Fleishik's Raises the Question — Is a Deli a Deli If it Doesn't Serve Rye Bread?
Katie McGehee, Socially You
Fleishik's Sandwiches, Nosh and Whiskey opened this week to utter madness, with lines of people eager for kosher sandwiches forming out the door. It's so crazy that the owners are actually reducing the hours of operation until April, hoping that gives them enough time to adjust to the Beatlemania-like reaction to crispy salami with fried pickles, rotisserie lamb, chicken schnitzel and pastrami with onion rings, popular choices among the sandwich options that come on challah, white, wheat or gluten-free bread.
No, I didn't omit anything listed on the menu. This deli doesn't have rye bread.
As of press time, chef Eric Greenspan hadn't responded to the question "why on earth not?" but he will have to at some point. Though he may not consider his restaurant a deli, it is a kosher (not just kosher-style but entirely and authentically, rabbi-approved kosher) restaurant in the Fairfax neighborhood with a menu composed mostly of sandwiches. (It also has, in a delightful twist, a full bar.)
There has been some talk in the food world about the revival of the Jewish deli — Los Angeles County used to have dozens of quality delis serving pastrami on rye and egg creams, but their number has decreased over the years, leaving just a few stalwarts like Brent's, Canter's and Langer's, places whose front doors are portals to the past.
But unlike Wexler's, the two-location kosher-style deli that opened a few years ago, first at Grand Central Market, with a small menu of sandwiches on rye and eggs on bagels, Fleishik's isn't focusing on perfecting beloved dishes from our collective childhoods. Rather, it's creating new foods based on older ideas: The BFLT is fried beef with deviled egg salad; the Bubbe is brisket with arugula, crispy onions, beet horseradish and gribenes (crispy chicken skin). You see the Jewish deli roots, but it is a new twist. As is the egg cream made with almond milk.
There is, of course, a lot of online shouting about the sandwich mashups, and the lack of rye bread. (Full disclosure: I too think the rye omission is a damn shame.) But it's not often that a restaurant has to reduce its hours due to too much success. Maybe this is L.A.'s latest culinary gift to the world.
Update! Eric Greenspan has responded to the rye controversy:
"Agreed. A deli is not a deli if there isn't rye bread. And that was initially the point. The fact that we are doing something new is exactly why I omitted the rye bread. It's not the deli of your childhood but a sandwich shop that displays the beauty of Jewish food in more depth than meat on rye. But if everyone wants rye, then rye it is. Give me time to find a kosher source."
Well, that seems reasonable.
7563 Beverly Blvd., Fairfax. (323) 746-5750, fleishiks.com.
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