When Warren Rosenfeld was a child in the 1960s, his family often spent Friday evenings at Hofberg’s, a kosher delicatessen in Washington, D.C., where the “famous” sandwiches included corned beef, spiced beef, boiled beef and tongue.
On Sunday mornings, the family went to Posin’s, a bakery and deli known for takeout.
Flash-forward to 2020. Rosenfeld and partner Big Fish Restaurant Group today opened Rosenfeld’s Delicatessen in the Mid-Town Brandywine section of Wilmington.
The downtown delicatessen takes Rosenfeld one step closer to his goal.
“I’m interested in expanding Jewish culture, Jewish cuisine and the brand as a legacy for my children and family — especially since my father was a Holocaust survivor,” said Rosenfeld, who lives in Ocean Pines, Maryland.
He started down that path in 2013 when he opened Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli in Ocean City, Maryland. He was 58, and he’d had a successful law practice.
“This was my retirement venture,” he said. He added a food truck to explore Sussex County, Delaware, opened a Rehoboth location, and sold the truck.
Wilmington visitors have long begged him to open in New Castle County, which lacked a New York-style deli despite a sizeable Jewish population. The old Jack Lundy Delicatessen on Miller Road is long gone.
Rosenfeld found a willing partner in Eric Sugrue, managing partner of the Big Fish Restaurant Group.
Sugrue has multiple restaurants in the Wilmington area, and his hospitality company has a proven track record when it comes to operations.
The restaurant is in the former home of Harvest House, owned by the Big Fish Restaurant Group.
It adjoins Washington Street Ale House and shares a kitchen with that restaurant, which is also under the hospitality company’s umbrella.
The freshened décor includes the mural of Jewish celebrities that’s become one of Rosenfeld’s signature. Artist Kathy Denk of Ocean Pines created the cartoon-like figures, including Barbra Streisand, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Albert Einstein.
Since the 40-seat space is smaller than the Rehoboth location, the menu has fewer items.
But all the favorites are on hand, such as corned beef Reubens, knishes, blintzes, latkes, matzo ball soup, sandwiches that take two hands to hold. (Sugrue declined to sample the tongue sandwich during tastings, Rosenfeld said, but other managers stepped up to the plate.)
Sugrue wanted the Wilmington site to be named Rosenfeld’s Delicatessen to reflect plans to grow the concept into a full-service operation with dinner menus.
For now, the new location’s hours are Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
By 2021, Rosenfeld and Sugrue hope to open a North Wilmington site, and then venture into Baltimore and Virginia. Not surprisingly, Rosenfeld would like to take the concept to Washington, D.C., where he was born.
From the chopped liver to the noodle kugel to the brisket, the menu reflects his childhood. Indeed, sandwiches are named for relatives and friends
Nostalgia is an essential ingredient in every dish.
“What I’m selling is memories,” Rosenfeld said, “that’s what I’m selling.”