A Bowl of Sour Cream and Other Old Deli Menu Items

By: Joan Ginsberg

While a simple Google search will turn up tons of articles, blogs, and even books about the decline of the Jewish deli in America, it’s harder to find pictures of menus and other concrete examples of what Jewish deli food used to be – and what made it different from modern delis.

So Sy and I were delighted when a recent pilgrimage to Miami to visit The Jewish Museum of Florida and its exhibit on Florida Jews and food yielded a display case full of Jewish deli menus from the 40’s and 50’s. Favorites like corned beef, pastrami, latkes, and blintzes were there, but we were especially interested in those items you just don’t see anymore.

Jewish Museum of Florida




















Take a look at some of the offering on these menus. Do you know any modern delis serving some of these items?


The Famous Restaurant menu had ALL of these, all well as sliced brains. For those of you unfamiliar, stuffed derma is kishka, and ptcha/pitcha is calf’s foot jelly. Honest.

Eggplant, of course, is not an unfamiliar food. It was a staple of all of the deli menus we saw, though, and we think it would be unusual to find it on a modern Jewish deli menu, unless it was an Italian/Jewish mash-up.

A few of the more traditional J

ewish delis, like Kenny and Ziggy’s in Houston, still have herring of one form or another on their menus now, but you wouldn’t find a Jewish deli without it in the mid-20th century.



















Everyone in the USA serves sour cream with their baked potatoes, and Jewish delis who still sell latkes (potato pancakes) serve it with sour cream. But we were tickled to see the ways sour cream was served at Wolfie’s. a famous Miami Beach deli. A bowl of sour cream, anyone?





















A variety of herring was served everywhere, like pickled, matjes (soused) and schmaltz. These terms refer not only to the brine used to preserve the fish, but to the fish itself. Schmaltz herring, for example, is fatty fish caught just before spawning, while matjes herring are usually young and immature fish. And everyone knows what gefilte fish is, right?









Of course, the printing of menus didn’t really take off until after WWII, when restaurants had widely available refrigeration and other amenities that allowed them to broaden their culinary offerings. Prior to that, menus were small and featured what was fresh and local.











Bernstein’s Jewish Home Cooking, considered the first Jewish restaurant in Miami, 1927-1938.


Flashback Friday – Pickle Barrel Deli, 1978

Sy has the original newspaper article photo engraved and mounted on a plaque in his office.

Sy has the original newspaper article photo engraved and mounted on a plaque in his office.

Pickle Barrel Deli – mistakenly referred to as the Pickle Barrel sometimes – wasn’t Sy Ginsberg’s first. That honor goes to Mister Deli on 7 Mile near Evergreen in Detroit. But Pickle Barrel – his second – would make him a star in the Detroit deli scene, and ultimately lead him down his true path as a processor of the finest corned beef in the country.

Located at 12 Mile and Evergreen in Southfield, it was the embodiment of everything that a classic Jewish deli should be. It was open almost 12 hours every day of the week, and the menu was huge. If you could find it in a Jewish cookbook, you could find it at Pickle Barrel.

It was the grueling hours and work of running a successful restaurant like Pickle Barrel that made Sy dream of doing something else  – like make a better corned beef. So he ultimately sold out and became the corned beef king we know today.

But we thought it would be fun to share some memories of what Pickle Barrel was. So we are recreating the review of the store by the “Anonymous Gourmet” at The Detroit Free Press, which was published on April 20, 1978. Yes, it’s about a specific restaurant, but it offers a lot of insight into what a customer could expect at a top-notch Jewish deli. “Thanks, Mrs. Ginsberg” is recreated here exactly – including the misspelling of Faney Ginsberg’s name.

This deli’s long on taste but short on cost

      The AG got a tip on a delicatessen last week from someone who, at a glance, looks like the type to order a corned beef with mayo on white, untoasted. Having checked on the tip, the AG learns an old lesson once again – namely, that the proof of the pudding is not in the glancing but in the eating.

