Goodbye, Deli


There was this deli I used to pop into every morning for the bagel and schmear and coffee.

Then, one day about six weeks ago, something strange happened. I ordered my usual order. For some reason, the guy behind the counter gave me some ridiculous giant bagel, not the standard New York bagel. It was broader and flatter–a bagel the size of a discus.

He schmeared the thing up and I asked if it was for me. He said it was. I said I didn’t order that dopey large bagel, but no problem, I’d take it anyway. (I mean, it’s not like it would taste differently…it’s still a bagel.)

Two ladies worked the register there. One was young and pretty, always with a smile. The other, perhaps her mother, was usually pretty sour.

I went to the register, where the sour lady rung me up, and my order was like $1.50 more than usual. I asked the lady if that was because I’d gotten the big, dumb bagel instead of my usual one. She said it was. I told her I hadn’t wanted the big bagel, but only agreed to take it so that the guy at the grill didn’t have to throw it out. See, I was doing them a favor, in fact.

Sourpuss looked me over, then shouted across the deli–and it was a good 20 feet from register to grill counter–to verify my claim.

That irked me. I mean, the customer is always right, at least within reason, right? And this was certainly within reason.

“I’m not trying to scam a big, dumb bagel for the price of a normal one,” I said.

“We have to check,” she snapped back. “How do we know you’re telling the truth?”

There were a half dozen people watching. I was embarrassed. All this, over a bagel a proper New Yorker would never order–sort of like that “squagel” that Cosi used to sell.

She reluctantly shelled out the $1.50 and I was on my way. I vowed to stay away for a week.

A funny thing happened during that week. I went to another deli. The register lady knew my order within a few days. She smiled every time and asked how I was. The counter guy would yell out my order soon as I walked in; all I had to do was stand there.

Granted, the place is slimmer than the January Esquire and a bit claustrophobic as a result, but the vibe in the “Chicken Deli”–yup, that’s the name–is homey.

So I stayed out of the deli with the big, dumb bagels.

And a funny thing happened there too. Within a week of my boycott, they merged with the salad joint next door on Park Ave South. So there was a big green awning that said Chop Chop–just what you want to see when you want coffee and a bagel in the morning.

Still, I stayed away.

Then, as of last week, the whole shebang was shuttered. Closed. Done. (Notably, another establishment on the same block closed around the same time–the Mark D’Orsay hair salon. The namesake guy seemed like a tool–coiffed, vintage Hendrix t shirt stretched over his biceps, even though you know he doesn’t know Purple Haze from Rutherford B. Hayes. I would walk by each day en route to the evening train and dislike Mark D’Orsay. Then I got my hair cut there once when SuperCuts closed, and Mark was actually pleasant.)

So, did my boycott ultimately doom the big bagel salad shop? Probably not.

But I’d like to think it had something to do with it.

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2 Responses to Goodbye, Deli

  1. harv sibley says:

    great story. I work in Hawthorne, commute from 20 miles northward,and every morn i go to this 24/7 deli and its so damn good that words need not be spoken. I simply stroll in at my usual 645am and voila, my egg white on roll appears out of thin air. I grab my grande tea verte and whoosh, out the door. Its been that way for more than 3 yrs… the service is top notch as is the food…and with a smile. Nothing worse than starting the day with Oscar the Grouch…you did the right thing. Mrs Sour Patch needs to go work at the DMV, she fits the image….

  2. Dahlia Warren says:

    TJ, I like your postings. My commute begins at 28th Street, so we are at cross purposes,so to speak. Do you remember when the now-defunct deli was Suzie’s, a nabe fave for at least 15 years? I found this site because I was looking up Marc D’Orsay, having finally decided to try the Wednesday blowout. The times they are a’changin’. Perhaps if I had patronized these businesses more regularly, they would not have failed. In that spirit, I recommend the Swedish coffee house near 28th and Park (east side). No bagels, though, large or standard-sized.



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