The Miracle of David's Brisket House in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
The history of David's Brisket House is lost in the murk of time. Surprisingly, it's a Jewish-style deli in the commercial heart of Bed-Stuy. Does it date from the days early in the last century when the neighborhood's population was evenly divided between Eastern European Jews, Italians, and African-Americans?
The place was one of the earliest "finds" of Jim Leff, the founder of Chowhound. In his 1999 book The Eclectic Gourmet Guide to Greater New York City, he expresses doubt about the original Jewishness of the place: "To all appearances, it's a no-frills luncheonette with Caribbean staff and clientele, counter seating, and steam tables in the window -- exactly like a thousand other such joints. If this was ever actually a Jewish deli, there are no visible traces left."
To me, even the way the meat is handled and the sandwiches are made suggest that it represents a lovingly preserved Jewish deli, one with a short Formica lunch counter little used today. In general layout, the place resembes the ancient, no-frills kosher delis that one can still stumble on in Midwood and Borough Park.
David's -- a purveyor of huge roast brisket sandwiches smothered in gravy or merely smeared with mustard -- closed about a year ago, and it seemed as if it would never reopen. But then, a couple of months ago, like a re-animated corpse in a movie, David's sprung back to life. This time the proprietors are Muslim, a pair of guys named Sultan and Waleed. The great news is that their dedication to hot sliced brisket-based meats remains undiminished from the previous owners. In fact, if anything, they seem more enthusiastic, and the meat itself is better than ever.