The Jewish deli tradition is alive and well in Los Angeles, as everyone knows. New-school contenders like Wexler’s have driven the deli conversation into the 21st century, while stalwarts like Langer’s and Canter’s continue to keep up traditions.
Hip kid food publication Lucky Peach sat down with Marc Canter of the famed Fairfax destination Canter’s Deli to discuss the current state of Jewish delis and the little-seen kreplach, a sort of Jewish ravioli found on the menu there.
Here are five of the most intriguing lines:
Did you know Fairfax isn’t the original Canter’s location? Opened in 1931, Canter’s Brother’s Delicatessen was originally in Boyle Heights, before relocating to the up and coming Fairfax Jewish neighborhood in 1948, then moved again to bigger digs in 1953.
The Jewish food at Canter’s isn’t just Eastern European, it’s decidedly Russian. Jewish deli food has a long Eastern European heritage, but Marc Canter has other reasons for bringing specific recipes like kreplach on board. "Many of our current recipes come from the chef we had in the seventies and eighties, a Russian woman named Zina."
It’s not even about being Jewish anymore. Canter says that maybe only 25% of his customers are Jewish now. "We know this because when we close on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the people just keep on coming. The sign outside says, happy new year! we’re closed, and they’re like, New Year’s? That’s not like for three months! They don’t have a clue."
Of course, not everything at Canter’s is made to order. "You can’t make everything by scratch every single day—we do the potato salad, the coleslaw, and the soups every day, but something like the kreplach is just too far out there. It’s very time consuming and it’s not a huge seller anymore."
But you can go off menu and get kreplach pan fried to order. "We don’t advertise it like that because the menu got really big in the last twenty years—we’ve added a lot of items. A lot of salads and different burgers. Now it would take someone an hour to read the whole menu, so some things just had to go."