Katz’s, Carnegie, Russ and Daughters. These familiar names of iconic Jewish delis are inextricable from cultural and culinary history of New York City. In a new special exhibition at the New-York Historical Society titled I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli, visitors can explore how the imported and adapted traditions of Jewish immigrants led to the creation of these “uniquely American restaurants.” Photographs and artifacts on display such as meat slicers, uniforms, and signs reveal the stories of deli workers and transport visitors back in time to the heyday of the Jewish deli.

On November 26, join Untapped New York Insiders for a members-only docent-led tour of the exhibition! The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (get your first month free with code JOINUS).

Mark Russ Federman's mother, Anne, serves customers at Russ and Daughters in 1939.

Tour of “I’ll Have What She’s Having”

Named for a famous line from the film When Harry Met Sally – spoken in a scene set at Katz’s Delicatessan – the exhibition features a wide range of artifacts. As you are guided through the exhibit you’ll see photographs, neon signs, menus, advertisements, deli workers’ uniforms, and more. You’ll even see costumes created by Emmy Award-winning costume designer Donna Zakowska from the popular Prime Video series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Delis are a frequent setting scene in the show. The production recreated the Carnegie Deli in 2018 for a promotional pop-up.

A deli worker serves customers at the counter of a jewish deli in 1970s Hollywood.
Rena and Harry Drexler at Drexler’s Deli, North Hollywood, CA, c. 1970s Private collection

Originally organized by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the exhibition tells deli stories from around the country. In the New York iteration, the exhibition is enhanced by artifacts from the New-York Historical Society’s collections. The new additions speak directly to past and present Jewish delis of the five boroughs and the vibrant 20th-century Jewish communities that grew around them.

Beloved but shuttered eateries such as the Upper West Side’s Fine & Schapiro Kosher Delicatessen, Jay & Lloyd’s Kosher Delicatessen in Brooklyn, and Loeser’s Kosher Deli in the Bronx are represented in photographs. A hot dog-shaped sign hangs as a tribute to Jay & Lloyds Delicatessen, while a carved and painted sign by folk artist Harry Glaubach serves as an homage to Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen in Queens.

A man serves pretzels outside a confectionary in NYC in 1900.
James Reuel Smith (1852–1935) Louis Klepper Confectionary and Sausage Manufacturers, 45 E. Houston Street, c. 1900 Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, New-York Historical Society

At the height of their popularity in the 1930s, nearly 3,000 delis operated in the city. With the loss of many historic establishments, only about a dozen remain. Despite this massive decline in abundance, the Jewish deli remains a staple of New York City eateries. and the exhibition ends with an eye toward the future. Before you leave the exhibit you’ll discover a handful of new delis founded in the past ten years such as Brookyn’s Mile End and Frankel’s, and USA Brooklyn Delicatessen, located near the former site of the Carnegie and Stage Delis in Manhattan. 

Two deli workers stand behind a counter of food at a jewish deli in Chicago.
Snack at Manny’s Delicatessen, Chicago, IL, 2010 Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Highlights from the exhibition that you’ll see on the upcoming Insiders tour include a letter in New-York Historical’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library collection from a soldier fighting in Italy during World War II writing to his fiancée that he “had some tasty Jewish dishes just like home,” images showing politicians and other notable figures eating and campaigning in delis, movie clips and film stills including the iconic scene that inspired the exhibition title and a unique to New-York Historical’s presentation is a closer look at the expansion of Jewish communities at the turn of the 20th century.

“I’ll Have What She’s Having”:The Jewish Deli will be on display from November 11, 2022 through April 2, 2023. On November 26, join Untapped New York Insiders for a members-only docent-led tour of the exhibition! The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (get your first month free with code JOINUS).

Three men inspect sausages at Chicago's Vienna Beef Factory

Tour of “I’ll Have What She’s Having”

Next, check out Top 10 Jewish History Sites on the Lower East Side