Of course, "deli" also conjures up that mouth-watering aroma of full sour garlic pickles and juicy corned beef and pastrami. Ah, but for the delicatessens of yore! Gone but not forgotten, the Jewish delicatessen is buried even more deeply in the city's history than the newly vanishing Korean deli. And right here — mid-block on the west side of Broadway between West 103rd and 104th Streets — time superimposed them, like an archaeological site attesting to the changing eras of immigration.
Recent work has unveiled a handsome telltale of a bygone era: a sign for Hudes Delicatessen Sandwich Shop. This deli sat in that exact same spot from the late 1930s into the 50s, according to Manhattan Mark, a commenter on the West Side Rag where a blog post and some photos caught my eye. Mark says that the Hudes family later took over the famous Carnegie Deli, 50 blocks south. The Carnegie is holding on in name and in nature thanks to the tourists, but it is not what I'd call a local joint anymore. The Hudes' uptown locale, with its warm, welcoming owners, is remembered as the quintessence of a mom-and-pop shop, the likes of which are fewer and further between these days.
Of course, the Korean deli is also a uniquely New York phenomenon. An all-service spot, these delis were a mainstay of many an avenue, particularly where grocery stores were scarce or non-existent. The picture of efficiency, the stores' virtue was getting you in and out in a New York minute. When did New Yorkers come to terms with those gargantuan lines at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods? This is not the New York I know!
Remembering, for example, the East Village in the days before Whole Foods, I can still see the Korean deli south of East 7th Street. It was an oasis in the otherwise hostile landscape of Avenue A, offering up fresh fruits and veggies, an occasional fix for a late night snack attack, and that beloved old Saturday night must: six-inch thick Sunday Times hot off the press. Maybe we should have known something was up when the delis stopped carrying the newspaper. I can't even remember the last time I saw -- never mind bought -- a Sunday Times on Saturday. But I digress.
Deli retrenchment is, sadly, alive and well in these parts with booming retail rents and mega-food stores. And our little strip of Broadway has taken the hit. But, as awnings come down, history is sometimes revealed. And the plate tectonics of Broadway fold era into era. Nostalgia for delicatessens begets nostalgia for delis. And somehow there is poetry in all of this loss and renewal.
By Caitlin Hawke
P.S. Aangan? It used to be Hanscom's bakery...but that is another story.
P.P.S. The NYPL has some great Jewish deli ephemera here; totally worth checking out if only to see matches made to look like hot dogs.
h/t Avi at the West Side Rag where you can read more.
Photos courtesy of Avi at the West Side Rag and his tipsters Stephen, Clifford & Claudia