Are L.A.'s Jewish Delis at Risk of Going Extinct?
We've been lamenting the loss of all sorts of old-school establishments as of late, one of which was Junior's Deli, a classic old Jewish joint in Westwood that closed in December. But it turns out Junior's isn't the only deli struggling right now. Other purveyors of pastrami are having a hard time, too. But does that mean that there's a nail in the coffin of these beloved institutions?
The L.A. Times reports that three major delis have closed across the country as of late: Ashkenaz Delicatessen in Chicago went dark in November and the 75-year-old Stage Deli in Manhattan also recently shuttered. So did a Jerry's Famous Deli in Costa Mesa. The Times attributes the closures to a few things:
Increasing apathy, particularly from younger patrons, has driven traditional Jewish delicatessens from their mid-century pinnacle. The decline seems to be accelerating partly because of health concerns over the schmaltz-spread fare and partly because bagels are now available in every supermarket.
What they did miss out on, however, is a gaggle of young chefs who are trying to keep the tradition alive, starting up new age Jewish delis or using traditional technique to bring classic dishes to the masses. Take, for instance, Mile End Deli, which opened up its doors in Brooklyn in 2009 and has now expanded to Manhattan. And Kutsher’s in TriBeCa. Or the popular Jewish twists at "Top Chef" alumn Ilan Hall's restaurant, The Gorbals, in Downtown L.A. Even the savvy entrepreneurs at Umami have jumped on board, opening up Umamicatessen to much fanfare.
So is the closure of a Jerry's and a mediocre-at-best place named Juniors signify the end of delis here in L.A.? Hardly. That's not to say there aren't financial woes with the rising cots of fish and meat, but it seems that the time where we're damned to buying lox and bagels at Western (thankfully) isn't here quite yet.