Mile End Deli is two things at once: an all-American, meat-loving deli and a neighborhood center of Jewish culture. Although dozens of Jewish eateries across Brooklyn are closed today to recognize Yom Kippur, Mile End keeps its doors open to costumers. The most faithful of Mile End’s diners have been known to line up around the corner in anticipation of a famous smoked meat sandwich or sour pickle, and today is no exception.
“We made the decision to stay open,” Mile End founder Noah Bernamoff explains, “because the majority of our customer base is not Jewish.” Nestled in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Boerum Hill, Mile End has become a popular destination for visitors of all walks since its founding in a converted garage in January 2010. Bernamoff’s primary mission has been to serve the Jewish comfort foods of his youth, but his vision for the restaurant has since evolved into a fusion of traditional Jewish cooking and the progressive values he has picked up along the way. The end result is a deli establishment whose menu is as diverse as the New Yorkers that walk in its door.
Mile End may be more flexible in its interpretation of kosher cooking, but the essence of the Jewish cuisine is everywhere, not just in the items on the menu, Bernamoff points out, but also in the way he conducts himself as a Jewish business owner. “Jewish cooking is about family and traditional methods,” he says. “We try to make our food in a way that’s respectful to the ingredients and tradition.” This means that when you walk into Mile End, you know you’re buying milk and eggs from farmers upstate. You know the produce and fish are in season. And this, according to Bernamoff, isn’t always what people expect to find in a traditional Jewish outlet: “Everyone expects a sour pickle when they come in, but cucumbers don’t grow twelve months of the year.” Cooking delicious Jewish food and practicing sustainable values isn’t always easy.
Ultimately, Bernamoff believes that Mile End adheres to a certain kind of kosher, even if it isn’t a literal translation of Talmudic law. Kosher means “taking care of the land around you, taking care of your own people,” Bernamoff explains.
According to that definition, the decision to stay open on Yom Kippur, when many devout Jews are fasting, is totally kosher.