Why Doesn’t Dallas Support New York-Style Delis?

Pastrami sandwich at Deli-News. (Photography by Kevin Marple.)

On January 25 I reported the closing of Gio’s Café and New York Deli. In the post I wrote: “What a snake-bit location for deli. Ed’s Deli closed in December 2008 , Roasters and Toasters lasted less than a year after replacing Deli News Too.”

People are still commenting on why Gio’s, and other New York-style delis in Dallas, failed. Tina Wasserman, author of Entrée to Judaism and teacher of all-things-kosher, left this comment:

 “It has very little to do with location (unless you can’t find parking). Delis’ biggest competition is people’s memories and memories are very hard to reproduce. Additionally, the manager of Katz’s in NY told me that he has made his special pastrami recipe all over the country and the same recipe doesn’t re-create in other cities mainly due to water.”

Hmm, that’s the common excuse for why bagels can’t be reproduced outside of NYC. Really water and pastrami? Interesting. I thought the pastrami served at Gio’s was imported from New York. So does that mean the water the meat is steamed with?

Another reader took the time to email me with his thoughts which I also find interesting. My new friend Joe says:

Most deli food is not healthy. Most deli food comes in huge ridiculous portions. Most deli food is fattening. My mental association with deli food is an image of fat sedentary people eating stuff that is literally killing them similar to traditional southern cuisine. It’s old hat and pretty uninteresting. Reminds some of what our grandparents ate and thought was wonderful. Most delis are very noisy and some of us don’t care for the noise. I’m probably saying more about me than anything else since I happen to be Jewish and grew up in small town Texas, but maybe others have the same thought.

I happen to be a shiksha who grew up in the neighborhood behind Preston Forest and attended Arthur Kramer Elementary school. I remember standing in line outside of Wall’s Delicatessen in Preston Royal Shopping Center. I appreciate a good deli and hit Katz’s when in New York. Perhaps Dallas prefers their brisket barbecued. I think Tina and Joe have made some interesting points. Would love to hear yours.



  • twinwillow

    Hmm, I think today will be a good day to have lunch at Deli-News.

  • Karen Habbestad

    I think D’ites just prefer their brisket bar-b-qued. (Plus, once you’ve had as many bad Ruebens here as I have, you become reluctant to try – waste money on – another one.) I am not sure I buy the “it’s bad for you” line. A whole lotta folk like their bacon and fried pork skins down here. NY Deli style works better in Austin, which is an incredibly health and looks conscious town.

  • Mike

    I think it is because most people associate deli food with the crap ‘delis’ around Times Square.

  • Dubious Brother

    I’ve heard the same water thing about Italian bread and pizza dough in NY. I’m not sure where NY gets their water but I don’t think it is from the Hudson.

  • The Guy

    For me, it’s a “get in line” thing with deli’s. I’ll have lunch in a restaurant 2-3 times a week, and this city is so crammed with great places to eat, it’s ridiculous. I think people on a budget, though, will seek out Tex Mex or Thai, both of which will cost you around $10 total. Hard to get out of deli for less that $15-20.

    After not having a good corned beef and pastrami sandwich in a couple of weeks, I will cave and go to Cindy’s, which is not legendary but quite acceptable. And then I’m good for another 2 weeks.

  • Steve Davis

    I have often asked that question. I do not think there is one place in this town that makes their own corned beef. New Orleans and even Houston still support the deli style cafe but Dallas seems to not like it as much. I guess it is just personal taste.

  • deli-lover

    When we moved to Dallas some 20 odd years ago we found Gilbert’s Deli at Preston Royal and were faithful customers there till they had a mishap there and moved north….we followed them and again were loyal customers until they closed that location also….Since then we have tried so many Deli’s but none are nearly as good as Gilberts….if only he would open another …. aaaah those bagels and motza ball soup etc. etc. etc……the best next to good ole New York city!

  • twinwillow

    The orthodox Jews living in the area around Gio’s would NEVER have eaten there anyway. Gio’s did not serve kosher food and was never certified as being a kosher restaurant..

  • Jan

    I am going to disagree for one reason, GILBERTS. It thrived for years, never updated or changed with the times. It was wonderful. I am a Texan and I’ve never been to a NY Delli but I know they had great food, terrible service, it was loud and nobody cared. Why on earth they decided to move, god knows, it was the kiss of death. The people were Yankees and we even over looked that!!

