(William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History)

Mike Smith writes about a few deli stories.

I recently wrote a “Looking Back” about the late Jewish comedian Jackie Mason. Part of the story was about the JN and Stage Deli-sponsored contest to create a Jackie Mason Sandwich.

While doing the research for Mason and his sandwich in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History, I ran across thousands of references for “Delis.” So, I thought I should write about a few of these deli stories.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Alene and Graham Landau Archivist Chair

Now, I realize that I am venturing into dangerous waters here; by that I mean, dangerous for me! I only have about 500 words, so I’m sure to miss naming some of your favorites.  

What really inspired me was an obituary for Harriet Goldberg titled: “She Always Wanted to Make People Happy” (Oct. 16, 2014, JN). Harriet was the wife of Jack Goldberg, the duo that founded the Stage Deli in Oak Park in 1962. Where did the young couple first meet? Where Jack was working — at Ben & George’s Deli in Detroit!

One of my pathfinders for deli knowledge is Danny Raskin, of course. For example, Harriet and Jack were frequently mentioned in his columns because he loved the chicken soup at Stage Deli. I understand Grandma’s recipe is still used today. 

I found several great stories about the small, but mighty Star Deli that Sid Neuman and his late wife, Rose, bought in 1973. Today, Sid and his son, Harry, still run the Star. My favorite Star Deli story relates to a meeting that Detroiter and then Ambassador to Norway David Hermelin held in 1998, for which he asked Star Deli to cater the Nov. 2, 1999, event (Aug. 9, 2002, JN). Guests included President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. But, unfortunately, the meeting did not ultimately result in the peace that had been hoped for.

From 2014
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

A personal favorite of mine is the Hygrade Deli on Michigan Avenue in Detroit, owned by the Litt family since 1972. For my money, it has the best Reuben in the city.

A few miles west of Detroit, there is the world-famous Zingerman’s. It was established in 1982 by two U-M students, Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw, who couldn’t find a good deli in Ann Arbor.

From 2018
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

I still think about the salami sandwich I had at Steve’s Deli in Bloomfield Township. Opened in 1993, Joanee Hurwitz still owns the popular deli, which has won numerous awards and recognitions for its fare.

And, I’ve not mentioned Avenue Deli or Boesky’s (run by brothers Sam, Harry, Abe, Sol and Bill), or the Pickle Barrel, or Lefkovsky’s or … But I’m out of words, and I’m hungry. 

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.

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