The pudding at the Pickle Barrel, solid rice and moist, plump raisins in an indecently creamy custard invigorated with grated orange, is ambrosial. It ended a gargantuan Sunday noon feast that left both diners packed to what they guessed were the armpits. Still, when it arrived in its frosty stainless parfait cup, the click of spoons dipping in for “just a taste” never stopped till the self-styled tasters reached bottom. Was it orange? Or was it lemon? Maybe both? And so it went. And so the pudding went.

Before the pudding, there were an order of blintzes, a dressed-up tongue sandwich, gefilte fish, chicken soup with matzoh ball and who knows how many slices of new pickle, cut thick enough to crunch and offered by the mini-barrel at each table to keep the diner’s mouth busy while he tries to make up his mind.

     THE PICKLE BARREL is not the place to go for a quick pastrami on rye. It is a place that requires one to make decisions. Pastrami on rye ($2.30) or pastrami, corned beef and tongue with eggs, pancake style ($2.80)? Pastrami, corned beef, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on an onion roll (Pickle Barrel Treat, $3.15), or pastrami, liverwurst, Swiss cheese, tomato, onion and Russian dressing in a four-decker on rye ($3.40)?

The pastrami predicament is typical. The Pickle Barrel’s menu is enormous, featuring all the standard delicatessen items and then a few, in several alternative combinations.

Once the decisions have been made, the food comes lickety-split and, since the open kitchen sits smack in the center of the C-shaped dining area, most customers can watch their orders being assembled.

The chicken soup (75 cents a cup, 95 cents a bowl) shows up the way children like it, not quite salty and peppery enough for adults, but with a matzoh ball that spans the taste of generations by giving way at the slightest pressure from the side of the spoon. The correct building of a matzoh ball – from matzoh meal, chicken fat, egg and soup liquid – is no mean trick. Miss something in balance or timing and you may as well use the thing next time you tee up.

   GEFILTE FISH ($2.50), a formed but still fluffy mousse of carp, pike, whitefish, stock, onion, egg and carrots, is even trickier. The stuff from jars is leaden and devoid of sublety compared to what one gets from home kitchens and the Pickle Barrel. The AG wondered aloud how such homey gefilte fish got to the restaurant. The waitress smiled knowingly.

“This IS a home kitchen,” she said.

Fannie Ginberg’s home kitchen, to be precise – Fannie being the mother of Sy, one of the restaurants owners. That would explain the featherweight matzoh ball the and delicate gefilte fish, the way the outermost layer of blintz (delicatessen’s answer to crepes, cannelloni, and egg rolls) stays crisp while the inner folds go noodly and soft, the crackling crust on bread with spring-back fresh innards, the rice pudding’s zesty citrus accent. Just like home – on a good day.

          GO HUNGRY and be prepared to wait – before the meal and after. The Pickle Barrel is a big place, but it also has a big menu and offers big portions, both of which take some time to digest.

In addition, its patrons have a golden opportunity to revive the time honored Two Cents Plain ritual. Two Cents Plain (seltzer water, for the uninitiated) is imbibed during and especially AFTER the meal, as an aid for the overfed faced with having to get up and walk to the door.

And midday feast for two, from soup to pudding, came to a measly $12 at the Pickle Barrel. For two cents more, as listed on the menu, a person has a right to sit and sip and digest – or so Fannie Ginsberg, bless her, still believes.


Do you have a memory of Pickle Barrel – or maybe Mister Deli – that you could share? How about another old fashioned deli?

5 Slow-Cooker Tips for Corned Beef

BY: Joan Ginsberg









It’s hard to believe that slow cookers have only been around since 1971, when Rival Corporation introduced its iconic “Crock-Pot” to the mass market. To people like Sy Ginsberg, who was cooking corned beef for years before this appliance was available, putting corned beef in the slow cooker is not the traditional or preferred method of delivering up that brisket on St. Paddy’s Day.

But many people prefer to use this appliance for corned beef, because using the stove-top takes a long time anyway, and a slow cooker is less messy and more “whole dinner” friendly.

When someone asks us for directions using a slow cooker, though, we are a little stumped. That is because the size of the piece of beef, the shape of the cooker, and the heating times are so different from one household to another, any type of “one size fits all” instruction is almost impossible.


Here are a few tips – not instructions! – if you insist on using the slow cooker to make a perfect piece of Sy Ginsberg’s Corned Beef.  All of these tips envision that you are using an average size piece (3-4 pounds).









