The landscape of Jewish-American delis has been in a steady decline for nearly a century. While there were more than 1,500 kosher delis in New York City in the 1930s, today there are about two dozen. However, one deli, opened by a Hungarian Holocaust survivor in a Hasidic pocket of Brooklyn in 1962, has defied this trend, despite—or perhaps because of—its adherence to a particularly strict set of Judaic dietary standards. Gottlieb’s Restaurant is today one of only a handful of Glatt kosher delis left in the country.
Beyond the hundreds of rules outlining kosher eating, the restrictions of a Glatt kosher diet call for the lungs of slaughtered animals to be free of defects as well as for a supervisor called a mashgiach to be present at all times. To be sure, no Reubens with Swiss cheese are on the menu at Gottleib’s. By obeying these rigid principles, the restaurant has become integral to Williamsburg’s Orthodox community.
Very little has changed about the 50-seat eatery since it opened in the 1960s. “We have microwaves now,” Menashe Gottlieb, grandson of founder Zoltan Gottleib, told the Village Voice, “but we don’t ever use them.” Aside from the addition of chicken lo mein, the menu has largely stayed the same, as well. The mostly Hasidic clientele gathers here for Eastern European mainstays, ranging from kugels to goulash to stuffed cabbage, and, of course, matzo ball soup. Diners can also opt for pastrami knish or Hungarian delights such as cherry soup.
While the Brooklyn around it warps and distends, Gottlieb’s is a familiar time capsule in the ancestral memory of Hasidic Williamsburg.
Know Before You Go
Gottlieb's is closed on Saturdays.