Spartans On Rye: MSU Hillel Opens A Kosher Deli In Its Dining Room

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Sophomore Jake Nitzkin of Farmington Hills is ready to enjoy the Seinfeld, which features turkey, lettuce, tomato and mayo on challah, which he ordered toasted.

Now the Lester and Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Student Center at Michigan State University in East Lansing can offer students kosher deli sandwiches and more at the new Charles Street Deli, located in its main dining hall.

Certified kosher by Rabbi Jason Miller of Kosher Michigan, the deli features authentic classics, including corned beef and pastrami piled high on fresh, double-baked Jewish rye bread, homemade chicken noodle soup, delicious vegetarian wraps, and Mediterranean sides and salads. It opened Sept. 12.

“When I found out a deli was coming to Hillel, I was so excited,” said Eliza Firestone of Franklin, a junior studying dietetics. “I went with my best friends last week, and it exceeded all our expectations. The ingredients were fresh, and the meals were very well made. I can’t wait to go back and try more options.”

Chef Joshua Moses preps for opening day.

The project began last November when Executive Director Cindy Hughey and Director of Special Projects Eric Hughey began brainstorming ideas to create a social enterprise. This concept, which has become increasingly common, is when nonprofit organizations operate businesses to generate revenues and fulfill their mission. After six months of investigating options and holding in-depth focus groups with students, it was determined that an in-house kosher deli would not only fulfill the needs of Jewish students on campus, but also would allow MSU Hillel to take advantage of under-utilized facilities at a low startup cost.

“We are excited to provide students with an old-school deli that features true Spartan flair,” said Dr. Steven Arbit, MSU Hillel board president. “Giving our Jewish students on campus additional options for kosher dining will make their campus experience that more meaningful.”

Under the guidance of Shirah Farber, 2008 MSU graduate and supervisor of the Star Deli in Southfield, the process of creating the Charles Street Deli began.

“Finding and creating high-quality food was our biggest concern,” Eric Hughey said. “We scoured and taste-tested every possible kosher option in the Detroit area to source the finest meats and baked goods available. After much deliberation, Superior Meats was chosen to supply corned beef, pastrami, turkey, turkey pastrami and salami to the deli. Bake Station is providing homemade breads, fresh-baked cookies, seven-layer cake and specialty holiday items.” Both suppliers are in Southfield.

Order By Name

All sandwiches offered at the Charles Street Deli are named after famous Jewish actors, including the Sandler, which features corned beef and coleslaw; the Rogen with pastrami and sauerkraut; the Schumer Shabbas, a wrap made with grilled vegetables, hummus and fresh lemon dressing; and the most popular sandwich, the Drake, which features corned beef, pastrami and coleslaw. Sandwiches come on a choice of double-baked rye, onion roll or challah and can be ordered toasted.

img_0819Gluten-free options are also available, including breads and Veggie-Go’s, a fruit strip made from whole, organic fruits and veggies created by Bloomfield Hills native Lisa Goode McHugh and her husband, John McHugh. All dressings and sides are freshly prepared with recipes created by Joshua Moses, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago and the MSU Organic Farm Greenhouse coordinator.

Hummus and tabbouleh are delivered fresh from Woody’s Oasis, and Gammy’s Chicken Noodle Soup is prepared using a recipe from Cindy Hughey’s grandmother, Ruth Kaye. Salads are also available, including the Portman Chopped, which features romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red pepper and celery with the option of adding meat.

Students have welcomed the deli with great enthusiasm.

“Eating at the Charles Street Deli was a taste of home after a long day,” said Jordan Sternfeld of West Bloomfield, a senior studying kinesiology. “Having a kosher corned beef sandwich and bowl of chicken soup reminded me of having dinner with my grandma.”

Eric Hughey, deli manager and MSU Hillel director of special projects, on opening day
Eric Hughey, deli manager and MSU Hillel director of special projects, on opening day

Jacob Gordon of West Bloomfield, a senior studying international relations, said, “There’s really not more that I could have asked for in terms of quality and convenience. Compared to the other sandwich options in East Lansing, the fact that I can get kosher nosh and not have to leave the building can’t be beat.”

Prices at the deli average $7.99 for a sandwich, with a combo including drink and chips for $9.99. Cash, credit cards and Sparty Cash are accepted.

“We are eager to hire workers and managers to give our students additional real- life resume experience,” Eric said. “We hope the deli will not only be a place to get a great meal, but also will provide leadership opportunities that translate beyond college years.”

Cindy Hughey commented, “MSU Hillel strives to be a home-away-from-home for thousands of students at Michigan State University. With the Charles Street Deli up and running, we can now add another component of home to our organization.”

By Robyn Hughey, Special to the Jewish News

The Charles Street Deli, is located inside MSU Hillel, 360 Charles St., East Lansing. Hours are noon-2 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Sunday. Call (517) 507-0725 or go to  www.facebook.com/charlesstreetdeli.

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