As some of you already know, I now have a fortnightly column in Jewish News. Here is the latest…

You always remember your first time: biting through the rye bread into the juicy heap of greasy, tender, peppery pastrami…and here comes that mustard kick – wonderful. There are few joys in life as glorious as the hot pastrami sandwich of the American Jewish deli. It’s little wonder that Meg Ryan so noisily enjoyed hers in When Harry Met Sally, prompting a fellow diner to quip “I’ll have what she’s having.”

I know just what she means. Some of the happiest moments of my life have come while noshing away in such Stateside establishments. From the famous Carnegie and Katz in New York, to the under-rated Sam LaGrassas in Boston and the starry Canters of Los Angeles I have pumped my veins full of cholesterol and lived to tell the story. Along with the sandwiches and the soup, the hefty side order of Jewish wisdom and humour that the staff of these establishments routinely serve up are music to the ears of this philosemite. “My food will kill you,” was the memorable – and strangely tempting – boast of one of Manhattan’s most famous deli owners.

The banter is part of the menu. Which is I was why bitterly disappointed when – contrary to reputation – not a single member of staff at Stage Deli in New York was rude to me, however long I deliberately lingered and stuttered over my order when I visited last year. I’ve replayed the visit in my head many times and I still don’t know what I did wrong to not get ticked off. What am I? Chopped liver?

My pastrami passion extends to my bookshelf. One of my favourite books is How To Feed Friends And Influence People, which is the story of the Carnegie Deli, and more recently I have been devouring the excellent Save The Deli by David Sax. I even own a copy of the 2nd Avenue Deli Cookbook, though the less said about my efforts to reproduce its dishes in my Berkshire kitchen the better. As a friend who sampled my efforts put it: “This is a day that will live in infamy”.

As you might have guessed, I am obsessed with these delis and I’m far from alone. Visitors to the States flock to such establishments, queueing with  the locals for a sandwich, some soup or a knish. But why do we even need to fly thousands of miles for the pleasure? It puzzles me why nobody in the UK has cashed in on this popularity and opened such a place here. It seems a glaring omission from our culinary scene.

True, there are outlets selling pretty decent salt beef sarnies, including Blooms on Golders Green Road, Gaby’s on Charing Cross Road and Birley’s in Canary Wharf, but I’ve never found anywhere in Britain that does anything remotely like the gargantuan, juicy joy that is the Carnegie hot pastrami sandwich. We have every other ethnic food stuff represented on our high streets: Indian, Thai, Chinese, Sushi, Ethiopian, burgers, Italian, Greek, Lebanese – isn’t there room for one New York-style Jewish deli in the whole of London?

It would surely be a popular venture for both locals and American ex-pats. If nobody opens one soon I’ll do it myself. I can see the newspaper headlines as my clear-eyed business vision is vindicated by mile-long queues outside the UK’s first proper New York-style deli: “Brits go barmy for Chas’s Pastrami” (The Mirror); “Cheryl Cole balloons after just one sandwich”(Daily Mail); “Thousands suspected dead in Zionist catering massacre” (The Guardian).

Dear readers, you’ll all be very welcome to look in for a freebie. Jackie Mason said: ‘A sandwich to a Jew is just as important as a country to a gentile.’ Only you can tell me if he’s right but if he is – count me in.

If you are not in the newspaper’s catchment area you can read it in full online here.

19 Responses to “My latest Jewish News column”

  1. Israelinurse says:

    Where do I sign up for shares in Chas’ pastrami empire?

  2. Chas Newkey-Burden says:

    Haha! You, my dear, will be getting a special discount. Just enter the code “EVIL ZIONIST PLOT” when you sign up!

  3. NM says:

    LOL re: Guardian.

    Independent: “Cholestorol Cabal Colonises Christian Colons”

  4. Chas Newkey-Burden says:

    Jon Snow: “Patriachal Plot Poisons Posers”

  5. Mikey says:

    I have often thought the same. Of all the New York delis that you that mention, my favourite is Katz’s on the Lower East Side. Their slogan, “Send a salami to your boy in the army” is a simple classic. What is amusing is that every time a new President is inaugurated Katz’s send the President a salami as a present. By nature of courtesy a letter is sent from the White House thanking the restaurant. Katz’s have framed copies of a whole stack load of these letters through the decades.

    But of all the New York Jewish dining experiences (non Kosher), Sammy’s Roumanian, also on the Lower East Side remains in a class of its own. It is more than a dining experience, it is also an entertainment experience. Go. Eat. Enjoy.

