Brooklyn restauranteurs receive help from local creatives

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By Jedidiah Hendrixson and Kunal Kohli

Family photographs line the wall behind the counter of Frankel’s, a small Jewish deli in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Tucked into the corner is a small wall of fame. Notorious rappers El-P and Despot are investors of the deli and Action Bronson made an appearance at the location. The fact that only three pictures of obscure band members and actors, and no rappers, line the wall is telling. Since its opening on April 2nd, Frankel’s has established that it is not a hip hop deli.

 

Some of the press we’ve gotten has referred to [El-P and Despot] as owners of the restaurant, and that was never the intention,” Frankel said. “That was never really the plan, I don’t think they’d be happy with that either.”

The Jewish deli is a dying breed in Long Island, according to The Jewish Week. In fact, New York City and Long Island have seen a significant drop in the number of all styles of delicatessen since 2005, with five kosher style delis closing in Nassau and Suffolk in 2014. Since then, only two Jewish delis remain in Suffolk County. But the Frankel brothers looked to bring back nostalgia as they opened their restaurant.

“This cuisine and this type of place has always been a passion of mine,” Frankel said. “My brother and I grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan and were always enchanted with delis and appetizing shops.”

The disappearance of authentic Jewish delis has made some orthodox families dietary habits in Brooklyn restricted. David Setton, a junior at Stony Brook and employee at the only kosher dining option on campus, has experienced this.

“When my parents grew up in Brooklyn, they told me there used to be kosher delis everywhere,” Setton said. “Now, I don’t see any.”

This Jewish deli comes with a twist. The cultural backing of El-P, Despot and other creatives in Brooklyn have created a new demographic for Frankel’s clientele. Frankel said that this younger and richer generation craves everything from hot dogs to caviar.

Mixing culture and food is nothing new. The now-closed Kate’s Joint in East Village combined punk rock with breakfast food. The Hard Rock Cafe chain capitalized on the mix of rock music and food and created an empire. 

While it has garnered attention for its musical connections, Frankel’s does not play to it. Rather than playing popular rap group Run the Jewels, the deli has classical music on air.

In Zach Frankel’s eyes, the deli is for the people. Everyone who comes to the deli is an equal.

“At it’s core, this is a family business,” Frankel said. “We would’ve thought twice if anyone would take us less seriously because it was a hip-hop deli, which it’s not.”