Synagogue's Restaurant Focuses On Strengthening Community Relations

Wednesday, December 25th 2019, 9:55 pm
By: Emory Bryan

There’s one Tulsa restaurant that’s open just one night a month, and not every month. They skipped December.

It’s called the Seventeenth Street Deli.

In November, on a Sunday night, the kitchen was buzzing with workers planning out their process for preparing the meal. They have everything ready to go, and work on getting the slices of meat just the right thickness. After a few test cuts, another hunk of brisket goes back in the pot.

The menu is limited - kosher brisket, pastrami, and corned beef sandwiches, and egg salad – items that can be found at a typical Jewish deli, but there’s not one in Tulsa – except for this pop-up deli, one night a month.

Matt Levitt, one of the workers, said he’s partial to the pastrami. Rabbi Daniel Kaiman said his favorite is the brisket.

For the rare nights it’s open, the Congregation of B'Nai Emunah sets up tables in their main hallway. The placemats feature an old family photo of Louis and Bessie Blend, who once ran a New York style deli in Tulsa - just down the street.

Rabbi Kaiman hopes to recreate some of the connections from that deli and the Jewish community that developed around it.

“We want people to sit down beside someone they don't know. If they're sitting next to each other it's an opportunity for conversation and community building. That's as much of a goal of our deli as good food is,” Kaiman said.

As the diners take their seats in the kitchen, the assembly of sandwiches begins. The seasoning is tossed with the fries, and everything is loaded into baskets with coleslaw. The baskets are loaded onto trays and they’re ready to go out. The meals leave the kitchen in the hands of teenagers from the synagogue who volunteer.

Tonight, they'll serve about 50 people, about half of whom the Rabbi said are Jewish. The rest are people looking for the experience of a meal they can’t have anywhere else in Tulsa, which is in the setting of a synagogue.

Rabbi Kaiman said as popularity of the deli grows, they might expand the menu, and even the hours to give more people in Tulsa a taste of a true Jewish community.

The next seating is January 26th, and dinner is served by reservations only.

They were even rated best Jewish deli in Tulsa.

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