  6. Chas Newkey-Burden says:

    Katz’s is wonderful! There is a passage in Save The Deli about the great Alan Dershowitz and his tips on how to get the best pastrami at Katz’s. Dershowitz + NYC + Pastrami – you can imagine my joy reading it!

    I shall look up the other place next time I’m there!

  7. annie says:

    LOL! Loved your headlines :-) . But now you’ve made me hungry. And here’s another place where you’d be hard put to find NY style pastrami sandwiches – Israel! (unless Israelinurse knows something and is keeping it a secret).

  8. Chas Newkey-Burden says:

    Haha. Yes, all this is very hunger-inducing.

    Re the lack in Israel, I heard a funny thing on TalkSport once. The presenter was talking about the ubiquity of something in the UK and said: “It’s as common here as smoked salmon bagels are in Israel.”

    *Sigh*

  9. Brenda says:

    Still gotta sample Katz’s, but 2nd Avenue Deli is fab! :-)

  10. Lynne T says:

    Chas:

    Some of the late Canadian novelist Mordecai Richler’s best scenes were set in London among the ex-pat Canadians, importing goodies from Montreal delis. St. Urbain’s Horseman for sure and possibly also Joshua Then and Now.

  11. Elise says:

    I’m in just transplant the Carnegie. So what about us Yanks. Do we get an “evil Zionist” discount too?

  12. Chas Newkey-Burden says:

    Yes, Elise. However there is a different discount code for Americans: “We Control Congress”.

  13. Israelinurse says:

    Sorry Annie, I don’t know of any secret NY delis in the entity either. But then again, what nice Israeli boy would go to eat in a deli, however good, when he knows that the best ktsitsot in the world are waiting for him in his mom’s kitchen?
    I don’t know about the rest of the ladies here, but I soon discovered that my meatballs could never,ever compete with those made by my mother-in-law, and that if I wanted someone to think mine were the best, I’d better bring some sons of my own into the world!

  14. Poppy says:

    I love the article – have you been to Reubens in Baker Street? Yum!

    In New York 2nd Avenue gets my vote, even in it’s new location.

  15. Chas Newkey-Burden says:

    Thanks. Never been to Reubens but I’m often in Baker Street so I will look in. Thanks for the heads-up!

  16. Chas – My family runs the Carnegie Deli. Thanks for a mention of our book”How to Feed Friends and Influence People” What sets us apart from all the other delis, is that we have our own commissary USDA where we make OUR OWN.We smoke our pastrami for 14 days and cure all our meats. We make our own cheesecakes that are unique to us as they are baked three times. We have many people begging us from the UK to open in the UK If you have any suggestions, I would appreciate it. Glad you liked the book. Please stop in if in NY – I would so like to “meat” you. Marian Levine, President

  17. Chas Newkey-Burden says:

    Marian, thank you very much for your comment. It’s fantastic to know you read my post. I can’t tell you how many happy visits I have paid to your deli. Last time I came to NYC I went there before even checking into the hotel! I will indeed come and ‘meat’ you next time I am in town! Thanks again for your fantastic food.

    Here is a photo of me last time I was at Carnegie: http://photos-b.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-sf2p/v193/33/22/640026135/n640026135_971186_6076.jpg

    If I can help at all in facilitating the opening of a UK Carnegie, I will do so with glee! Keep in touch.

  18. Mikey says:

    Marian,

    If you open in the UK, I shall come along! The only decent salt beef (what you call corned beef) sandwich in London in a restaurant is at the non-kosher Brass Rail which is a concession in the department store Selfridges. (Only open when the shop is open so it is really a lunch place) It is very good, but not a patch on what you can offer. The Kosher Reuben’s in Baker Street does not quite cut the mustard as it were, but, as they are a Kosher establishment, they do have a natural clientèle.

    For chicken soup, this can be had also at Reuben’s but the best is at Harry Morgan – another non-Kosher Jewish deli in London. Their main branch is in St John’s wood but they also have a concession in Harrods, the top department store. However, none of these places can compete with yourself (although I would say that Harry Morgan comes close!)

    All these places that I have mentioned are quite central in London. As I am sure you are aware London is a very popular city with tourists and many of them come from the good ol’ US of A. I always wonder what American tourists make the measly small sandwiches that most establishments serve as standard fare in this country. I believe there is certainly room for Carnegie Deli to open up here.

    I will conclude with an amusing anecdote. When I made my first trip to New York, I was not familiar with the size of the portions and I was in the mood for a corned beef sandwich. As I was feeling very hungry, I thought one would not be enough so I ordered two. The waitress, you will not be surprised, gave me a very strange look. Needless to say, I struggled to finish half of one of the sandwiches. It was a mistake that I never made again.

  19. Gaz says:

    Great Chas

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