BROOKLINE – Reubens, bagels and knishes, Oh my! The old time Jewish deli is making a big time comeback, thanks to guys like Steven Peljovich and his legendary New York style sandwich shop named Michael’s Deli.
“I bought the deli a little over four years ago,” he said. “I grew up in Miami Beach, Florida. And in my neighborhood we had three different delis. The drug stores sold fountain drinks and knishes and sort of all that stuff that would be traditional deli foods.”
Michael’s Deli is definitely the real deal. They cook over 500 pounds of corned beef each week. The bagels come straight from the Big Apple, and the sandwiches are just flat out addictive.
“Our menu is what you’d expect to find in a traditional old school fashioned deli: corned beef, pastrami, brisket are the features,” Steven said.
Take for example, The Reuben. It’s a beast of sandwich, stacked high with their signature corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and housemade Russian dressing on fresh pumpernickel. For a little Cuban twist, try to the so-called “Jewben” Sandwich, packed with ham, pastrami, pickles, and Swiss.
“You wouldn’t know by looking at me, but my parents were born and raised in Havana, Cuba,” Steven revealed. “Cuban sandwiches were something I grew up with as a kid. It was the reason my dad said we would never be Kosher, because he loved Cuban sandwiches and he wasn’t gonna give them up.”
Today, along with his wife Lori and their kids, Steven has put all that knowledge, passion, and calorie-counting-be-damned attitude into one truly insane sandwich called the “Slims Triple Brisket”.
“It’s taller than a can of soda. It also became our signature sandwich which is sort of a secret, because it’s not on the menu. You have to sort of know. It’s literally a two-pound sandwich. It’s a full portion of our corned beef, our pastrami, and our brisket, stacked up high on a custom made onion roll.”
Other popular sandwiches include the Thorty Black and Gold, named after former Boston Bruin Shawn Thornton. It’s packed with pastrami, cheddar cheese, and honey mustard. If you like a little added crunch, try the so-called Slovenly Italian, served on a sub roll with mortadella, capicola, provolone, and salt and vinegar potato chips.
Along with all the sandwiches, and smoked meats, chopped liver, and noodle pudding, the biggest seller at Michael’s Deli might be the knishes.
“Traditionalists, they’ll tell you there’s only one kind of knish. It’s a potato knish and depending on where they grew up, it’s square, it’s round, it’s fried, it’s baked,” Steven said. “I tend to think a knish is anything yummy, wrap it in dough, and bake it. And you now have made yourself a knish.
“People who don’t know what it is, I tell them it’s like a giant pigs in a blanket. I carry six on the menu all the time that never change, and then every week for the last four years, I’ve done 3 oddball ones that I call Crazy Knishes.”
Altogether, Steven has created over 300 flavors, even dessert versions like a Graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow infused S’more knish. But the most popular, is the pastrami.
“The pastrami knish is one of the six sort of signature knishes that we carry all the time. The first bite on the tongue, you get the good deli mustard that’s on the bottom of the knish, and then you get the great flavor of the crust of the pastrami, the sweetness of the inside of the pastrami. It’s to die for.
“Those are the flavors I grew up with as a kid. I can remember the smells, the feels, the touches of every single deli I went to eat with my family. My goal is that when people leave here I want them to leave here remembering the things they grew up with.”
You can find Michael’s Deli at 256 Harvard Street in Brookline, and online at michaelsdelibrookline.com.
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