Zaidy’s Deli has been a favorite hangout for Denver-based David Scherzer since childhood – a place so familiar that he chose it as the place to bring his 3-year-old daughter to lunch with his dying grandmother.
“One of the last meals we had with her was at Zaidy’s,” he said, remembering lunch four years ago. “My daughter has to sit on her lap. One of the last memories of my grandma was in that cabin. “
The 35-year-old Scherzer immersed himself in his own experiences at the famous deli and suggested that “most Jewish families in Denver” might share similar fond memories of this Jewish establishment in the neighborhood.
This explains why, when longtime owners Gerard Rudofsky and his son Jason decided to close the restaurant after three and a half decades last October, loyal patrons – both Jewish and non-Jewish – flocked to social media with good wishes as they mourned the Loss of a community staple.
But only last week Zaidy’s customers received welcome news: They can enjoy their favorite corned beef on rye and matzo ball soup again this summer, when the deli is under new ownership, in a new location and with a slightly new one Location opens its doors Name – Zaidy’s Deli & Bakery.
Beth Ginsberg, a member of the local community, is set to revive Zaidy’s after buying the company in partnership with Denverites colleague Joel Appel and his father Max, the inventor of OxiClean.
Gerard Rudofsky opened the deli in downtown Denver in 1985 before moving to the Cherry Creek neighborhood in 1992. After just a few months of lease and numerous challenges related to pandemics, the Rudofskys finally decided to close the doors of their restaurant in an October interview in Westword magazine.
Courtesy of Facebook
Zaidy’s Deli in its old location in Cherry Creek
Ginsberg, the owner of Trompeau Bakery in suburban Denver, Englewood, and a long-time actor on the local Jewish food scene, said that as soon as the Rudofskys announced the closure, messages came in from customers wanting to share memories of baby names and bar mitzvahs with her beloved deli.
“One of the reasons I didn’t want Zaidy’s to go away is because it’s really representative of our people and our traditions,” said Ginsberg. “The lack of Zaidys would have been felt very deeply.”
Despite a robust Jewish population of 90,000, the Denver metropolitan area offers few Jewish foods. Kosher options include East Side Kosher Deli, Brooklyn Pizza, Rosenberg’s Kosher, and two ice cream parlors.
In nearby Boulder, the only kosher restaurant is a Chabad-supervised stand in the University of Colorado cafeteria. This spring, however, Boulder is slated to get a non-kosher branch of Rosenberg’s Bagels, which has two non-kosher branches in addition to its Denver branch. Both cities also have what Ginsberg calls “some fun new Israeli restaurants”.
Courtesy of Facebook
Zaidy’s Deli Matzoh Ball Soup
While Zaidy’s is not kosher, its menu choices have long been representative of the traditional New York “Jewish Deli” experience – with choices like hot pastrami sandwiches with coleslaw, Challah French toast, potato latkes with applesauce and bagels, and salmon.
Ginsberg is particularly well-versed in the bagel industry, having owned the popular bagel store in southeast Denver until the Rosenberg’s Bagel business merged into Rosenberg’s Kosher in 2017. During her tenure at the bagel store, Ginsberg delivered bagels to Zaidy’s Deli and she is confident they measured up to the New York dough ring.
“If you ask anyone what a New York bagel is, they’re all over the menu,” she said. “There isn’t really a bagel.”
That being said, Ginsberg confirmed that their bagels contain gluten-rich flour, brown sugar, and malt syrup, and adhere to a fully cooked, traditional recipe.
“I don’t know there is anyone in the city of Denver who made more bagels than Beth,” added her business partner, Joel Appel. “If you go through Zaidys, you will smell the fresh bagels.”
Courtesy of Instagram
Zaidy’s deli bagel sandwich
Both Ginsberg and Appel emphasized the importance of maintaining tradition at the new venue, which is about three kilometers southeast of the old location. Appel said they will make their own smoked fish and still offer acclaimed dishes like a corned beef sandwich or a reuben. The Patriarch of Zaidy, Gerard Rudofksy, will continue to work for the new restaurant for the next few years.
“He’s going to be the headmaker,” added Ginsberg. “His presence will cement the transition from Cherry Creek to this location.”
Still, Ginsberg and Appel have some changes in mind for the new Zaidy’s, which they will hopefully open in July. Since the restaurant itself is larger, Ginsberg can accommodate a bakery on site for the preparation of fresh bagels and rye bread. Appel also discussed the possibility of adding some new additions to the menu, with the idea of addressing millennials like their own children.
“You might like a fancy avocado,” he suggested.
Courtesy of Instagram
Zaidy’s Deli lox
Although the new store will place an increased emphasis on takeout options, Ginsberg expressed confidence that people are willing to sit on both the patio and indoors, as many Denver restaurants are already full.
In view of the larger space and the accessible, free parking spaces nearby, Ginsberg and Appel are also planning an adjoining “Zaidy’s Next Door” – an event room with a catering kitchen for special programs and Shabbat dinners. As pandemic restrictions ease and families scramble to welcome guests outside of town, Appel sees Zaidy play an important role in reuniting loved ones.
“I think it’s important that people come back and see their friends and have their comfort food,” he said. “You could go to Zaidys and see people you haven’t seen in 14 months.”
Scherzer, the customer of the lifelong Zaidy, who associated the place with memories of his grandmother, admitted that the new restaurant will be different. However, he said he was glad to have another member of the local community take the helm.
“When Gerard opened it, my parents were about my age,” added Scherzer. “I am very confident that the new space can become a place where younger families can make their own memories.”