What defines a truly authentic delicatessen? The concept of a delicatessen dates back to Germany in the 1700’s. It was a place were unusual and foreign prepared foods were made and sold. In the late 1800’s, when a large number of immigrants of Jewish dissent (mostly from German regions) came to the US, they brought the tradition of delicatessens with them. Now over 100 years later, delis are a mainstay in most of our cities and towns. Below are a select few of some of the most famous delis in the US.
Katz’s Deli – New York City
In 1888, two brothers from Iceland immigrated to the US and started a delicatessen in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City. Willy Katz joined the brothers in 1903, and in 1910, Willy and his brother Benny bought out the Iceland brothers and the delicatessen became known as Katz’s Delicatessen. Katz’s became the focal point of the newly immigrant community of the Lower East Side, and on Fridays, their Frank and Beans became a tradition.
Katz’s continued to flourish through the century, and also started to become popular with actors, singers and comedians due to its proximity to a Yiddish theatre. Now the walls of the deli are lined with photos of famous actors and performers continuing the tradition. Katz’s was even the location for the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, when Sally describes how some woman “fake it” when intimate!
Today, people line up in droves to get their hand-carved pastrami or corned beef sandwiches. There are of course other things on the menu, but these sandwiches are truly a classic.
Carnegie Deli – New York City
Carnegie Delis is perhaps one of the most famous delis in the US. It opened in 1937 in Midtown Manhattan and to this day they still server their pastrami sandwiches with at least 1 lb. of meat on it. These sandwiches are bigger than most peoples heads, but in classic NYC fasion, the surly waiters won’t allow “shares” and don’t think to try to order anything with special directions! Their motto is “If you can finish your meal, we’ve done something wrong.” This couldn’t be more true.
Recently, Carnegie Deli closed (to the shock of many) because of a gas line issue, but fortunately, it is reported to have reopened in early 2016.
Manny’s Delicatessen – Chicago
Russian born brothers Jack and Charlie Raskin opened a cafeteria in Chicago specializing in large portions of delicious Jewish cooking served up quickly. Jack split off with his brother shortly after World War II to open his own deli. The restaurant he bought was called Sunny’s. Jack decided to name his new restaurant Manny’s (after his son), since it would cost him less to just change the first 2 letters of the existing restaurant sign (Sunny’s), than replace the entire thing!
From then on, Manny’s Deli was born, a tradition that many devoted Chicagans swear by as seen in the dining hall walls decorated with news clipping, reviews, photos and memorabilia!
Art’s Delicatessen – Los Angeles
Art Ginsburg started his own deli where he served up his famous triple decor sandwiches and Jewish fare. The motto of his deli became, “where every sandwich is a work of Art.” The location in Studio City is close to film studios and stars’ homes, so his deli became the perfect schmoozing spot in the neighborhood. Art retired from his business, but Art’s Deli is still a popular spot and a must visit when in Los Angeles.
Molinari’s Delicatessen – San Francisco
Established in 1896, Molinari’s is one of the oldest delis in the US and an Italian treasure in North Beach, San Francisco. PG Molinari moved to San Francisco in 1884 from the Piedmont region of Italy and opened a business on Broadway. After the 1906 earthquake he moved the business to Columbus Street. Molinari’s is most famously known for their classic salamis and Italian sausages that are shipped world wide. Their salami plant moved to a different neighborhood in San Francisco, but their delicatessen still is on Columbus.
Katz’s Delicatessen – 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
Carnegie Deli – 854 7th Ave, New York, NY 10019
Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen – 1141 S Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60607
Molinari’s Delicatessen – 373 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
Art’s Delicatessen – 12224 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604