I own 3 cookers – 7, 6 and 5.5 quarts.  The smaller cooker, even though it is rectangular and appears to be the proper shape, doesn’t hold enough water to fully cover and immerse the beef. Having the beef fully immersed is the cardinal rule of corned beef cooking, no matter the method. Both my 7 and 6 quarts are oval, which is a great shape for a piece of beef. A 6 quart round will work, IF you make sure there is water under, around, and above the meat. One more time – there must be water surrounding the piece of meat.









I always cook carrots with my corned beef, so large hunks of carrot (no smaller than 3” long) should go on the bottom, as well as onion quarters. If you want potato, I recommend using 1/2 pieces of a smaller potato, like a red-skinned or a Yukon gold. Put them in first so that the meat is resting on top of the veggies and there is sufficient space for water to seep underneath it.

Leave the cabbage out of the slow cooker! There just isn’t enough room. Cook the cabbage in a separate pot later, using some corned-beef flavored water from the slow cooker.

















Every time you take the lid off a slow cooker in use, a significant amount of heat and steam is lost, increasing cooking time, especially if you are cooking on a low setting. There is nothing to stir or see when you are cooking corned beef, so don’t open the lid for a minimum of 3 or 4 hours.



Again, each slow cooker is totally different as to what “low” and “high” temperatures really are, but my experience is that a 3-4 pound piece of our corned beef will cook in 5-6 hours on low if you leave the lid on. You are welcome to try cooking on high for a couple of hours before turning to low, but we think you will find your beef overcooked most of the time, unless you are sure your cooker temp runs very low.









I’ve already said this a few times, but it is SO important it deserves a final mention. Cover the entire piece of meat with water. We know that a slow cooker does not lose water to evaporation the way a pot on a stove-top will, but we don’t care. You risk uneven cooking and drying out if it’s not surrounded by water, even in a slow cooker.


Want to see the finished meal that was served after these pictures were taken? Check out the cover photo on our Facebook page.

  Do you have a tip to add? We welcome your comments!

Corned Beef Compass Points


BY: Joan Ginsberg

United Meat & Deli is a company with a Detroit head and heart. We are tough and gritty small business survivors in the take-no-prisoners food industry. We hand trim the briskets and navels we use to make corned beef and pastrami, succeeding in a market where large, over-processed, and machine automated food manufacturing is far more common.

Because of this, people often assume that we only sell our stuff locally, and are surprised when we tell them that we ship product all across the continental USA. So we thought it would be fun this St. Patrick’s Day to illustrate this by finding our current “compass points” – those restaurants and retailers that sell our corned beef at the furthest north, south, east and west locations.


Restaurant/Food ServicePier 500 in Hudson, WI. (Finding this location actually required a map and some research, because it is in the greater Minneapolis, MN area, where we have many loyal customers, including Ward 6 Food and Drink, Mystic Lake Casino, O’Gara’s, and Crossroads Delicatessen.)

Retail/MarketCostco in Coon Rapids, MN. (Other Costco stores in the greater Minneapolis area stocking our corned beef are in St. Louis Park, Maple Grove, Eden Prarie, Maplewood, and Burnsville.)


Restaurant/Food ServiceThe Bagel Cove in Miami, FL. (Despite the stranglehold NYC has on the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market, several delis in the area, including The Pastrami Club in Lauderhill, do use our corned beef.)

Retail/MarketCostco in San Antonio or Houston, TX. (There is just a slight difference in latitude between Houston and San Antonio.  If you want to dispute who is more southern, leave us a comment. Many Costco stores in the Dallas area carry our product as well.)


Restaurant/Food ServiceThe Kibitz Room in Cherry Hill, NJ. (A longtime customer serviced by our New Jersey/Philadelphia-area distributor Foods Galore.)

Retail/Market McCafferys in several New Jersey locations. (We’re not sure if you can buy whole, uncooked pieces at this market or if you must buy it by the pound in the deli. Good either way!)


Restaurant/Food Service Miller’s East Coast Deli in San Francisco, CA. ( They also have a location in San Rafael, but we were too lazy to check which one was actually the furthest west.)

