(Non) Traditional Jewish Deli: DGS in DC!

Ever since DGS Delicatessen opened its doors in Washington, DC last year, I’ve been following their reinvented Jewish dishes and praising press with interest. I was thrilled to have a chance to speak with Chef Barry Koslow this week about his inspiration and vision for the modern, Jewish deli.

DGS bagel
Chef Barry actually started his culinary career working in upscale French restaurants, and had always dreamed about opening a French bistro. As a Jewish guy who grew up in the DC area he realized he had a strike against him: he wasn’t French.

I love that when Barry and his partners began exploring the idea of opening a deli, they wanted to do things differently, set themselves apart from the traditional North American Jewish deli that was dying off. They asked themselves: What should change about Jewish cuisine?

When you glance at DGS’ everyday menu and even their special Passover menu you can see very clearly what Barry is doing differently for Jewish cuisine: the traditional, American-Ashkenazi dishes so many of us grew up with are there, but with exciting, modern twists. For example, their lamb merguez knishes are a unique Sephardi-Ashkenazi hybrid packing a flavor punch.

The signature of DGS is their renowned Pastrami Sandwich, which starts with great rye bread. The pastrami takes 8 days to make with a signature spice blend that is ground by hand, smoked for 6 hours, steamed for 4 hours and then sliced by hand.

Joshua Cogan Joshua Cogan
Chef Barry prefers to serve the matzah balls, made with duck fat (yum..my favorite) as unadulterated as possible: no noodles, no chunks of chicken, just perfect broth and the balls.

What’s up next for DGS? They plan to serve up a GLT this summer: gribenes, lettuce and tomato sandwich. My mouth is already watering….!

Chef Barry also explained that some people have struggled with their versions of Jewish classics, and most others are delighted by the opportunity to visit their Jewish food memories through DGS’ unique versions. Barry shared,

“…people have nostalgia for delicatessen, and we make people rethink this. What we do sparks a lot of debate, but the majority of the people love it. But I think the conversation is important – people need to talk about how it was, and look how we are doing things different.”

When food is not just food, but a connection to heritage and part of a larger conversation about Jewish community and people? Well, then they must be doing something right!

DGS Delicatessen is open 7 days a week, serves lunch, happy hour and dinner during the week, as well as brunch on the weekends. They will offer their Passover menu from March 25th – 31st.

DGS Delicatessen, 1317 Connecticut Avenue, 202.293.4400.

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