Berlin's Jewish Comeback

Culinary Treats in Germany's Creative Capital

Nouveau Deli: Disc jockeys Paul Mogg, left, and Steve Melzer are the owners of Berlin’s Mogg & Melzer.
Steve Herud
Nouveau Deli: Disc jockeys Paul Mogg, left, and Steve Melzer are the owners of Berlin’s Mogg & Melzer.

By Leah Koenig

Published November 14, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

This past May, a Jewish delicatessen opened in Mitte, Berlin’s central (and rather trendy) district. Founded by two disc jockeys in their 30s, Oskar Melzer (who is Jewish) and Paul Mogg (who is not), and serving up house-cured pastrami, chicken liver brulée, challah and matzo ball soup in a sleekly designed space, Mogg & Melzer Delicatessen is the most recent example of the nouveau deli movement. And, even more so than at its North American contemporaries — like Mile End in New York City and Caplansky’s in Toronto — sampling the half-sours and creamy coleslaw at Mogg & Melzer feels distinctly historic.

Before World War II, Mitte was home to many of the city’s 160,000 Jews. It had several synagogues, community centers and day schools. Mogg & Melzer itself is located in a building that housed a Jewish girls’ school until 1942, when it was shuttered under Hitler’s regime. The building was returned to Berlin’s Jewish community in 2009 and has since been transformed into a multistory space dedicated to art and food both Jewish and otherwise. Thanks to Melzer, who grew up in Munich but discovered pastrami while visiting New York on his bar mitzvah trip, the homey scents of brine and spice now fill the hallways. “My favorite customers are people who come to see where their grandmothers went to school,” he said.

Mogg & Melzer is part of a larger resurgence of Jewish culture and cuisine that has emerged in Berlin in the past half-decade. In the same building, caterer and hotelier Michael Zehden serves elegant, kosher Sabbath dinners in a converted classroom. And the fragrant rye bread sandwiching Mogg & Melzer’s Reuben is baked at Barcomi’s — a bakery founded by Seattle native Cynthia Barcomi, who moved to Berlin in 1985 after graduating from New York City’s Columbia University. First opened in the mid-1990s, Barcomi’s is also credited with helping to introduce New York-style bagels and cheesecake to Berlin via two airy cafe locations. Slathered with cream cheese and draped with delicate smoked salmon, the chewy sesame bagels are particularly convincing. A few blocks away from the Jewish girls’ school, Ehud “Udi” Cohen, an Israeli who once lived next to Katz’s Deli in New York City, runs Ruben Carla, a meat-centric restaurant that opened early in 2012 and serves pastrami sandwiches during the day and tagliata, Italian-style roast beef, at night. “Many of my customers are artists and world travelers who have experienced the New York pastrami fetish,” Cohen said. His second eatery, Luigi Zuckermann, which opened in 2009, similarly combines Italian cold cuts (“I spent a lot of time in Italy, and fell in love with the food,” he explained) with Jewish deli meats like roast beef and pastrami.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.