Along with Dell, the younger deli scene includes Rae Cohen, 26, and her husband, Noah Bernamoff, 28 — owners of Mile End Delicatessen, an artisan deli in Brooklyn. Inspired by the foods they grew up eating, Cohen and Bernamoff had a goal to return to the way deli foods were made 100 years ago.
“We take pride in everything in our kitchen being homemade,” Cohen says. “We pickle our own cold sour cucumbers, bake all our own breads and onion rolls; we even make our own hot dogs.”
Sax commends Cohen and Bernamoff for returning to the roots of delicatessen, and he praises their end result. “I love it,” he says. “They are part of a growing movement of successful artisan delis where things are being done based on the old traditions, using recipes that are 100 years old or more. Making things from scratch, curing their own meats and pickles; people really relate to the authenticity of it.”
But Cohen and Bernamoff are taking deli food a step further by presenting traditional Jewish-style home cooking with a contemporary twist. For instance, Mile End offers traditional kasha varnishkes made out of buckwheat, bowtie noodles, mushrooms and caramelized onions but served with gizzards confit slow-cooked in chicken fat.
“It’s incredible the range of customers we get,” Cohen says. “People recognize that we take great care in crafting what we sell.” But despite the culinary innovations, Cohen says the most popular item Mile End sells is their smoked-meat sandwich — the traditional brisket on rye with mustard.
It seems that even in the changing world of the deli, some things are destined to stay the same.