Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.
 

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz too. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.
 

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz.  (See you.)
 

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.
 

Stratton is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, the Times of Israel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. He won two Hopwood Awards.


 
 

FISHY

1.   JEWISH FORK-LORE

Musician Mickey Katz called chocolate phosphates “Jew beers.”   He drank them at Solomon’s on E. 105th Street.

I drank mine at Solomon’s at the Cedar Center shopping strip, where Solomon’s moved to.

For some Semitic semantic reason, goys occasionally called Cedar Center the Gaza Strip. Now it kind of is.  The north side of Cedar Center is concrete chunks and gravel heaps. A real estate developer knocked down the 1950s-era plaza and plans to redevelop.  Who knows when.

Solomon’s was my family’s deli of choice. My father, Toby, was a “deli Jew.”  In the Jewish world, that’s usually a putdown, meaning the person knows more about corned beef than Rashi.  Toby’s favorite food was a “good piece of rye bread.”

Toby, a phosphate fan, probably didn’t drink more than a dozen real beers his whole life.  He should have.  In his retirement, when he drank booze he smiled a lot more.  A bit shiker at one party, Toby teed off on a watermelon fruit bowl with a golf club. That stuck with me.  [Shiker is drunk.]

Toby grew up in a deli. His mother had a candy store/ deli at E. 118 Street and Kinsman Road. She sold it to her half-brother when he came over from the Old Country.  Something fishy about that deal — something involving the half-brother’s wife.   My grandmother went from candy store/deli owner to simply candy store owner.  Not a lateral move.

At the Gaza Strip, there was also Corky & Lenny’s. (Still around — four miles east.)   A couple small Jews hung out in the rear booth at Corky’s.  One was Harvey, who did collections for a major landlord.  (Major, to me, means more than 1,000 units.)  I knew Harvey from junior high.

He sued my mother.  My mother, for health reasons, moved from her Beachwood apartment after 27 years into an assisted living facility.  She had a couple months left on her lease.  Harvey, who represented the major landlord, went after her.  Harvey’s boss, by the way, loved my band.   So what.  My mother was collectable.

Freelance journalist David Sax just wrotea book about the decline of delis.  Here’s something for the second edition, David: Delis went downhill when they added TVs.  Now you have to watch the Browns while you eat.

I was deli-famous.  At Jack’s Delion Green Road, I had a thank-you note up in the entrance.   My letter was about the terrific tray for my firstborn’s bris.  Fatherhood was about buying huge quantities of smoked fish.  What a blast.  (I ordered the exact same tray for my daughter’s naming.)

I complimented Jack’s Deli on its fish, which my Aunt Bernice, The Maven, also liked.   I mentioned “The Maven’s seal of approval” in my letter.  Bernice work for a food broker and knew food.

My letter was up for a couple years.

(Acknowledgment to Henry Sapoznik for “fork-lore” in this story’s title.)

***

2.  ’DINES

The trend at mass-feed kiddushes (post-service temple chows) is toward Israeli foods: hummus, baba ganoush, Israeli salad.

When you privatize — and don’t invite the whole congregation — you typically add some fish.

All Jews like a good piece of fish: lox, smoked fish, herring, the occasional sardine.

My youngest son recently called  from Trader Joe’s in Ann Arbor, Mich., and said, “Don’t get excited, Dad, but do I want the sardines in oil or water?”

“Oil.”

I did get excited.  My college kid was finally getting into ’dines.

My mother had given me about eight cans of ’dines when I went off to college.  I ate them on Sunday evenings, when the dorm cafeteria was closed.  (This was back when sardine cans opened with a key, and the ’dines were Portuguese — not Moroccan like now.)  Surprisingly – to me at least – the guys in the dorm wouldn’t share my ’dines. Pizza time.

I liked all kinds of ’dines.  Even the monster-size sardines in tomato sauce were OK.  Bones, no bones . . .  no matter.  Cajun sauce, soya oil, olive oil, mustard sauce . . .  all good. Four ’dines in a can, two in a can . . . either way.

Anchovies?  Also, an excellent choice. Make sure you buy your anchovies in a bottle; they last longer than in cans.

