One of the country’s most well-known Jewish delis outside of New York, L.A.’s Canter’s Deli, is now available on the Peninsula in a new partnership with the food-delivery service DoorDash.
Customers in Atherton, Belmont, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Carlos and Woodside can pick up or get delivery of matzah ball soup, latkes, pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, and sides including coleslaw, sauerkraut and dill pickles. All are prepared at DoorDash Kitchens in Redwood City, with another to-be-named South Bay location where the food will be available, happening soon. The concept had its soft opening about a month ago.
The idea behind DoorDash Kitchens is to help restaurants test new concepts and expand their reach to new areas, with minimal financial investment on their part.
Canter’s has been a beloved presence in Los Angeles for 90 years; it’s been in its current, Art Deco-style location on Fairfax Avenue since 1953. Open 24 hours, it is also known as a late-night haunt for many, with celebrities and politicians often stopping by.
For owner Marc Canter, it was hard to pass up the offer when DoorDash approached about testing the Northern California market.
Canter’s already had tested the concept with Postmates in Santa Monica, which did well, he said.
“Why wouldn’t we do it?” said Canter. “We have a good name, people know who we are, so of course we’d love to be able to reach more people.”
A limited menu allowed the DoorDash Kitchen chef to work on getting the food right. A Canter’s team worked with the chef via a video feed.
“With deli, you need to see it. There are a lot of nuances to get it right,” said Canter. “You have to steam and cut the meat right. It’s not like Subway, where you’re just putting this many ounces of sliced meat on bread. It’s more complicated than that.”
Canter has not been to the Bay Area yet to try the food himself, but he plans to come soon.
If things go well, Canter’s could branch out to other markets as well, using this model. Canter is leaving it up to DoorDash to do the market research on where it might go next.
“We’ve been doing this for 90 years, so we have no problem working with professional people in getting our food out in different areas of the country,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
By using the ghost kitchen model and offering a limited menu, it’s easy to pick up and take it elsewhere if it doesn’t do well in one market, Canter said.
“They’re dipping their toe in the water,” he said about DoorDash.
Mina Bressler grew up going to Canter’s Deli. Now a resident of San Mateo, the L.A. native gave a big thumbs up to the corned beef sandwich and the latkes that she got from the Redwood City outpost. Would she order it again? She’s not sure, she told J.; she might just wait to visit the original Canter’s the next time she’s in L.A.
“It satisfied a nostalgia, but I think that nostalgia is for the brown and cream deli dishware, the company of family and unlimited pickles,” she said.
Interestingly, San Francisco’s Jewish deli, Wise Sons, announced in 2019 that it was going to expand to Los Angeles, but it never happened.
Meanwhile, also owing to the ghost kitchen phenomenon, Oren’s Hummus is now available in Lafayette. There’s no physical restaurant, but some of its more popular items are available for pickup through what’s called Local Kitchens. When we looked at the website, we saw that Wise Sons Deli is also available there, as is food from Proposition Chicken, a local chain we’ve written about, co-owned by chef Ari Feingold.