By Chris Bavender
Seems the entire country now knows what Indianapolis residents have known for years – when it comes to Jewish delis, Shapiro’s Delicatessen is tops. The downtown icon was recently named one of the top 10 Jewish delis in the country by the online site The Daily Meal.
“I have no idea how they know about the deli, but it reaffirms what we know, so I’m glad we made a national restaurant publication,” said owner Brian Shapiro. “Our Jewish community in Indianapolis isn’t that big compared to some of these other cities. But you can’t beat that kind of marketing – you can’t buy it.”
Being selected among the top Jewish delis isn’t the only news for Shapiro’s. Look for a second location to open in the next year in the Keystone at the Crossing area. Word of expansion comes despite the fact the Carmel store closed last June.
“The demographics in Carmel changed, and it became more of an apartment crowd, and we didn’t go over very well,” Shapiro said. “But the demo in the Keystone area is more in line.”
And the same quality seen downtown will extend to the north side. “When people come to Shapiro’s they know what they will get,” Shapiro said. “They know what a reuben will taste like; they know what the pastrami will taste like.”
And if it’s not right, customers will let him know, Shapiro said.
“Let me tell you, if we put too much salt in the mac and cheese, someone will tell us it’s not right, and they are correct. We do a tasting at 10 a.m. and another for dinner,” he said. “There is an expectation of what people want. We are not 100 percent perfect, and it would be disingenuous for me to say that, but we do try to make every day opening day. And it starts, I think, with the fact that we are loyal to our vendor. We have been using the same suppliers for maybe 100 years for some of them, and that is something you don’t see much anymore — loyalty.”
So, just what is it that makes the 100-year-old delicatessen a top choice when it comes to a place to grab a pastrami or corned beef sandwich on rye? According to Shapiro, it’s the fact they offer the “ultimate comfort food.”
“A lot of people — they can go out and get a salad but end up being hungry a few hours after — and our food is more stick to the bones,” Shapiro said. “We give large portions and a lot of people take leftovers home and eat them another day. That, and we make it all – we have people who peel the carrots and potatoes – we don’t buy them already processed. It’s all prepared fresh.”
It’s all part of cultivating customer loyalty, he said.
And it shows in their sales. Shapiro’s, where 55 percent of total sales are related to corned beef and pastrami, consistently draws big lunchtime crowds, and you’re just as likely to see local movers and shakers as you are tables of longtime regulars.
“Business is booming,” Shapiro said. “We have 800 to 1,000 customers a day. Now, I will put a footnote on that because when Mother Nature is fighting with us, she will win. There isn’t a whole lot you can do in January when there are monster storms and people can’t get here, but Hoosiers are pretty hearty, and we tend to figure things out.”
Location: 808 S Meridian St.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily
Info: 317-631-4041 or Shapiro’s.com
Chris Bavender is an Indianapolis-based freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter at @crbavender.