A New Take on the Jewish Deli, at Manny’s Restaurant and Delicatessen
- Kristen Evans
- 3 Min Read
Growing up, Chase and Jeremy Thomas clocked hours bussing tables at Famous Deli, their father’s Jewish deli located in Southampton, Pennsylvania. But they never thought they’d one day operate a deli of their own.
Earlier this year, however, their father’s former storefront became available—and the Thomas brothers jumped at the opportunity to launch a restaurant there. With the help of an old summer-camp buddy, Rob Woloshin, they opened Manny’s Restaurant and Delicatessen six months ago.
The young co-owners transformed the menu, updating old classics and infusing their breakfast and lunch offerings with a playful personality. They want their customers to know that the tradition of the Jewish deli can be carried on—and perhaps even transformed—by millennial business savvy. “There’s a big market for it,” said Jeremy, 29, referring to the deli business in and around Philadelphia. “And all the Jewish delis around—none of them have younger owners. We’re trying to bring a younger generation into the Jewish deli,” he added.
There’s a strong family narrative around the restaurant storefront, but the appeal of Manny’s extends beyond its meaningful location. The restaurant concept tells the story of how the Thomas brothers met their friend Rob Woloshin—at the summer sleep-away camp, Nock-a-Mixon, located south of Easton. Manny’s Restaurant and Delicatessen is named after the camp’s chef, Manny, who still works at Nock-a-Mixon. Meanwhile many menu items offer camp-themed twists on traditional deli favorites. You can order challah french toast with Rice Krispies for added texture, for example—because what kid hasn’t experimented with a cereal bar out of the watchful eyes of their parents? The Dr. Seussian “One Fish Two Fish” platter, on the other hand, is all business: loaded with fresh white fish, lox (salt-cured salmon), and plenty of salad fixings.
But the menu isn’t just about camp nostalgia or playful names, says Rob Woloshin, who runs day-to-day operations. The co-owners wanted to emphasize the quality and freshness of their ingredients and started buying higher-quality items or making them on-site. Often the changes to ordering helped them to lower their price point—and offer higher quality foods to their customers.
And, oh, the customers have come back. “Everybody that comes in—it’s not just a restaurant. It’s more of a community gathering place,” said Chase Thomas, who, at 25, is the youngest of the bunch. He understands how lucky they are to be able to build on the community created by Famous Deli all those years ago.
As the business grows, Manny’s Restaurant and Delicatessen is finding new ways to balance deli orders with both a booming lunch crowd and corporate catering outreach. “I have a new marketing manager, and we’re very focused on customer service for our corporate catering clients, making sure delivery times are always prompt,” said Chase. While all three co-owners have worked in the food and service industries, Chase also has a background in marketing and entrepreneurship. In conversation, the trio is quick to point out that Chase’s expertise helped turn their dream of opening a restaurant into a reality.
By the end of the conversation, I’m wondering what Chase and Jeremy’s dad—the famous Stu—makes of his sons following in his footsteps. “He had a lot of concerns in the beginning,” admitted Jeremy. “He knew how hard the business can be.” Six months on, with both catering orders and press coverage of the restaurant ramping up, however, Stu is singing a different tune. “He’s pretty proud and very happy for us,” said Jeremy with a laugh. Rob chimed in, noting how often the customers pronounce “the sons of Stu are back.”
In the next month, Manny’s Restaurant and Delicatessen hopes to expand by adding dinner to their already-impressive menu. But they plan to double down on their commitment to excellent customer service, too. “Ultimately, people are attracted to places where they feel comfortable,” said Rob. “I know this customer likes their salami cut extra thick, but that customer needs it really, really thin,” he offered by way of example. “Just knowing that is a beautiful thing.”
Hungry for a corned beef on rye?