New Jewish delis have been spreading the gospel of pastrami, matzah ball soup, and hand-rolled bagels from coast to coast in recent years. Denver had an explosion of new Jewish and Israeli food options arrive in late 2018 and early 2019. And now it looks like Seattle and Portland are experiencing the next wave of the deli boom.
What is unique about the restaurants opening in the Pacific Northwest is that several of the menus focus heavily on traditional Eastern European comfort foods.
Sonya Sanford, a TV producer turned food stylist and recipe tester (and Nosher contributor!), wants to change the Jewish food available in Portland with her first restaurant endeavor, Beetroot Market & Deli, set to open later this summer. Sanford, whose Ukrainian immigrant parents inspire her cooking and connection to Jewish food, has cultivated a unique menu featuring iconic deli staples like cured gravlax, kugel, and matzah ball soup. But she will also be featuring Eastern European classics like Russian meatballs and many veggie-forward dishes featuring locally sourced ingredients.
Kenny & Zukes isn’t a new addition to the Portland food scene, but they are contributing a lot with two different locations in Portland: a deli located in downtown Portland, and a bagel cafe in the Northwest part of the city. Kenny and Zukes has even been featured on the Food Network show Top 5 Restaurants for its pastrami sandwich on rye. Doesn’t get more classic than that, though their menu is pretty expansive, with everything from Jewish deli staples, all-day breakfast offerings, burgers, and even salads.
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Dacha Diner is anything but your average Jewish deli menu. Sure, they have latkes served with applesauce and sour cream, Reuben sandwiches, and brisket served with heaps of mashed potatoes. But they are also serving some lesser known but super beloved Russian and Georgian dishes like shuba, or herring in an overcoat, which is a layered salad consisting of beets, chopped egg, potato, and, of course, herring; a rich, tangy borscht soup; and even the ultimate cheesy indulgence, khatchapuri. The Russian menu is very much inspired by the varied experiences and family backgrounds of co-owners Tora B. Hennessy, her husband Tom Siegel, and their business partner Joe Heffernan.
Dingfelder’s Deli opened in phases beginning in fall 2018, starting with just a few sandwich offerings but quickly expanding their menu due to such high demand. Turns out Seattle was truly hungry for deli. Their expanded restaurant and menu in the Capitol Hill neighborhood offers a very classic menu of pastrami, corned beef, chopped liver, whitefish salad, and a daily selection of soups like split pea, mushroom barley, and of course, matzah ball.
After a long-awaited opening, Zylberschtein’s Deli and Bakery (dare you to spell that without googling) opened in early May 2019. The deli is the second restaurant endeavor from Josh Grunig, who gained a following with his first business, Standard Bakery. The deli features homemade corned beef, Northwestern-sourced lox, matzah ball soup, and some Eastern European-inspired dishes like Russian potato salad and purple barley salad. “This is what I have always dreamt about, building community through food,” Grunig shared with Eater Seattle earlier this spring.