Retail/Market Bristol Farms in several Los Angeles County, CA locations. (This is a by-the-pound market, except at St. Patrick’s Day time when they sell by the piece. Check out their website for a great looking piece of beef!)

If you are looking only for a cook-your-own retail piece, check out our Facebook page (click on “Notes”) for a list of the Costco, Kroger, Detroit and Cleveland area supermarket locations that sell Sy Ginsberg’s Corned Beef.






Deli and Pickles – A Love Affair

BY: Joan Ginsberg, social media marketing specialist

New dills.

New dills.

The first week in February is “Shape Up With Pickles Time” (no, I did NOT make that up), and what better food to discuss on a Jewish deli blog than pickles? We’ll just skip the “shape up” part. 😉

Every lover and eater of Jewish deli food knows that it doesn’t matter if you prefer corned beef, pastrami or tongue on a sandwich – what really matters is that they are all served with a slice of heaven called a pickle.

You might ask – like Tevye did in the famous musical Fiddler on the Roof – when did this tradition get started? My answer is the same as Tevye’s – I don’t know. Neither does anyone else, it seems.

The pickle – more properly a pickled cucumber – has been around since at least 2400 BC, according to the New York Food Museum, and their health benefits were praised by Aristotle in 850 BC.  When the Israelites left Egypt in their wandering quest for Caanan, they bemoaned the loss of the pickled cucumbers they had enjoyed.

Eastern European Jews, who immigrated to the USA in large numbers in the latter part of the 19th century, brought their dietary habits with them, and one of those habits was eating black or dark bread with pickles. It is only reasonable that when those food traditions began to expand to the masses through deli restaurants, they included the pickles that were also commonly manufactured by Jewish immigrants.

Today, only a small number of Jewish delis exist when compared to 100 years ago. But those that remain still serve pickles with their sandwiches. In the USA, dill pickles are preferred to sweet pickles by a roughly 2 to 1 margin, and dill is what you will find in any respectable deli.

What may differ – often by geography – is what kind of pickle the deli uses. In Detroit, our home city, there are “old dills” or “new dills”. On the east coast, these same pickles are called “sour” and “half sour”. We have seen them called “ripe” or “green” in Cleveland. All have been barrel cured, the old (sours or ripe) longer than new (halves or green). Some delis use both and will offer you a choice, but many restaurants – especially outside of the older east and midwest markets -don’t use a barrel cured pickle at all. Their pickles are cured with vinegar, and do taste quite a bit different than a barrel cured pickle.

Besides manufacturing Sy Ginsberg’s Corned Beef, United Meat & Deli also acts as a distributor of certain deli-related items to our customers. Naturally, that includes pickles. UMD sells pickles made by Hermann Pickle Farms in Garrettsville, Ohio. We think they make the best food-service pickle available. My personal favorite is Dick’s Perky Pickle – a horseradish dill without equal.

The next time you enjoy a selection from your favorite deli, pay attention to the pickle. 

What’s your favorite – sour or half sour (old or new)? Tell us in the comments.

For National Soup Month – Chicken Matzo Ball

BY: Joan Ginsberg

There is only one way to write about the intersection of National Soup Month and deli:

 Chicken Matzo Ball Soup

A simple looking dish, this soup was full of wonderful flavor.

A simple looking dish, this soup was full of wonderful flavor.

Whether you call it matzo, matzoh, matza, or matzah – this soup is a constant among Jewish delis everywhere. I believe that matzo soup is the standard that all Jewish deli should be judged by. No matter what their corned beef or pastrami tastes like, a true deli has to be able to serve this soup and do it justice.

Here are two things we think you should look for –and find- in a good chicken matzo ball soup.


Rich, chicken-y tasting broth. The broth can be as clear as a bell or full of bits and pieces of chicken and vegetable from the stock-making process, but it absolutely needs to taste like the chicken simmered for hours in water full of vegetables. No actual chicken or vegetables are required, and some delis serve chicken soup with vegetables and/or chicken separately.

Some restaurants also add a food color called Egg Shade to their stock in order to give it a visually appealing, bright yellow appearance. But as Duke Ellington said in 1931, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.

