The trickle of Jewish culinary openings in Seattle has begun, infusing the city with pastrami sandwiches and whitefish salads, bringing Dr. Brown’s to the thirsty masses and quelling the crowds with chopped liver — and the great matzo ball soup wave isn’t receding soon.
Seattle’s Jewish deli and bagel scene has long been lamented, unable to keep either Stopsky’s (the much-hyped and short-lived “tradition updated” deli on Mercer Island) or I Love New York (the praised and gone-overnight spot at Pike Place Market and in the U District) afloat. But in 2018, things began to change — starting with Westman’s Bagel and Coffee on Madison in January. Though the namesake and Jewish half of the partnership (Molly Westman) has left, the walk-up café soldiers on, serving smoked whitefish and challah alongside its breakfast egg sandwiches and Caffe Vita coffee. In early September, the owners of Nourish Catering, Vance Dingfelder and Stephanie Hemsworth, slid open Dingfelder’s walk-up window on Capitol Hill. Their deli has been getting good reviews, and a sit-down space serving pastrami sandwiches, chopped liver, and late-night corned beef hash is on the menu.
Meanwhile, Fremont looks to welcome both Schmaltzy’s Delicatessen, a classic version of the genre from the owner of latke-sandwich food truck Napkin Friends, and a bagel pop-up turned walk-up window, Loxsmith. In Pinehurst, Standard Bakery is expanding next door as Zylberschtein’s, where owner Josh Grunig will use his fresh-baked rye bread to make the Reubens. Most recently, the folks behind Seattle’s best-kept pizza secret, Independent Pizzeria, announced Dacha Diner. The formerly hot-pink venue on Olive Way conjures Eastern European favorites based on co-owner Tom Siegel’s New York upbringing and Czech catering experience, as well as a research trip to Tbilisi. Even the kosher meat scene, relegated to periodic (and very good) dinners at The Summit senior living center, has seen a ray of hope with KoGo, a food truck parked in the south end.
It’s a tantalizing buffet of Ashkenazi dreams, but for Seattleites who’ve watched the rise and fall of the delis that came before, it’s hard to shake the doubt. Have the tides really shifted? Will our ships truly come in, piled high with smoky, tender pastrami and fresh-baked bagels?
If ever there was a time to make a Jewish deli in Seattle stick around, it’s now, with these folks. As Seattle’s overall population skyrockets, so too does the Jewish population, increasing 70 percent between 2001 and 2015, a trend likely to keep on keeping on for the foreseeable future. Both Jewish and non-Jewish newcomers (especially from locales with Jewish deli cred) know the food and have been looking for a place to satisfy that craving.
Significantly, each of these places, with the exception of Loxsmith and KoGo, comes from folks with long résumés in the Seattle food scene. These aren’t upstarts looking to pour their tech money into an experiment or people naively in love with the romantic concept of restaurant ownership: These are hardened veterans who have probably done their research. When the doors open at each of these spots, Seattle Jews will no longer get to lament the lack of Jewish delis in town. But by then we’ll surely find something else to kvetch about.