Matt Kuscher and the team behind LoKal, Kush, Spillover and Vicky’s House establish a new home in Hialeah by combining the oldest Deli in Florida and the first cocktail bar in Hialeah. The soon-to-open Stephen’s Deli will dish out classic deli style sandwiches like their signature hand-cut pastrami and corned beef in an old-school setting.
First came a farm-to-table concept with fresh burgers in the heart of Coconut Grove. That was followed by a craft beer joint in the outskirts of Wynwood, followed by fresh oysters and Coconut Grove’s best brunch along with an 80s themed milkshake bar. And now, the people behind LoKal, Kush, The Spillover and Vicky’s House are doing it again, only this time they're bringing classic hand-sliced pastrami and classic Jewish deli flair back to Hialeah.
Continuing the legacy of Florida’s oldest deli, Matt “Kush” Kuscher of Kush Hospitality Group re-opens Stephen’s Delicatessen on Wednesday, June 19, specializing in its original menu from the 50s, but with his personal touch.
“In this process, I love that I’ve discovered Hialeah, and I really think both Hialeah and South Florida residents will be proud of the authenticity we made of the space here,” said Kush. “I tried to keep the deli as similar to the original as possible. My grandpa owned a deli and I used his place as a model for the elements from the menu to the decor while still keeping the classics Stephen’s is loved for.”
Kuscher remains committed to authenticity and Stephen’s Deli will remain as close to its roots as possible with its original signage framing the entrance. Key elements remain consistent at Stephen’s: both the hand-sliced smoked meats and the person who’s been slicing them for over 60 years, Henderson “Junior” Biggers. Stephen’s Deli was Junior’s first job in 1957 and he’s still slicing corned beef and making the matzohs the same way he learned back in 50s.
Junior’s second job was at Kush Restaurant while waiting for Stephen’s Deli to reopen after its remodel. A carving station called “Junior’s Station” is the cornerstone of the space featuring Junior himself who has been with Stephen’s Deli for 62 years and is one of the most loyal and understated culinary professionals in South Florida. Upon entering, guests will see him hand-slicing the pastrami and corned beef to order while also learning more about this living legacy who has no intentions of slowing down. Henderson “Junior” Biggers, now 83, is full of vitality and enthusiastic for the next iteration of Stephen’s Deli who has been through several owners since it first opened in 1954.
“Junior is the heart and soul of this operation,” Kuscher says. “He’s the one who’s kept this alive and has been with the operation since 1957 when he was only 20 years old. If it wasn’t for him hand-slicing meat for more than 60 years, all of this would probably be long gone. He’s responsible for keeping up one of the most historic places in Miami.”
A major focus of their menu is their Bubbie’s Matzoh Ball Soup, or what is popularly known as “Jewish penicillin”, traditionally gifted to a loved one. Also found on the menu are deli classics like a hefty Bagel & Lox Platter (smoked salmon from their neighbors St. James Smokehouse); NY Style Deli Sandwiches (on rye or challah, served with a Batampte pickle); Kush Hospitality’s Chicken n’ Waffles (voted Best in Miami by Miami New Times) Reuben Sandwiches with hand-sliced corned beef, made-to-order Egg Salad Sandwiches and freshly-fried latkes. Guests can expect Kush and LoKal’s key lime pie (named Best in Miami by Travel + Leisure) on Stephen’s menu, including Hialeah’s own Tio Colo Ice Cream sandwiches; Stephen’s signature Hialeah Bars (homemade sugar cookie with shaved coconut, chocolate chips, granola and walnuts); NY Egg Cream (topped with U-Bet chocolate syrup); and the classic deli favorite Dr. Brown’s soda to pair along with their Irish Coffee made with Jameson Irish Whiskey.
Kush pays homage to his own childhood memories of matzoh ball soup by including family photos on the walls of Stephen’s Deli, like his dad’s bar mitzvah and his grandfather’s wedding day. The menu is designed to be an exact duplicate of the menu at The Plantation Nook, his grandfather’s deli which burned down years ago in Plantation, Broward County. A saved original of the menu is on display paying tribute to Kuscher’s restaurant roots. Stephen’s Deli will also include artistic and traditional elements of Jewish and Hialeah culture. Adding to the New York-style deli aesthetic, the space features neon signs by Camilo Rojas of CR-eate Studios and an art installation paying tribute to Henderson “Junior” Biggers which tells his story.
"The deli culture is dying in this country and especially in Miami," says Kush. “Here is one that's been doing the same thing for 60 plus years and was about to go away. As a lover of this place and a lover of delis, I'm so proud to help bring it back stronger than before.”
Stephen’s Deli originally opened in 1954 when Hialeah was predominantly a Jewish neighborhood surrounded by the garment industry. According to history, it was named after the first owner’s son. It has had several owners over the years but it’s glory days were in the 70s and 80s when Shelley Nadelman and his son Scott ran it for over 30 years, even after the neighborhood showed no resemblance to its Jewish beginnings. In 2011, Jack Frisch from New Jersey took it over bringing back some life into it. Although the menu kept tradition and hadn’t changed much, its current Cuban neighbors knew little about Jewish delis. At the time, Kush frequented Stephen’s for comfort in pastrami sandwiches. “It reminded me so much of my childhood and I felt obligated to try to bring it back to its glory days,” he said.