Kravitz Deli " The Land of the Giants"
In 1939, Kravitz Deli started out as just that, a deli, today it's that and so much more. Owner Jack Kravitz welcomed me into "the Land of the Giants" at the Liberty location and took me on a world wind tour of Kravitz Deli.
Kravitz Deli has two locations. One inside the Poland Library and the other in Liberty located on Belmont Avenue since 1970 which is where I met Jack. It's a store, deli and restaurant all in one. A small storefront with many Kosher products as well as other ethnic items you won't find anywhere else in town. A deli case filled with giant briskets, turkeys and an array of salads, a bakery case filled with cookies and wire racks filled with fresh baked bagels and rye bread that you get a whiff of the minute you step out of your car. Just past the storefront is the dining area. Booths, tables, a counter with stools and also an additional dining room for even more seating. It was the week before St. Patrick's Day and Kravitz has big, no Giant Plans that included days of celebrations. I sat with Jack and chatted about the upcoming festivities as well as the history of Kravitz Deli and how they've evolved over the years to become a multi-ethnicity establishment in the Mahoning Valley.
Jack was excited to talk about St. Patrick's Day and how Kravitz will be involved at several Valley locations where festivities will be going on all week. There's a bright green flier at the counter with a list of events beginning on March 11 and going all the way through to St. Patrick's Day on March 17. I mean, really, what's St. Patrick's Day without a corned beef sandwich or corned beef and cabbage? I get the connection.
Speaking of corned beef. Jack stepped away for a moment and soon returned with a corned beef sandwich, an even bigger, no GIANT corned beef sandwich and, of course, a GIANT leprechaun hat. I asked about the hat and, silly me, I should know better, it belongs to the GIANT leprechaun. I was ready to try the famous corned beef so Jack offered up the XXL Reuben, a customer favorite. It's the house specialty with a GIANT helping of freshly sliced corned beef, kraut and Swiss cheese on fresh baked rye bread. It comes with thousand island dressing on the side, which I think is a must on a Reuben and let me tell you, one bite and yes, it's the best corned beef in town. It's sliced paper thin and melts in your mouth. The bread is fantastic, the meat is packed with flavor, it's so good. Sandwiches come with a pickle and, of course, even the pickles are GIANT at Kravitz. What a great sandwich. Jack also brought out a few slices of the roast turkey which you can get as a reuben in place of the corned beef which is also delicious. Kravitz is "the only place in the city that cooks corned beef and uses a traditional corned beef." "It takes 3 hours to cook", Jack tells me, "and cooks down to about 40% of the original size". So how does he get it so tender? "It's how you cut it. Not everybody here is allowed to cut the corned beef. You have to learn how to do it." The turkey is also roasted in house as is the roast beef.
I could only eat half of my Reuben before my belly meter was teetering on full so I could only try to imagine who could possibly eat that GIANT corned beef sandwich that was sitting next to the hat. A loaf of rye bread, yes a whole loaf, is sliced in half and loaded with a full pound of piled high, thin sliced, corned beef. Topped with four slices of swiss cheese, a side of potato salad and a GIANT pickle. This one could easily feed a family of four but during the St. Patty's week long celebration, there is a Corned Beef Challenge at the Lemon Grove on Thursday, March 14. If you can eat this sandwich with the side and with the pickle, it's FREE. Good luck with that.
Kravitz is know for their delicious corned beef but they're also known for their bagels. Jack says they make about ten varieties and they're available all day. They also serve breakfast with everything from bagel sandwiches and omelets to pancakes and corned beef hash. If you do come for a sandwich, check out The Wall of Honor Menu. You will see a list of sandwiches with familiar names. When you've been around as long as Kravitz Deli has, you make a lot of friends. To honor those loyal friends and patrons, Jack has named sandwiches after them. "There's a lot of history behind our stuff." The Herbie is a sandwich named after Jack's dad. In the late 60's, McDonald's came out with the Big Mac. Jack's dad wanted to make a sandwich to compete with it so he created his own version called "the Herbie". Salami, swiss, corned beef, lettuce, pickle, special sauce (aka thousand island dressing) on a Kaiser roll. It's now been on the menu over 40 years. There's even a sandwich named after Jack's accountant Harry. There seems to be a story behind everything on the menu. What's Jack's favorite sandwich? "Turkey with chopped liver, lettuce and tomato but no one buys it so it's not on the menu." One from the menu? "The Northside. That's my favorite."
When St. Patrick's Day is over there's still a reason to head to Kravitz Deli where there's always a reason to feast. Jack Kravitz can put corned beef into every holiday. From Polish Day to Oktoberfest, make it corned beef from Kravitz Deli, "the Land of the Giants."