Vox Tablet

As If You Needed It, Yet Another Reason To Be in Miami: The Delis

Evolving Jewish culture—and doctors’ orders—dealt a blow to South Florida’s delicatessens. But they’re making a comeback.

February 18, 2014
Josh Marcus of Josh’s Deli in Miami.(David Samayoa)
Josh Marcus of Josh’s Deli in Miami.(David Samayoa)

As this endless winter drags on, making life miserable for those unfortunates living in the Midwest and Northeast, the wise among us have made the well-worn pilgrimage to South Florida. The tradition dates back to just after WWII, when Jews from cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, and especially New York began flocking to Miami Beach for the winter. And in Miami Beach, they wanted delis just like the ones they ate in back home. In fact, the postwar years were a golden age for the Jewish deli in Miami Beach, from Raphil’s to Wolfie Cohen’s Rascal House and Pumperniks.

Times change, though, and the popularity of delis has faded around the country. In South Florida, there are other changes, too. The Jewish population has shifted, geographically and culturally. Trina Sargalski talks to food historian Ted Merwin about the rise and fall of Miami delicatessens of yesteryear, and to Josh Marcus, owner and chef of Josh’s Deli, about how he’s reinventing the genre with a local twist.

Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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