They needed a species that was fleshy, oily, and sturdy enough to stand up to the smoker. But here in Florida, none of the fish used in the Eastern European cooking that cemented the foundation of New York City's herd of kosher delicatessens was available. So Sosa, who's been shuttling between Miami and New York to burrow into the ins-and-outs of deli operations alongside Harry & Ida's co-owner Will Horowitz, had to find a replacement.
"The only way we can properly translate a deli to South Florida is by looking at our waters and our agriculture across the board and seeing what we have that's similar to what was originally used," Sosa says while frying a tear-inducing heap of onions.
The result is a savory, salty-as-hell fish salad in a sandwich ($13) using slices of Stern's bread and accented with diced white onions, a lime-green fold of lettuce, and a few piney frills of fresh dill.
Yet the decision was made to instead build out the menu piece by piece. At the moment, each meal begins with a pickle plate littered with crisp brined cabbage, a plank of cucumber, and a toothsome wedge of green tomato that you'll want to dice and scatter over every meal you eat henceforth. There are two iterations of corned beef: one in a breakfast sandwich ($14) that also contains a vegetable omelet flecked with onion and red pepper; you may instead request a fried egg. Fat ribboned slices of the cherry-hued beef are also the centerpiece of a simple sandwich ($16) smeared with the deli's house-made, nose-tingling mustard.
Stern notes that much of it will eventually be available in a glass-enclosed deli display where patrons can find fish salads, smoked meats, and chopped liver by the pound. Yet even more in demand might be jobs in Stern's fledgling bakery. In small print, the menu notes a 15 percent charge will be added to each check to support a living wage for employees. "We guarantee a minimum of $15 an hour," Stern says, "and some people are getting more."
All of these moves might help make Stern and Sosa's aspirations to become a place with the heft of El Atlacatl, La Camaronera, or Joe's Stone Crab a reality. "We want to be an institution that's here for the community," Sosa says. "We want to be here in 50 years."
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