Herring in wine sauce.   Beware.  Last month Heinen’s supermarket substituted Vita brand for Golden Herring.  That was lamentable.  Vita is too sugary.

At luncheons, the other Yiddishe Cup musicians don’t seem to appreciate the fish (i.e., the “dairy spread” in kosher parlance) as much as I do.  Yes, they like the lox.  Lox is apple pie.  But the other items (smoked fish excluded) get little play from the band.  You should see the mountains of herring left over.

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17 comments

1 Ari Davidow { 10.21.09 at 10:08 am }

I am pleased to note that none of the delis that we frequent near where I work in Brookline have TVs. That would be a horrible concept.

This is just as true for Zaftigs, the tourist deli that we take out-of- towners to, as it is of Michael’s deli, the hole in the wall where they serve even better food without the pretty atmosphere.

2 Shawn Fink { 10.21.09 at 10:22 am }

I think I can name Harvey’s boss but I won’t.

3 bill jones { 10.21.09 at 10:48 am }

Don’t know what Sax’s premise is in regard to delis, let alone “Jewish” food stuffs in general, but surely assimilation — whether TV or iPhone, into American food ways — is the principal factor.

As for what shows up on kiddush tables, that is more congregational-specific. The more traditional/observant the shul, the less likely Israeli, and the more likely European foodstuffs.

The lower cost of Israeli foodstuffs, of course, makes their inroads more likely, as does one’s model of Jewishness in recent decades: less shteibl, more state.

4 David Budin { 10.21.09 at 10:51 am }

Hey — you know, Budin’s Delicatessen was famous for its chocolate phosphates, too. Budin’s started out on 105th Street, then they were on Coventry in the ’30s, and then at Chagrin (which was still called Kinsman when they opened there) and Avalon from the ’40s to the ’70s.

I still eat sardines — usually on a sandwich with tomato. I think I’m the only one who buys them at Zagara’s; the cans are always kind of dusty.

5 Harvey { 10.21.09 at 11:05 am }

I’m not “Harvey.” Really.

But if I was, here’s what I might respond: Sorry, but if we let every kindly, elderly person slide on the rent, the whole system will collapse. Including the delis.

Actually, I meet so few other people named Harvey, I just feel compelled to spring to their defense.

6 Bert { 10.21.09 at 11:06 am }

To David Budin:

My father, Toby, sold corned beef on the beach at Cedar Point for the Budins one summer.

That is Knute Rockne-esque family lore. True too.

My dad’s cousin, I believe, was Mildred “Millie” Budin.

7 David Budin { 10.21.09 at 11:11 am }

Yes. Mildred was married to Leo, a son of the the couple who started Budin’s Delicatessen. Their other son, Danny, took over and ran it from the late ’40s until the early ’70s.

When I was a kid and listening to Cleveland Indians games on the radio, I would sometimes hear Jimmy Dudley point out Danny Budin in the crowd. Danny played golf with the Indians players and would bring two golf bags — one with his clubs and one filled with corned beef sandwiches.

8 Jane Lassar { 10.21.09 at 11:21 am }

Guess I’m a deli Jew. I too love chocolate phosphates, pickled herring, and ‘dines.

Did you know that sardines are one of the healthiest foods for getting your omega-3’s and ultimately reducing cholesterol? Eat ’em with the bones and they’re doubly healthy.

MMMMMMM. I know what I’m having for lunch today!

9 Irwin Weinberger { 10.21.09 at 12:51 pm }

Great blog about deli food. Really gets my taste buds going!!

Delis do get a bad rap when it comes to cholesterol, but once in a while I let it slide and go for the king-sized corned beef on rye.

I do love other ethnic foods; however, Jewish food is in my blood.

By the way, I never turned down smoked fish or herring at a bar mitzvah. That would go against my religion.

10 kirk { 10.21.09 at 8:17 pm }

Thanks for those memories. I haven’t lived in the Cleveland eastern suburbs since 1969, but that brought back some thoughts: I always wondered about the “Gaza Strip” reference; it seemed off the mark unless the South Euclid crowd were somehow considered refugees – but from Cleveland?

