Seattle’s Scarcity of Jewish Delis

### Culinary Culture Shock in Seattle

When Vance Dingfelder arrived in Seattle from New York in 1992, he experienced a culinary culture shock. Being a native New Yorker, Dingfelder felt like a physical extension of his city, with a trace of a Brooklyn accent and characteristic New York chattiness. However, in the ’90s, he found that many of the foods he grew up around were not available in Seattle. From bagels to pizza, the Seattle food scene lacked the offerings Dingfelder was used to in New York.

### Rise of Jewish Delis in Seattle

Since 2018, Dingfelder has owned Dingfelder’s, a Jewish deli on Capitol Hill that provides traditional Jewish deli foods like knishes, kugel, matzo ball soup, and pastrami sliced to order. The demand for such cuisine led Dingfelder to tap into a latent market in Seattle. Zylberschtein’s in Pinehurst opened in 2019, becoming the only two true delicatessens in the Seattle city limits after the closures of other delis.

### Challenges of Running a Deli

Despite the demand for Jewish deli food, running a deli in Seattle comes with its challenges. The high cost of doing business, the need to make everything from scratch, and the lack of a centralized “Jewish district” in Seattle make it difficult for delis to thrive. Both Grunig and Dingfelder agree that running a deli is a ton of work, with little room for error and high costs. Schmaltzy’s closed in 2022 after struggling with the high cost of operation.

### Passion for Jewish Deli Food

Despite the challenges, there is a clear yearning for Jewish deli food in Seattle. Customers are willing to pay high prices for dishes like pastrami sandwiches and brisket, traditional special-occasion meals in American Jewish households. Deli owners like Dingfelder and Grunig take pride in offering dishes that transport customers back to their childhood, evoking memories of family meals and cultural traditions.

### Future of Jewish Delis in Seattle

Both Dingfelder and Grunig see potential for more Jewish delis and bagel shops in Seattle. The success of their delis during holidays like Hanukkah and Passover demonstrates the strong demand for traditional Jewish cuisine in the metro area. As they continue to serve the community with dishes that are not available elsewhere, Dingfelder and Grunig hope to keep the spirit of Jewish delis alive in Seattle for years to come.

Original Story at – 2024-04-10 23:30:22

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