Memories of so much more than simply mustard
Tourists don’t exactly show up in this neck of the country and start asking for corned beef on rye. While Mass is known for many things, a lot of them delicious, we just don’t have much of a legacy when it comes to pastrami and cured meats of that scrumptious sort. We certainly have places that can make a killer sandwich—shoutout to Sam LaGrassa’s in Downtown Crossing, and of course Zaftigs in Brookline—but the Hub’s not typically seen in such a light.
Nevertheless, as food writer Elisha Siegel wrote for WGBH in 2016, “I never really thought of [Boston] as a deli city … But there was a time when deli culture thrived here.” No doubt about it. For one, there was Max Andrews’ at Blue Hill and Lawrence Ave, a destination known for its smart-mouthed counter help, black-and-white ceramic floor, and salami loaves hanging from the ceiling. Aficionados also wouldn’t want you to forget the New Yorker Deli on Blue Hill Ave, which was the spot primarily for older folks, or G&G on Ansel Road in Dorchester, which was known for serving a younger crowd. As one Dirty Old Boston commenter noted under a photo of G&G, “The tongue, Lox, and Corned Beef was all Boss!”
Of them all, though, many would argue that Jack and Marion’s in Brookline served as the local standard-bearer of quality New York-style delicatessen fare with service to match. It’s where you took your date when you were flush, a legendary deli serving soups plus slabs of proper brisket and corned beef, not to mention potato salad, knishes, and delicious desserts served with a certain flare. A back room was added in the ’50s that was accessible to Jack Solomon’s “special customers”; in 1961, its Empire State sandwich went for $3.50 and could feed the whole family.
Jack and Marion’s closed in the early ’70s, was renamed Premier briefly, then Jaffe’s Pick-A-Chick. The final deli aromas wafted from its ducts and doors in the early ’80s.
EXTRA MUSTARD: We happened to receive the following press release as we were editing this Dirty Old Boston appetizer, and so it only made sense to include it here. Congregation Kehillath Israel (384 Harvard St. in Brookline) is hosting the following culinary event on Thursday, June 6, at 7:30 pm:
Like your history with a side of pickles? Join historians Dr. Jonathan Sarna (Brandeis), Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz (Jewish Theological Seminary) and moderator Jessica Alpert Silber for a conversation on how food helped shape a town’s culture. Dig into the past (and some kosher nosh) and learn how now-gone favorites like Rubin’s Delicatessen (Dr. Schwartz is the grand-daughter of the family behind it), Jack and Marion’s Delirama, and Pick-A-Chick brought all types of people to Brookline to experience Jewish food. The evening begins, of course, with a little kosher deli to eat. Hold the mayo. Part of the JArts Kitchen Explorations series.
Find out more at jartsboston.org/event/kitchenexplorationsbrookline.