If the owners of an old-fashioned New York delicatessen had gone to, say, the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, they might have come up with something like the Brooklyn Deli.
In a glittering setting in the heart of Times Square, the newest iteration of this old-fashioned/modern eating joint has just opened, and it takes us back to when this type of restaurant was ubiquitous in the city.
At one time, back in the 1930s, there were more than 1,000 of these restaurants serving hot dogs, pastrami, corned beef, knishes, and chicken soup. It was traditional Jewish fare, and every neighborhood had one within walking distance. But over time, as people from the Old Country segued into an American way of life, and food habits changed, the so-called New York deli all but disappeared.
But now, good news for visitors and locals: the Fireman Group, a collection of restaurants with tasty foods across all spectrums, has opened a second Brooklyn Deli in Manhattan. It’s in, fittingly, the old Paramount Building at 1501 Broadway, on the corner of West 43d Street. The Paramount was a New York icon with its stage shows and movie premieres in the heart of the theater district.
The new 130-seat restaurant features a New York treasure—the Reuben, a mega-sandwich composed of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing, grilled between slices of rye bread. The Brooklyn Deli has named its version of that sandwich the Willy Loman Reuben, a nod to the lead character in the Broadway classic Death of a Salesman. Its current star is Wendell Pierce.
But we’ve also gone beyond, way beyond, the simple array of the classic New York deli dishes. Starting Dec. 6, Brooklyn Deli also presents an assortment of breakfast foods (You may not want a pastrami sandwich to start your day). So you can have eggs of all sorts, in combinations you never imagined—even oatmeal. The restaurant will be open six days a week (closed Mondays) starting at 8 A.M. until 8 P.M. Until Dec. 6, it’s from noon to 7 P.M.
And what else can you look forward to? This isn’t your grandmother’s deli, remember.
So there’s an assortment of pizza. There’s chili soup. How about a fried chicken sandwich. Burgers? Salads of all sorts, from Caesar to Brussels sprouts. Oh, and how could I forget: frankfurters.
It’s all part of the Fireman Hospitality Group, that ubiquitous collection of restaurants owned by a fellow named Shelly Fireman. He not only runs another Brooklyn Deli (at 200 West 57th Street), but also such noted and New Yorkey places as Fiorello, overlooking Lincoln Center, and the Brooklyn Diner (155 West 43d Street and 212 West 57th Street).
We’ll never see a thousand old-fashioned New York delis again. But you can see—and taste—what the fuss was all about by slipping into a chair and relaxing with a cream soda and hot dog (hold the sauerkraut, for me). Or the more sophisticated Reuben. Or, quite simply, whatever your heart desires.