Just when we thought 2017 had slunk off for good — let’s face it, the year stunk in myriad ways — word arrived about the closing of Caplansky’s, a nouveau-deli pioneer and beloved Toronto hangout. In a Facebook post, owner Zane Caplansky said that the eatery never recovered from a 2016 landlord-tenant spat that temporarily shuttered the restaurant. Two satellite locations remain open. “Moving forward, I hope to grow the franchises and wholesale aspects of the business,” Caplansky told the Forward.
The news got us thinking about other newly departed Jewish eateries. While it’s no secret that some have been hanging on by their kishkes, this year saw an especially sad spate of deli deaths.
All is not lost, though; we’re seeing green shoots in the form of nouveau delis from ambitious young owners with intriguing plans — and menus.
With that in mind, here are 9 of the year’s most depressing Jewish-deli demises from around the country — and five planned 2018 openings that already have us salivating.
1) Carnegie Deli, New York City
Yes, it was tourist-swarmed, and yes, it barely felt Jewish. But losing this Manhattan institution on New Year’s 2017 still felt like a family loss.
2) Suburban House, Baltimore
No Hanukkah miracle for this Jewish-Baltimore mainstay, which served its last matzo-ball soup on December 22 after 60 years.
3) Artie’s Deli, New York City
One of the few places on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for chopped liver and pastrami, this deli tanked in April after a rocky 18 years; its owners had filed for bankruptcy in 2016.
4) Shorty Goldstein’s, San Francisco
Michael Siegel’s diminutive deli was a lone outpost of Jewish eats in SF’s Financial District; Siegel blamed an “unsustainable” business environment. At least one critic may not bemoan the deli’s passing, though.
5) Canter’s Deli, Los Angeles
Canter’s closing wasn’t permanent. But the fact that it was forced to shutter temporarily for health violations is just as tragic. “We won’t let it happen again,” co-owner Dena Stein told the L.A. Times.
6) Deli Sokolow, Montreal
As we reported in February, there were so many red flags at the home of the original latke poutine that you could have knit a blanket. Turns out that Shayne Gryn allegedly stiffed staff for thousands in wages when he shuttered in January.
7) Morty’s Kosher Style Delicatessen, Poughkeepsie, New York
Even with a Katz’s-style ordering line and haimish menu, Poughkeepsie’s only Jewish deli lasted just a year before slicing its last homemade pastrami in September.
8) Rappy’s, Palm Beach, Florida
Why did Burt Rapoport’s “dream” Jewish deli close in May after just five months? He’s not saying, but Park Place Deli — which replaced Rappy’s, and which Rapoport still helps run — seems to have a lot less character.
9)Steve’s Deli, Owings Mills, Maryland
Brown-papered windows and locked doors are not a good look for a Jewish deli. But that’s what greeted regulars at this Jewish Baltimore “mainstay” early last year. Considerate owner Steve Saval reportedly texted employees the same day, advising them to find work elsewhere.
But all’s not lost. Here are five openings we’re salivating over:
1) Rye Society, Denver
Speaking of Carnegie Deli, its wholesale pastrami will surface at this much-anticipated deli in Denver’s hot RiNo ‘hood from onetime Danny Meyer cohort Jerrod Rosen and chef Ryan Leinonen, a Per Se alum. A spring opening’s expected. They “are at the mercy of the health department and the city at the moment,” said a spokesperson.
2) Call Your Mother, Washington, D.C.
Look out, Black Seed. The team behind D.C.’s Timber Pizza, Bon Appetit’s Pizzeria of the Year, is concocting its own Montreal/New York-hybrid, wood-fired bagels to star at a ”Jewish-inspired” deli set to open this spring in the Park View neighborhood. Also on tap: House-baked rye, homemade cream cheese and “traditional Jewish comfort food.”
3) Schmaltzy’s Deli, Seattle
We’ve waxed rhapsodic about pressed latke sandwiches from Jonny Silverberg’s Napkin Friends food truck. Now, [word is out about his Jewish deli, set to open on an unconfirmed date at an undisclosed location with a yet-to-be-revealed menu. Can’t wait!
4) Solomon’s, Sacramento, California
After a gestation period that could have produced a family of hippos, this retro-cool deli plans a spring opening.
5) Heirloom Deli, Orlando, Florida
Anticipation’s high for this vegan deli from chef Mary Mattern, who’s been a personal chef to actor Jeremy Piven, actress Emily Deschanel, musician Travis Barker and singer Ellie Goulding. Heirloom’s reportedly inspired by Mattern’s childhood eating at Jewish delis in Suffern, New York.
Michael Kaminer is a contributing editor at the Forward.