Arguably the most authentic symbol of what is known as the authentic American experience, delis have historically represented how incoming groups from all Eastern European countries maintained their deep sense of self through culinary tradition. These delis not only allowed others similar to them a place to gather and converse, but it also invited other immigrant groups to experience their culture through food.
Common foods sold at delis all over New York City included pickled vegetables, cured meats, smoked sausages and simply cooked boiled dumplings. Immigrants who opened these meat centered shops during this era also opened dairy shops along with specialty stores for fish.
During the historic era of Ellis Island’s immigration influx in the early 20th century, these specialty food shops started to develop in waves throughout the lower east side. These speciality food stores that highlighting the immigrant experience began to appear on every street corner in the neighborhood.
However, as times changed in New York City’s neighborhoods across the five boroughs, it is clear that the deli does not symbolize or encompass the current immigrant experience for the new, younger generation. As delis around the city begin to dwindle, Katz is the only historic specialty food store that offers the authentic, original Eastern European journey.
The one hundred and twenty-eight year old powerhouse continues to its special world famous dish, which is the irresistible juicy pastrami sandwich served on soft, rye bread. Both locals and international tourists will make special trips to have a sandwich or a few latkes with applesauce in order to taste the history behind these traditional Eastern European dishes.
Still maintaining that authentic interior restaurant decor dating back decades, the entire culinary experience remains incredible regardless of how many times you have dined at this establishment. From receiving an order ticket to catching the meat-cutter carefully slicing pastrami, it almost seems like the cultural tradition has not changed in the slightest. However, this experience for many has indeed changed in various ways.
As older delis seem to become an overall minority in New York City, the decline of these restaurants are connected with how cultural values for second, third and even fourth immigrants have taken a very different shape.
With more creative and innovative restaurants quickly taking up spots in the area, the culinary palate in much of New York City is now looking for more exotic, fusion or more unique cuisines. Also, as younger generations become increasingly health oriented, there is limited attraction to herring or more fatty meat sandwiches with a side of salty pickles.
Opened around six years ago, the Mile High End Deli which is located in young, trendy Brooklyn’s own Boerum Hill has been successful in relation to refocusing attention back to pastrami. A traditional deli with a modern twist, you can enjoy a wide array spectrum of dishes at this innovative take on the new immigrant experience. To cater to younger, healthier consumers, the Bernamoffs make sure to offer their customers black angus beef along with interesting side dishes such as vegetable salad and smoked meat poutine.
If you would like to read more about the history of the famous NYC deli, please visit this website.