Jewish deli food is having a moment. Like ramen and the humble taco, it has been reinvented and challenged by a new generation with aspirations to make it trendy, accessible and fun.
One of our local messengers of the deli reinvention is Adam Mesnick, the man behind the Rye Project, a self-described “newish” deli, and its bigger sister the Deli Board. We sat down with the Mesnick to talk gourmet hot dogs, tradition and progress.
How did you arrive at the name ‘newish’? It’s pretty great!
I agree. My design group, Rena B. Design actually came up with it. It was completely her logo idea. I thought it was a perfect description for the mission at Rye Project. I have an amazing team around me and they all really understand my passion for food and that it’s a ‘newish’ take on the old school deli. She nailed it.
Where are the recipes and ingredients from? And the ingredients?
The recipes are my own interpretation of of my family’s recipes. Most of the women in my family, especially grandmothers, were amazing cooks, so the menu is a collection of my favorite Jewish deli products mixed with some California and ‘newish’ twists. Most of the recipes for the sauces and dressings are my own, like the Tysyacha dressing, a mix of 1,000 island and Russian dressing . The bread is shipped in from a bakery out of LA. Pastrami, corned beef and hot dogs are from Chicago.
How do you make Jewish food ‘newish’ without disrupting traditions?
I may not appeal to the old-school deli traditionalists, but I do know I am one of the only places with half sour pickles and pickled tomatoes from New York. I use high-quality meat sliced super thin and steamed to order, and have converted some traditionalists that like the thick sliced meat at Langers or Katz. We also bring in amazing smoked fish from New York, so the traditional flavors are still there, with some twists.
Is 2015 the year of the Jewish Deli?
Jewish deli has definitely arrived in the city. As a Jewish kid from Cleveland, it’s great to see. I love feeding people so I am happy that the city is embracing deli.
What’s your plan for summer?
We hope to continue to focus on the core products and have introduced hot dogs into the mix. We are doing a Chicago-style, Habanero chili, a Slaw Dog and others. We are using a classic Chicago poppy seed bun and a natural beef dog, with casing, not very kosher. We also plan on focusing on salads. We love making fresh salads for the summer.