  • Jeff Hayden

    I think it’s because of the New York attitude that comes with the NY delis I’ve been to in the area.. I don’t want to be treated rudely when I am paying for a product.

    • twinwillow

      The Gilbert family had a terrible reputation for rudeness to both their staff and their customers. That’s what killed them!
      Their lease at Preston Forest was not renewed because of a physical altercation with the shopping center owner.

  • Gary Gray

    Want good NY deli food? Travel to Ft Worth and try Carshons. Been in business since 1928.

  • Gary Gray

    Want great NY deli food? Go to Ft Worth and try Carshons. Been in business since 1928.

  • Karen Pierre

    There is a great NY Deli food truck at Klyde Warren Park every day at lunch. They have real NY Deli style sandwiches and that’s where I get my “fix” when I need a NY Deli sandwich. I get the “Manhattan,” which is corned beef, turkey, swiss, russian dressing, cole slaw on rye. YUMMMMY!

  • Bobtex

    It is contradictory to want a restaurant to (1) serve the food that you remember (never change) and (2) keep up with the times (keep changing). Besides, one’s memory probably improves the taste beyond what it was at the time.

    Bad for you? Unhealthy? Been to the State Fair lately? I can’t say Jewish deli-style food is healthy, but it is certainly no worse than the deep-fried cuisine which reigns here. Not to mention the greasy Tex-Mex fare, without which we cannot survive.

    And that point about the neighborhood cannot be emphasized enough–the restaurants in question have never served certified Kosher food, and that means that all those Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews would never set foot in those places, much less eat their food, because it violates their religious beliefs. So putting a Kosher-style restaurant in an Orthodox neighborhood is actually self-defeating.

    As far as the rudeness goes, to me that was always part of the ambience. Far different from the fawning servers who befriend you for a bigger tip.

    • twinwillow

      Rudeness is rudeness. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in NYC or Dallas. I refuse to eat where the servers bully the customers.

  • DFWFoodie

    I don’t think it has anything to do with it being “fattening.” This is Texas…where there are more than enough steakhouses, tex mex, barbecue and southern comfort restaurants. I’d call a turkey sammy a whole lot healthier than a big plate of fried chicken. I just don’t think it’s really caught on here…and I think we all have the mentality of – wow that is really expensive for “just a sandwich.” If I personally am going to eat a sandwich for lunch, I’d rather make it myself…it always seems to taste better anyway. Whereas if I want a salad for lunch, I’m definitely not going to make it myself.

  • Laurie

    I have been to both Gio’s and Cindy’s. I was very dissipointed with the food at Cindy’s. The pancakes were pre-cooked and cold, CFS was a bland frozen blob of uck. The toast, begals and muffins were all under toasted and cold. Throw in a mix of pushy attitudy servers and there is your dining experience at Cindy’s!

    Gio’s food on the other hand was always hot, fresh, and delicious. The owner was always visible and friendly, checking on every table to make sure what you ordered was to your liking. She would occasionally drop off a free taste of their current spreads to sample. I hear the landlord was overbearing, intrusive and extreamly disruptive to work with. Let me guess..Weitzman Group?? What a shame. Lisa and Costa G.deserves a hearty pat on the back for their tremendous effort and job well done. Sorry you landlords could not keep their greedy hands out of the cookie jar. I have heard this multiple times about Herb Weitzman.. Live and learn. Your great food and friendly smile will be surely missed.

  • Sandra Zucker

    Want a NY style Deli in Dallas… Try DELI NEWS corner of Campbell and Preston Rd. Excellent sandwiches, breakfast & dinner food. I don’t miss NY delis at all! Just like in the “old country” this post from a former Brooklynite.

  • Avid Reader

    I’ll beat the dead horse. Location, Location, Location. Gio’s had decent food at best, just like the 8 other deli’s that entertained that spot/area. No deli is going to make it in that space. That said, Gio’s was always so depressing to go into with no one else in the place and the servers acting like they had better things to do….with no one else in the place.

  • Bud Kennedy

    Carshon’s Deli in Fort Worth–85 years and counting

    • Phil Vinson

      Carshon’s gets my vote, too. Anyone recall Phil’s Delicatessen on Oak Lawn? I remember it from the ’60s, but I thought it had a pretty long life.

  • Shawn Moore

    You might think is a strange choice but the corned beef sandwich at R & D is awesome! They use coleslaw instead of cabbage but I still love it and yes, homemade!