Jewish Delis with a Pedigree
Traveling for a Great Sandwich
The outlook is gloomy…the traditionalJewish deli may very well be going the way of the jitterbug. With East Lombard Street’s Corned Beef Row now mostly a distant memory, Baltimoreans have been mourning for many years the loss of mile-high, hot pastrami sandwiches on rye, slung by counter jockeys with a language all their own.
For 33-year-old photographer and Mt. Washington resident Shawn Levin, a good kosher-style deli brings back memories of his grandfather. Growing up in Baltimore, weekend chores were rewarded with a trip to Attman’s or Jack’s. “It was a treat,” he remembers. “Instead of a lollipop, I got a corned beef sandwich.”
Levin’s grandfather knew everyone at Attman’s. “He would walk in and be like a regular.” Each person was there for the same things — community and a lunch like no other. “They’d fill the sandwiches so high, it was like dinner,” Levin remembers. “You couldn’t even get your mouth around it.”
Like many his age, Levin wasn’t around for the glory days of Corned Beef Row, but he grew up with his parents’ memories of when the downtown delis were in their prime. Their descriptions of a bustling street crammed with produce stands and chicken cages were so vivid that Levin almost imagines he was there. “Now it sort of feels like a ghost town of what it was,” he says.
Yes, it is much harder to find a traditional Jewish deli these days. But even without an entire street smelling of smoked fish and sauerkraut, several vestiges of good kosher-style lunches remain. And if you’re willing to head up the coast, Philly and New York City offer a few more.
Walk through the door, or spend some time waiting with a couple of dozen other hungry folks, and you’ll feel like part of a past era. Sink your teeth into a huge sandwich or crisp dill pickle and you’ll feel like you’re at home.
Attman’s Authentic New York Delicatessen
1019 E. Lombard Street
If you’re looking for a great corned beef sandwich with a side of nostalgia, head downtown to Attman’s Deli. But get there early or be prepared to stand in line. One of the last delis standing in Baltimore’s famed Corned Beef Row, Attman’s is jam-packed on Saturday afternoons and during lunch hour on weekdays, with lines snaking outside the small shop and sometimes down the block. Since 1915, three generations of the Attman family have kept downtown Baltimore in beef tongue, chopped liver and pastrami sandwiches. Kettles of corned beef are cooked all day, every day, so bring your appetite.
4309 Locust Street
Just outside the University of Pennsylvania campus, Koch’s Deli has been serving up sandwiches since 1966. On any day of the week, the tiny, take-out-only shop is crammed with college students, and lines form outside, underneath a dark green awning that shades a white aluminum screen door. The long wait might seem interminable, but don’t bring a book to pass the time. Friends are made waiting for a Koch’s lunch and employees give away pickles, meat and cheese slices to stave off the hunger and pass the time. Philly natives will tell you; the sandwiches are worth the long lines and steeper-than-expected prices.
205 E. Houston Street
Lower East Side of New York City
The epitome of the New York Jewish deli, Katz’s has been offering hand-sliced corned beef and pastrami since 1888. Celebrities, tourists and locals alike enjoy the friendly atmosphere, pastrami sandwiches and hot dogs. During World War II, the deli encouraged parents to “send a salami to your boy in the Army,” and even today, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan receive care packages from the deli. It’s the site of several movie settings, including Meg Ryan’s famous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene from “When Harry Met Sally,” but Katz’s real draw is the food…corned beef piled high on rye bread, with a pickle on the side.
Attman’s Bread Pudding
1 1/2 lbs (1 1/2 loaves) egg bread, cubed
4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 quart half-and-half
2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 stick butter, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 16-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.
4. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until golden. Serve it warm or cold as a side dish or entrée.
Serves 14 to 16
Originally published in “America’s Great Delis: Recipes and Traditions from Coast to Coast” (Collectors Press, 2005) by Sheryll Bellman and featured on http://www.attmansdeli.com.