You know you’re in a New York-style deli when sour pickles and coleslaw arrive at your table in “monkey plates” — named for the small dishes organ-grinders’ monkeys once held out for tips. You catch a whiff of hot pastrami and immediately scrap your plan to order a salad or sliced peaches and cottage cheese.
The menu, the Formica-topped tables, the counter with stools — everything at Stephens Restaurant and New York Style Deli in Hialeah is just what you’d expect except one: the owner. Claudie Jean-Charles, a Haitian-American woman from Chicago, bought the 54-year-old deli two years ago from long-time owner Shelly Nadelman. (Nadelman had taken it over from the original owner; no one seems to remember who “Stephen” was.) Claudie, a former clothing wholesaler, had been mentored by a volunteer from SCORE, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the federal Small Business Administration. When she was featured in one of the program’s ads, she caught Nadelman’s eye. His son didn’t want to take over the deli, he was looking for a buyer, and Claudie had dreamed of getting into the food business. She runs Stephen’s and a late-night catering operation for film crews with her husband, retired Air Force officer Jean-Robert “J.J.” Jean-Charles.
She kept the traditional deli menu, adding a few healthful wraps (but you’ll get the Reuben anyway). She also kept the chef, known to all as Junior, who has been cooking here for 48 years. Located a bagel’s throw from Hialeah Park Race Track, Stephen’s is set in a garment-manufacturing area, and caters to the largely Jewish factory owners and their clientele along with security guards, cops and the occasional South Beach club owner. New York accents prevail here along with Reuben sandwiches — thick slices of hot, hand-carved corned beef on pan-grilled rye smothered with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing. The Romanian pastrami, its edges crusted in crushed black pepper, is also thick-cut, served on rye with the works. Brisket with potato pancakes and applesauce is another classic. Regular customers are devoted to the daily specials, especially Tuesday’s meatloaf with mashed potatoes and Wednesday’s split pea soup. If it’s your lucky day, you can end your meal with another special: bread pudding glazed in pineapple jam.
It’s not on the menu, so be sure to ask.
Stephen’s Restaurant and New York Style Deli, 1000 E. 16th St., at 10th Ave, Hialeah; 305-887-8863; 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Mon-Fri; appetizers $3.25-$5.85, sandwiches $5.25-$8.75, specials $5.25-$8.35.
FYI: Corporate catering and local delivery available.
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