The 2015 documentary Deli Man mourned the decline of a great American tradition: the classic Jewish delicatessen. While it may be true that these fabled neighborhood eateries are no longer as omnipresent as they once were, several iconic eateries continue to keep the legacy alive…and the people well-fed.
One particular establishment highlighted in the flick? Houston-based, New York-style restaurant Kenny and Ziggy’s. Let’s take a closer look at the rich history of these matzo-ball making magicians, along with how you can indulge in their specialties no matter where you live.
Meet Kenny and Ziggy
A self-described “third-generation Deliman,” David “Ziggy” Gruber learned the deli business from his father, Eugene Gruber. He, in turn, had learned it from his own father, Max Gruber. Alongside his brothers-in-law Morris and Izzy Rappaport, Max opened the family’s very first delicatessen on Broadway in 1927. Dubbed the Rialto, its popularity spawned an empire consisting of many of the city’s most renowned delicatessens, including Berger’s on 47th, Wally’s Downtown, and the Griddle on 16th.
While Ziggy learned the basics of the trade from his grandfather, his passion for food and, in particular, Eastern European delicacies led him everywhere from London’s elite culinary institute, the Cordon Bleu, to Los Angeles’s Sunset Boulevard, where he opened the eponymous Ziggy G’s. Just how thick does the blood of his ancestors run through Ziggy? His brother once quipped, “Since he was a little kid, he was an 80-year-old Jew.”
But Ziggy’s journey wasn’t done when he found success with the celebrity set in Los Angeles. In 1999, he was approached about a partnership with fellow lover of deli foods Kenny Friedman, who wanted to bring the favorite foods of his childhood to an unexpected place: Houston, Texas. Ziggy couldn’t pass up the opportunity to expand. The rest, as they say, is history.
Looking for the Best Deli in NYC?
If you’ve been dreaming of finding the best deli in New York City, it turns out you may have been looking in the wrong place. Why? Because Kenny & Ziggy’s may actually lay claim to the title, despite the fact that the restaurant is located more than 1,600 miles away from the Big Apple. (Not that geography even matters today, thanks to the wonder of mail order food.)
On the fence about whether you really need to import foodie favorites like chicken soup, pastrami, rye, bagels and lox, sliced sable smoked fish, fresh cream cheese and stuffed cabbage all the way from Houston? Not to mention the kishka, kreplach, kugel, knish nosh, and kasha varnishkes? When it comes to the awesomeness of Kenny & Ziggy’s, you don’t have to take our word for it. Take it from the critics instead.
Kenny & Ziggy’s has earned titles including “best chicken soup,” “best sandwiches and deli,” “deli of the year,” “best place to buy smoked fish,” and many other honorifics. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, declared the deli to be “where the big shots start their day.” Then there’s that whole ‘Excellent” rating from Zagat, which proclaimed Kenny & Ziggy’s to be “a haven for homesick New Yorkers.”
Now that we’ve whet your appetite, here’s the best part. You don’t have to journey all the way to Texas to indulge — even though we’d argue that it’s well worth the trip. Mail order food puts all of Kenny & Ziggy’s delicious delicatessen delicacies at your fingertips. Shop foods, gifts and so much more today.