The distinctive yellow is food coloring.

The distinctive yellow is food coloring.

Perfectly balanced matzo ball. The matzo ball doesn’t have to be huge, although many delis do make them so large that there is barely room for broth in the bowl. It does have to be flavorful – you should able to taste the matzo meal, chicken fat, egg, and soup liquid that went into the making. It should be tender and easily sliced with the side of a spoon, without the sphere falling to pieces after removing the first chunk. Miss something in the balance – not enough flavor or too soft/hard – and your soup has failed.

While this soup is visually appealing, the broth and matzo were very bland.


Do you have a favorite place to eat matzo ball soup? Tell us in the comments or post a picture on our Facebook page.

Corned Beef or Pastrami? Three Differences

BY: Joan Ginsberg, United Meat & Deli social marketing

UMD Gold Label Pastrami


Today is National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day according to some, so we would like to celebrate by answering a frequently asked question:

What’s the difference between corned beef and pastrami?

I can hear some of you snorting sarcastically, because you are a fan of Jewish deli sandwiches, and the difference between the two classic fillers is like the difference between mustard and ketchup. But read on . . .


1. Different cuts of meat. Traditionally, corned beef is made from beef brisket, which comes from the lower chest of the steer. Pastrami traditionally is made from beef navel, which is a small piece cut from the muscle known as the plate. I emphasize the word “traditionally” because pastrami in the 21st century is also made from other cuts of beef and poultry, including the ubiquitous turkey pastrami. United Meat & Deli, although widely known for Sy Ginsberg’s Corned Beef, also makes Gold Label pastrami. While navel pastrami is our best-seller, we also make and sell brisket and 1st cut brisket pastrami. The word “pastrami” was originally borrowed from the Turkish word “pastirma” by the Romanians (“pastrama”), who made their dish from pork and mutton.






Courtesy of Chicago Meat Authority, one of UMD’s raw beef suppliers.








2. Different cooking methods. Both pastrami and corned beef are cured meats, meaning that they have been injected or otherwise infused with a solution of salted water (brine). But then they travel different paths. Corned beef is ready for cooking and is generally cooked by boiling. Traditional pastrami has additional flavors added (see #3), and is then smoked. A smokehouse or smoking oven is used by most manufacturers (including us), but some may add artificial smoke and then water process their pastrami.

The room at UMD where navels and briskets are injected.









3. Different flavor profiles. Corned beef gets its flavor from whatever spices or flavors the maker puts into the brine. At UMD, our uniquely flavored brine is a guarded trade secret. Pastrami may have similar flavors in the brine, but then the maker of traditional US pastrami goes a step further by rubbing the outside of the meat with various seasonings – a “cocktail of spices”, according to Sy Ginsberg – before it is smoked. There may be regional differences to the flavor profile as well. New York City/east coast pastrami and corned beef often tastes very different than the type made in the midwest.

Compare this pastrami with the corned beef at the top of the page.



So what’s YOUR preference – corned beef or pastrami? Enjoy either today!

World Series Wager

By: Joan Ginsberg, United Meat & Deli marketing specialist






One of the best perks of selling corned beef and pastrami all over the country is the ability to form connections and relationships with deli owners and customers, or others who are interested in Jewish food.

One of those customers is Miller’s East Coast Deli, with two San Francisco-area locations.

So when the San Francisco Giants finally clinched the MLB National League pennant and became the World Series opponents of Sy Ginsberg’s beloved Detroit Tigers, Miller’s owner Robby Morgenstein couldn’t resist poking a little fun on our Facebook page:


Who can resist a challenge like that? The deal was clinched when Robby suggested that we donate to the community and make them the real winners.

Miller’s and UMD have agreed that the Series loser will make a donation to the Jewish charity of the winner’s choice. Robby and Miller’s have chosen The Jewish Home of San Francisco to receive a donation from UMD in the event the Giants beat the Tigers.

Of course, we have every faith that the Tigers will not disappoint their fans and supporters, and that Robby and Miller’s will be donating to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

But those Tigers better get crackin’ those bats – they are already down 2 games.

Stay tuned.

