Stephen's Restaurant: Hand-Carved Pastrami in Hialeah

Inside Stephen's, a corned-beef-fueled time machine in Hialeah.
Inside Stephen's, a corned-beef-fueled time machine in Hialeah.
All photos by Zachary Fagenson

Circling around Hialeah side streets near LeJeune Avenue we found Stephen's Restaurant only after dodging a 10-foot-by-10-foot slab of marble being offloaded into a warehouse.

A New York-style deli with house-made, hand-sliced pastrami and corned beef loaded onto thick slices of griddled rye bread is the last thing we thought we'd find here. Yet Stephen's is a holdover from a bygone era, when Formica countertops were still in style and the area was home to a garment district and a large Jewish population.

The original menu and chef, Henderson "Junior" Biggers, remain after nearly six decades even though current owner Jack Frisch bought the business only two years ago from longtime owners Sheldon and Phyllis Nadelman. No one seemed to know where the name Stephen's came from.

Frisch said he's added a variety of salads and wraps to the menu to somewhat keep up with the times.

"There were really never any women in here before then," he said. "This was a real boys club."

We saw a bevy of cops and fireman coming in for lunch on weekday afternoon. It's still mostly boys.

The Rachel at Stephen's.
The Rachel at Stephen's.

Meanwhile, forget about your new year's resolution - it's been a week already - and order up a grilled Rachel (with pastrami) or Reuben (with corned beef). The Rachel ($9.95) came with juicy, thick-sliced pastrami flecked with tasty bits of fat, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. Thousand island dressing was offered on the side.

Matzo ball soup.
Matzo ball soup.

In keeping with the Jewish classics we also ordered a cup of matzo ball soup ($2.95), but found the broth a bit greasy with out any sort of carrot or noodle and the ball itself a bit soft.

Frisch, 55, is a former headhunter from New Jersey who three years ago decided it was time for a change. He started at the culinary program at Johnson & Wales University and later worked under Michael Psilakis when the celebrity chef was consulting for Eos in the Viceroy Hotel and later at Seasons 52 in Coral Gables.

After being his own boss for so long Frisch said it was hard to take orders from someone else, so he set out to find a business. After looking at more than 100 restaurants he settled on Hialeah. Seems odd? Frisch said he was looking for something that did breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, partially to avoid the endless hours of running a dinner service. Nonetheless he said he's still working "13-hour days" and considering staying open into the early evening and on weekends.

For more follow Zach on Twitter @ZachIsWeird.

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