Josh Marcus is single-handedly returning Jewish deli food to its roots. Homemade. Artisanal. Not produced in some commissary and reheated like much of today's deli fare.
He cures his own salmon and his own pastrami in a 14-day process. He makes pickles, bagels and even the mustard to go on those pastrami sandwiches.
"Of all the things I make, mustard takes the most time," he says. "I let it sit for at least 20 days before it gets the intensity it's supposed to have."
Marcus does it all in a nondescript, 22-seat storefront with just five tables and room for eight at a counter. It's more diner than deli, and some days he's doing both cooking and serving. The autographed photos of Woody Allen, Andy Kaufman and Milton Berle are fake. The photos of his mom and dad are real.
Marcus' resume includes stints as bartender at Sushisamba, executive sous chef at China Grill and manager of La Sandwicherie — all in Miami Beach.
Yes, a pastrami or corned sandwich ($10.95 each) is a must. But start with his soup ($5.95) with a matzo ball that has a depth of flavor Marcus claims comes from duck fat, ginger ale and herbs. They took home top prize at this year's annual Matzo Ball, held at Forest Trace, the retirement community in Lauderhill.
He makes his own potato knishes ($3.95). Classic French Canadian poutine ($8.95) — fries with cheese and curds and gravy — starts with the water from the corned beef, which he uses to make his gravy. The "Jewban" sandwich ($11.50) is Marcus' nod to Cuban Miami: pastrami, roast pork, pickles and Swiss on Cuban bread.
You can wash it down with a can of Dr. Brown's soda ($2) or cold Dale's Pale Ale ($6).
He serves anything on his menu all day long, but among the breakfast dishes are white chocolate chip pancakes with caramelized bananas ($8.95), challah French toast ($8.95) and "Juevos hebroros" ($9.95) — latkes, chili and poached eggs.
His riffs on tradition might include a special of pork belly hash instead of corned beef hash ($9.95) or French toast blintzes ($9.95).
Marcus has a profound respect for Jewish deli food and hopes his restaurant helps create new traditions of the sort he remembers from his childhood in New Rochelle, N.Y.
"A deli is not about the actual food on the plate," says Marcus. "It's about the relationship that I have with you because the next time you come in, I'll know you. I look at myself as a comedian-psychologist-deli person. I want to make you smile and make you happy eating."
9517 Harding, Surfside, 305-397-8494
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. daily