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Delores on the Only Way to Eat Corned Beef

Monday, June 28th, 2010

“For me, the only way to eat corned beef is on rye bread with mustard. Maybe put coleslaw or Russian dressing, but that is already pushing it. Now, the shvartzes will walk in here and ask for corned beef with bacon, lettuce, tomato, swiss cheese, and mayonaise on white bread. It don’t make no sense to me, but I make it.

I love to kibbitz with the people who come in here every day and I am proud to work in one of the last Jewish businesses on Bladensburg Road and one of the last Jewish delis in the District.

“I got my first job working in a Jewish deli 37 years ago. I was 16 when I moved to D.C. from Saint Mary’s County, Maryland. We were 21 kids and I am the oldest girl. My Mom was 15 when she had her first and 42 when she had her last. I moved out because my parents were alcoholics and I couldn’t live with my family anymore. I had an aunt in D.C. who let me stay with her while I tried to get on my feet.

“The first job I applied for was at the Baltimore Delicatessen on Bladensburg Road. There were two Jewish guys working there and I asked if they were hiring. It was 8:30 in the morning and they told me to start that minute. I came from the country and knew nothing about no Jewish or corned beef and gefilte fish. On my first day, I messed up everything. At the end of the day, they said, ‘You don’t know nothing from nothing, so we are going to have to teach you everything.’

“Over time, they taught me how to speak Yiddish and how to be a waitress and a manager. I learned more here than I did from my family. In 1979, the two guys split up and one went to open Deli City on Bladensburg Road, where I have worked for 31 years. The other place has since closed. This place is my life. When I came at 16, I didn’t think that I would stay there. I wanted to stay until I got an apartment. At 17, I got my first apartment. and then thought that I would work some more until I got some furniture. After I got furniture, I stayed. Now, I have stayed all of this time working as a waitress.

“When I started, the neighborhood and clientele were all Jewish, there were no shvartves nowhere. We used to have stuffed cabbage, chopped liver, tongue, gefilte fish, potato pancakes, and a whole special Passover menu. In the 80’s is when the blacks started coming in. Now, we still get a few Jews, but it is predominantly shvartzes. As the clientele changed, the menu changed, too. When I started, you couldn’t mix corned beef with no cheese or serve any pork. With time the menu changed because people kept asking for pork chops or swiss cheese on their sandwiches. We had to change things because the shvartzes were the ones who were buying our food. Most of the Jews had moved away or died and young Jews aren’t eating corned beef every day. If we didn’t change, we would have been in bad shape. Even with all of the changes, we still have the best food in the area.

“All of my girlfriends ask me why I still work here. I work here because I love it and I make just as much money as a waitress as they do in their jobs. I always make sure the customer leaves with a smile on his face. I don’t know if being a waitress is good for everyone, but it has been good to me. I love to kibbitz with the people who come in here every day and I am proud to work in one of the last Jewish businesses on Bladensburg Road and one of the last Jewish delis in the District.”

Deli City Restaurant is located at 2200 Bladensburg Road Northeast.

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  1. Are you effing kidding? I’m black and am completely offended by her use of the word “schwartzes.” I find it incredible that Delores can be so ignorant that she isn’t aware that using that word is offensive. I am always reading blogs to find new places to patronize, but I definitely won’t patronize this establishment. And if the owners of the establishment had any business sense whatsoever, they’d get Delores to shut or trap asap. Or better yet, fire her a$$! Unbelievable, absolutely stunning the ignorance of this broad.

    Comment by mel — June 28, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

  2. I was so angry when I typed my original message that I misspelled schvartzes. I hope my doing so doesn’t detract from the sting I hope my original comment has.

    Comment by mel — June 28, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

  3. Shvartze in Yiddish literally means ‘black.’ While the usage has taken on negative connotations in the past, it seems like this is more a playful usage than an aggressive one.

    Mel, I would not be so quick to judge her.

    Comment by Jacob — June 28, 2010 @ 10:29 pm

  4. I don’t get it, black people can use the n word to describe themselves, but this woman can’t use a playful Yiddish word to talk about her own people. How annoying and PC have we become as a society? Lighten up.

    Comment by Hassan — June 29, 2010 @ 12:43 am

  5. Not to worry Delores, I will happily come and patronize your restaurant! Sounds like a great place with lots of history. Nice to see that the waitresses have a sense of humor.

    Comment by KC — June 29, 2010 @ 9:25 am

  6. Amazing how all of the comments have failed to notice Delores’ amazing grasp of the corned beef sandwich. She is right, there is no other way to eat it.

    Comment by John — June 29, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  7. Love how mel gets all angry about schvartzes and then refers to the woman as a ‘broad.’ GROW A PAIR.

    Comment by jake — December 14, 2010 @ 8:20 am

  8. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you ever been blogging for? you made running a blog look easy. The total look of your site is fantastic, as well as the content material!

    Comment by garmin nuvi 1300 — April 3, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

  9. Delores–

    So enjoyed your serious love and passion for the work that you do. It is quite a blessing for one to really enjoy, be passionate about, and also respect their occupation or field of work no matter what it is and doing it well for so many years. The “Reuben” corn beef sandwich is one of my two favorite Jewish Deli sandwiches although I know you’ll frown on me loving mine with Russian Dressing, S-Kraut, Swiss Cheese, and Mustard on Rye with corn beef piled high and bread pan or grill toasted using light hint of butter. My second favorite Jewish Deli sandwich is Liver Pate with Egg Salad, Lettuce, Onions, and one slice of Tomato on top all between Rye bread. In the early days when I worked in television news, my favorite Jewish Deli in D.C. was Wagshall’s in Spring Valley. I hadn’t been there in nearly 30 years, went there several months ago given I was in the neighborhood, and was totally shocked. It is not the same place and the liver / egg salad sandwich I ordered was terrible and in no way at all what it was many, many years ago when four men worked the counter packing the sandwiches high with very fresh, kosher deli meats in the narrow store that stayed packed with customers vying for attention to their highly coveted favorite sandwich order. I really must and seriously intend to visit and eat at Deli City Restaurant sometime very soon. Thanks for your interesting life and occupational career story.

    Comment by DAD — December 25, 2012 @ 12:39 am

  10. Mel–

    Please don’t be so hard on Delores. I am African American too, yet I well understand as should you too if you read her story again that Delores as the eldest daughter born to her mother who began having children at age 15, had 21 kids by age 42, her mom and dad were both alcoholics had to be a very difficult family life situation likely of poverty, lack of adequate stable home or life skills training, very insufficient or little formal school education. She came up during completely different and much harder times for African Americans than you or I. Remember because of her stressful family situation that may have also subjected to her to abuse of some kind, Delores left home early just to get away from her family’s household and lived with another family member until she could get a job and her own place to live? She had the courage and took the initiative to improve her life in the best way that she could and, while she didn’t have the proper family guidance nor financial wherewithal to attend college to become formally highly educated, Delores was clearly responsible, teachable, hardworking, and thankful to work whatever job she could find to take care of herself. Just because she grew up hard and different times and isn’t college
    educated nor as worldly or knowledgeable doesn’t mean she’s stupid or deserves to be fired because she may not know the actual meaning or negative racial connotation of a Jewish Yiddish word she learned from her employers having heard them say it more than once. Are you kidding me and others? Delores may think the word describes all non-Jews in general versus specifically meaning a black person. Rather than to hatefully berate Delores, how about you be considerate enough to have kindly educated her about definition and use of the word you believe she should know. While ignorance is not bliss, anger isn’t either and can do just as much if not more harm. Peace!

    Comment by DAD — December 25, 2012 @ 1:32 am

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