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A Second Life for New York's Second Avenue Deli

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A Second Life for New York's Second Avenue Deli

A Second Life for New York's Second Avenue Deli

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One day, my then beau, now husband, had a cold. And I told him, I know what to do. I've got to get to Second Avenue Deli. I've got to get some matzah ball soup. I went over to Second Avenue and then it wasn't there. That was a little over two years ago when New York City lost one of its landmark institutions, some of the finest kosher food around. I nearly wept that day. But never fear, there are always second acts in New York City, as radio producer Dan Pashman and BPP videographer Win Rosenfeld found out when they visited the new Second Avenue Deli. Gentlemen.

DAN PASHMAN: Hey, guys - Hey Ali. I'm used to saying "hey, guys." It's just you, though.

STEWART: So, Dan, what's the back-story?

PASHMAN: Well, the Second Avenue Deli opened in 1954 at the corner of Second Avenue and 10th Street, and it was an institution, like you said. I had a similar situation. I went there to bring a friend from out of town. I got there, the door is padlocked shut. No one knew this was coming.

STEWART: So sad.

PASHMAN: And it was there from 1954 until 2006. It closed very abruptly and people were really, really upset. We put together a video piece, and we posted it on the web. We went to the place - to the new Second Avenue Deli, but first, to help people understand how crushing it was when this place closed, here are some clips from our video piece of how people found out the news and how they dealt with it.

(Soundbite of video "Pastrami That Will Haunt You")

Unidentified Woman #1: I read about it in the New York Times. I read the Times every single day. They cover everything. I thought it was terrible.

Unidentified Man #1: Friends tell friends. We all know.

Unidentified Woman #2: I thought it was dreadful. It was probably because of the rent.

Unidentified Man #2: Word-of-mouth. It reaches me before the Internet. It's faster than any electrons.

Unidentified Woman #3: We didn't know what we'd do. We just - we had a lot of Italian and Chinese food.

STEWART: Now, that's a good - she found a good solution.


STEWART: So how did it come to reopen, Win?

WIN ROSENFELD: Well, it came to reopen - basically, the nephew of the owner who was tragically murdered, Abe Lewald - Lebewohl, decided to take on the family business and with his bringing it back into existence with the same pride in the menu. It's on Third Avenue now, not Second Avenue.

STEWART: But keeping the name Second Avenue Deli.

ROSENFELD: Keeping the food.

STEWART: All right. What did you order, Win?

ROSENFELD: I had the pastrami. I just wanted to say one thing here, is that I am - you know, normally Dan is the guy who should talk about food things because he is a more mod, unbelievable palette. And if you guys know me, I have the same salad, the same yogurt every single day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROSENFELD: And this was a situation where I - it haunted me. This pastrami sandwich stuck in my mind, in my heart, in my soul.

STEWART: And your arteries.

ROSENFELD: It haunted - and my arteries.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROSENFELD: For weeks, two weeks later, I said, you know, I'm going to get a pastrami sandwich from Artie's, which is another deli in my neighborhood.

STEWART: It doesn't work.

ROSENFELD: Ah, it was so tragic.

STEWART: Artie's is fine, but that just does not work.

PASHMAN: Second Avenue Deli will ruin you for pastrami.

STEWART: What did you think?

PASHMAN: It was as good as always. It was as good as always, it was amazing and I still haven't gotten quite back to equilibrium. I think I need to have a few more pastrami sandwiches, but most importantly, what did the customers think? Here's another clip from our video piece. Let's hear what the customers had to say about the new Second Avenue Deli.

(Soundbite of video "Pastrami That Will Haunt You")

Unidentified Woman #4: I love gefilte fish, the gefilte fish, I love chopped liver. I love salami.

Unidentified Man #3: Chopped liver is delicious. You can't get it anywhere else like this, so. That's what makes it special.

Unidentified Woman #5: A marvelous marriage of delicatessen meat flavors. Spicy, delicious, perfumed. Very, very heady. Enough to put you into a trance.

PASHMAN: What makes for a good frankfurter?

Unidentified Woman #6: If it's a kosher frankfurter or a - the one from Coney Island. Otherwise, they suck.

STEWART: Oh, my. Well, if you're not close enough to taste the pastrami, and you want to see it, check out the video piece that Win and Dan did. It's at our website, Thanks, guys, for the tough reporting. I'm worried about you guys.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: Later, Ali. Took one for the team, there.

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