Meatless Reubens Are Coming To Seattle From This Jewish Vegan Deli

Jewish Vegan Deli in Seattle

Ben & Esther’s, a Jewish vegan deli established in Portland, Oregon, will open a Seattle location in September. Fresh bagels covered with flavored cream cheeses; prepared deli salads by the pound; noodle kugel; matzo ball soup; and sandwiches such as Reubens, Turkey-Bacon Clubs, lox bagels, and Tuna Melts are all vegan options at the deli.

Ben & Esther’s already has two Portland locations and one in San Diego. The deli will debut in Oceanside, CA this summer, in addition to the new Seattle facility that will open in September. Justin King, the owner of Ben & Esther’s, hopes to expand to the East Coast in the future.

When King originally launched Ben & Esther’s—named after his grandparents—in 2019, he wanted it to be a classic Jewish bagel bakery, which made sense to him as a vegan. But he quickly discovered how difficult it was for him to market meals that contained animal products.

After a year of running the traditional deli, King began to gradually remove meat from the menu. The Ben & Esther’s staff began making vegan versions of the deli’s current dishes, such as salt-roasted carrots as lox, brined and smoked hearts of palm in place of whitefish, and Earth Balance instead of butter in rugelach and babka. The shop went completely vegan last October.

By extending the now-mini network, King hopes to make Jewish vegan deli food more accessible to the general public—and to make Jewish vegan delis the standard rather than the exception.Seattle, according to King, seemed like an obvious next step in his expansion plans. “Seattle is a natural parallel because of its close proximity and similar mood to Portland… There’s a great vegan scene in Seattle with lots of support for Ben & Esther’s and our goal is to establish a location in every major city in the US,” King said.

Accessible Jewish Vegan Food

There are only a few Jewish vegan delis across the country. Gina Marino-Kalish and Andy Kalish established Sam & Gertie’s next door to their successful vegan cafe Kl’ish in early 2020 in Chicago. The deli, which sells plant-based versions of typical Jewish delicatessen foods such smoked salmon, bagels, baked goods, knishes, latkes, egg and tuna salads, and hot sandwiches packed with brisket and schmaltz, is named after Kalish’s maternal grandparents.

Mort & Betty’s, a Jewish vegan deli in Los Angeles, debuted as a monthly pop-up and catering service in 2018. Megan Tucker’s pop-up serves a menu inspired by Israeli and Mediterranean cuisine, including vegan versions of classic Jewish dishes like Mushroom Pastrami Sandwiches, Carrot Lox Bagels, White Carrot Whitefish Salad, and holiday favorites like Potato Latkes, Challah, and Rugelach, as well as holiday favorites like Potato Latkes, Challah, and Rugelach.

“As a chef, one thing that makes Jewish cuisine so interesting is how it has picked up flavors of other cuisines as it’s migrated… Two dishes that celebrate this in the context of LA are Corned Beet Reuben Tacos and Matzoh Ramen. In the latter, components of classic Matzoh Ball Soup and Japanese ramen combine to create a new dish,” Tucker previously said.

Vegan Deli Meat

Unreal Deli, a vegan deli meat company with Jewish roots, is not a regular deli store. Its owner Jenny Goldberg created the firm with the goal of providing vegan replicas of the classic New York-style deli meats she grew up eating. Goldfarb’s brand, which was founded by the great-granddaughter of New York delicatessen entrepreneurs, today provides three types of vegan deli meat: corned beef, roasted turkey, and steak pieces.

Unreal Deli’s products have quickly extended to retailers and restaurants across the country since winning $250,000 in backing from Mark Cuban on a 2019 episode of reality television show Shark Tank. The company is most known for its vegan corned beef, which was one of the brand’s first significant partnerships, launching at 58 Whole Foods Markets in the Southern Pacific region. Unreal Deli made its big box store debut last month, when it introduced 1.5-pound combo packs of its three deli meats at 40 Costco locations.

Corned beef from Unreal Deli is increasingly showing up on restaurant menus. Following a nationwide introduction at Veggie Grill locations, it launched in 2020 at 16 Quiznos locations in Seattle. Last year, Unreal Deli partnered with delivery-only virtual brand Acelerate to introduce a Reuben burger at plant-based burger chain Next Level Burger and to develop a first-of-its-kind vegan sub delivery chain in six major cities throughout the country. With the goal of having Unreal Deli stores all across the country, Goldfarb is currently working to expand further into the foodservice market.


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