With Hanukkah just around the corner, Wise Sons owner Evan Bloom shares some spots where you can experience the Jewish food renaissance.
I was fortunate to travel a lot growing up, which meant observing holidays like Hanukkah or Passover in a foreign city. My father might drag us to the local Jewish Community Center for a mediocre latke potluck in Sydney, or a synagogue in Budapest for Passover Seder.
For travelers looking for a good, comforting nosh, the times have changed. Young chefs are paying homage to the foods and culture of their Jewish heritage while still being firmly rooted in the food culture of today. Jewish deli has become a bit of a phenomenon recently, with a new generation of places opening up across the globe celebrating culture, quality, and comfort. Born in New York and Montreal out of a mash-up of Jewish immigrant food traditions, here are the places that put their own local spin on it.
1. General Muir
Atlanta isn’t the first place you think of for Jewish food, but the General Muir is quickly changing that. Named after the immigrant steamship that carried the owner’s family to the states, you’ll find a menu loaded with deli delights, freshly baked bagels, and more contemporary fare like a harissa short rib with spaghetti squash, smoked tomato compote, charred leeks, and pumpkin seeds.
2. Mile End
New York, New York
At the forefront of the Jewish food trend, Mile End pays homage to its roots with a hip menu of Montreal-style smoked meat, poutine, and wood-fired bagels from its sister shop, Black Seed, alongside a trendy Brooklyn menu of smoked duck grilled cheese and marinated sunchokes.
Step into the brand-new Mamaleh’s and you’ll get that nostalgic deli feeling right away—a long, stool-lined counter, black and white tiles, and a gift nook filled with tchotchkes, memorabilia, and snacks. In a city surprisingly lacking in good Jewish food, Mamaleh’s is leading the revolution as one of many new spots opening up. Don’t miss the “Jewish Pupu Platter,” a sampler that includes chopped liver, schmaltz on toast, potato knish, pastrami knish, pickles, and kreplach.
4. Federal Delicatessen
Auckland, New Zealand
Bringing deli down under, the menu of this spot riffs on pastrami in a few playful ways like a New England–style pastrami and mussel chowder, or pastrami and pea croquette with habanero mayo. You’ll encounter all of the deli standards as well, with a long list of bagel sandwiches, a reuben, and matzo ball soup made with bagel dumplings. Wash it all down with a Dr. Brown’s black cherry cocktail.
5. Arthur’s Nosh Bar
In a city rich with Jewish history, Arthur’s is the first of the new deli vanguard. The timeless penny-tiled space is flanked with leather booths, bistro chairs, and white marble tables. You won’t find any pastrami on rye here, as it takes cues from appetizing shops like Russ & Daughters, turning out a made-for-Instagram menu focusing on smoked fish, salads, and soup.
Take a step into the past at this delicatessen, located in a cavernous former Jewish girls’ school. Mogg & Meltzer is a cool, modern evocation of a 1930s deli. Opened because the owners couldn’t satisfy their pastrami cravings, satisfy yours with a hulking reuben, or opt for the brûléed chicken liver mousse.
Cape Town, South Africa
Opened by two brothers, Kleinsky’s is a family business bringing homemade deli fare to a city that’s craved it for years. Its take on a Benedict comes on two latkes, slathered with hollandaise. The pastrami is smoked in-house. This sleek spot has a beautiful wood counter with a full espresso bar for all-day dining, as well as walls that double as a local art gallery.
8. The Good Egg
In quaint North London, this casual neighborhood café plays to both New York deli and Mediterranean Jewish culinary tradition. It’s a small spot where pickle jars and produce fill the shelves on the white brick walls and crowds pack themselves in tight. Shakshuka, Israeli baked eggs in spicy tomato sauce, coexist on a menu with pastrami sandwiches and a vibrant selection of pickled vegetables.
9. Merguez & Pastrami
In a true reflection of the diversity that is Paris Jewry, this spot is mixing old-fashioned Jewish deli classics with the foods of the owner’s North African heritage. Located in the hip Barbès district, it offers brunch with the eponymous pastrami and merguez sandwiches, as well as a falafel on freshly baked pita, challah French toast, and cheesecake.
10. Wise Sons
San Francisco, California
Serving Jewish comfort food since 2012 from multiple locations in San Francisco, our pastrami is smoked over real hickory and bagels are boiled and baked fresh daily. [AFAR editor’s note: Former New Yorkers love getting their bagel fix at Wise Sons Bagel & Bakery—they’re far superior to most of the city’s iterations.]
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