Other random thought: grilled onions and Mawby’s hamburgers.

Television screens are everywhere. Now you have no choice but to listen to television in doctors’ offices, at airport gates and, worst of all, restaurants.

Enough with the ranting.

-kirkout

11 Kenny G { 10.21.09 at 8:19 pm }

I was just saying the other day, when I found out how early C & L’s and Jack’s now close on a Sat. night, that there’s simply a lot less interest in this sort of establishment than there was for many decades.

Even when I came here in 1973, there was Solomon’s, Maxon’s, Sol’s (or Paul’s, or whatever it was called then), Sand’s, Irv’s, and several downtown.

C & L used to be very busy at 1 a.m. on a Sat. nite when I used to go to get a Sun. PD early…. Parking lot busy.

To me it all goes along with the big Catskill resorts – the Concord, Grossinger’s, Paramount, Sovereign, Raleigh, Fleischmann’s, etc., and Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau and Eden Roc, etc. These still there but not kosher except for Passover, etc. Some good books on these….

Anyway, a whole way of life greatly diminished. People used to stay in the delis late every evening. A whole culture…. I know some cities have some but…. People simply got more interested in more types of restaurants, besides more interest in more things and now with them computers….

Jack’s is one of my very favorite restaurants, despite all the other types we go to. And we don’t even get the meat.

At least Park Synagogue generally has tuna salad with its “extendeds,” but no — not the same.

Never liked herring of any sort til one time I went to Youngstown around ’74 and went to whatever I could that was Jewish there. Got the herring in a deli place – felt it was sort of a “Jewish thing,” and it’s about time I tried to like it….

Yes, nothing like a good, fresh, crusty rye.

The phrases I’d hear, since our adult advisor used them in my high school U.S.Y. newsletter, were “bagel and lox Jew” or “gastronomical Jew”….

12 Robin { 10.22.09 at 12:25 am }

Never heard them referred to before as ‘dines!!

No one would sit with my sister & me at lunch on the days mom packed a sandwich of ‘dines! I always liked ’em, but chose NOT to eat them at school!

13 Lucy { 10.22.09 at 12:47 pm }

There are no good delis in Chicago. Maybe there are 3 or 4, but nowhere near me.

Luckily i’m going to NYC next week and will get one of these:
http://online.recordnet.com/blogs/blogimages/Sandwich.jpg

14 Kenny G { 10.22.09 at 3:26 pm }

The ultimate delis are the ones that are also strictly kosher. We have none here now.

I don’t get the meat in the others (non-kosher delis),but really like the dairy stuff.

Rochester had one that served meat and dairy, but not with the same order, which was always approved by the city’s kashruth committee.

Then the original owner’s son decided to go the non-kosher route, to my parents’ great unhappiness, as this had been the only full-menu Rochester restaurant they had been going to for a number of years. (My mother had gotten stricter and stricter.) And they would take us there when in town.

Anyway, the place went right downhill after that, such as closing in the afternoon.

Shame on him!

My parents always said: “This was the only one; there are so many other restaurants in the area….”


Used to hear Cedar Center called “Little Tel Aviv.”

15 Ted { 10.22.09 at 6:03 pm }

I’ve discovered I can get a pretty good hot pastrami at Motor City Casino in Detroit. They usually give it to me for free after I’m finished donating to the local poker players.

I heard Sax mention some other deli in Detroit — have to find out what that is.

He also said black people are really into corned beef as well. I thought that was an interesting parallel to draw. (Not sure about pastrami though.)

Kenny G., we are anxiously awaiting your own blog…

16 Howard Zuckerman { 11.01.09 at 7:26 pm }

I have to have my pickles at Corky & Lenny’s when I come back to Cleveland. Also ship corn beef to my father from Jack’s. Just can’t get the type of corn beef he likes in Atlanta.

17 Linda berdayes { 01.22.10 at 1:01 am }

I spent a lot of my youth at Corky’s, Solomon’s, and Jack’s. I was a waitress at Mawby’s at Cedar Center. Those were sweet times. I remember that great deli case filled with fish, etc., in Corky’s when you entered the door. And I’ll never forget Davis Bakery coconut bars.

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