Mile End – A Deli Done Different

BY: Joan Ginsberg, United Meat & Deli marketing specialist

Imagine what it was like eating from a pushcart at the early part of the last century. The food wasn’t fancy or trendy, but it was all fresh and made by the vendor with local ingredients.

It was that type of food delivery system that Noah Bernamoff envisioned when he opened his Mile End Deli in Brooklyn, New York. Indeed, the pushcart analogy is his own.

Today’s foodie would say that Mile End is an artisanal deli, a word that by itself is so trendy and overused it doesn’t quite capture the eating experience that Noah and his partner Max Levine are aiming for.

Whatever you call it, Mile End delivers excellent deli food, focusing on Canadian specialties like smoked meat and poutine. Noah is a Montreal native.

Sy and I paid a visit to Mile End last week, to get a taste of the differences between smoked meat and the American alternative of pastrami.

Their menu is deliberately simple, to avoid those trendy things like special salads. Even though it’s New York, they don’t have grouchy deli men shouting at each other and the customers. They have smart and attentive waitstaff that couldn’t have been more pleasant.

It’s still a Jewish deli, so chicken matzo ball soup is in evidence.

Their signature item is a smoked meat sandwich, with red cabbage slaw and pickles as a perfect accompaniment.  Mile End has their own commissary where they cure their own meats, and make all of their breads and baked goods.

The sandwich was split between me and Sy, so there would be room for poutine.

Their hot dog was delicious! Sy had to be physically stopped in the middle of eating it long enough to get a picture.

It’s a shame that there are no pictures of their house-made mandelbrot (Jewish almond cookie) or rugelach, which were equally delicious, and are the type of Jewish deli item that is hard to find made in-house. Sy and I agreed that the mandelbrot was the best we had eaten. Ever.

We support delis like Mile End, even when they don’t buy or use our corned beef, salami, or pastrami, because they keep the Jewish food culture alive and well. Est gezunterhayt!


The Bread Basket Delis – Where Deli Is TRULY Done Right

We don’t want to imagine a world where a great corned beef sandwich or a hearty matzo ball soup is a wistful memory. Those words, delivered when we first started blogging, sum up our feelings about the demise of the traditional Jewish deli.

Our good friend David Sax documented that demise in his book Save the Deli. But he also discusses and recognizes that many traditional Jewish delis are still with us, even though their numbers have hugely dwindled in the past 50 years. David traveled North America and parts of Europe to discover and exalt places where you can still purchase excellent Jewish food in the traditional way.

But other eateries have abandoned the traditional Jewish deli format in order to keep the pots cooking and the matzo ball soup flowing. They have improvised and streamlined themselves into a different business model in order to exist, while still allowing the consumer to sample real Jewish deli fare.

You won’t find these delis recognized in the book, but they are an important part of the clamor by us and others to preserve Jewish food. We are going to use this blog to recognize these visionaries from time to time; here is the first.

Bread Basket Delis

In 1996, Alex Winkler had a plan. Having worked in the Detroit deli scene his entire adult life, he knew the traditional Jewish deli model was on a downturn. But he also felt that good deli food would triumph, if he changed the delivery model. So with his first Bread Basket Deli, spun off the original, traditional-style deli, he focused on changing 3 key things:

Reduced Menu Items – It seems to be a requirement of traditional Jewish deli that the menu offerings are many, and encompass a good chunk of the Jewish palate. Items like latkes, knish, and blintzes are usually mainstays. But Alex decided to reduce the menu to key sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts, lowering food and labor costs. You can still get a great corned beef sandwich at his stores, but not a latke.

Fast Casual Format – Walk in and order – then take away – from the counter.  There are plenty of places to sit if you want to stay, but no table service, creating cost savings without sacrificing food quality.

Inner Ring Location – Instead of following the suburban Detroit sprawl further and further outside of the city center, Alex chose to focus on the city and it’s inner suburbs. Rather than chasing affluence, he focuses on working class customers, who are highly responsive to the high quality but relative simplicity of a sandwich and soup menu.

It’s pretty clear that Alex is doing it right, having expanded his empire from that first location in 1996 to a local chain of 11 stores, all with the same successful format. We are pleased that he is a customer and sells our products, but we salute him here for doing so much to save the deli.