the joint.

All that could be changing, though: Former Iron Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn is running a food truck called Sixth and Rye (co-owned by Eat Wonky chef Jeff Kelley and the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue) that serves mobile corned beef. On H Street NE, Star and Shamrock melds an Irish pub with a Jewish deli. And later this year, former Mendocino Grill chef Barry Koslow and Roadside Food Projects will launch DGS Delicatessen, a kosher-style deli just north of Dupont Circle that brines, smokes, and cures all its meat and fish in house. Nick Wiseman of Roadside thinks the reason traditional delis died out last century was because they got away from that type of work: “In the 1950’s, Jewish delis were swept into the industrializing food system. Big companies started corning beef and selling them to restaurants. Craft was replaced with convenience—the mantra of the day. And the soul of the delicatessen was shed in the exchange.” No need to overthink it, though. As long as you serve good chopped herring, the rest is commentary.

Our Readers Say

Parkway Deli really isn't that big of a schlep. It's about 2 blocks outside of DC.
Spike Mendelsohn serves chicken noodle soup and matzah balls at We, The Pizza. Good jew boy.
Oh boy. Spike's once again trying to bring a "New York Classic" down to the District, only to end up serving a substandard version of it, yet still have DCites eat it up because they don't know any better. Blergh.
@ Terry,
It's a tad further than two blocks outside of the city limits, but hardly a schlep. I like the Parkway, though.

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