Rolled Beef: “The Giant Panda of Deli Meats”

Rolled Beef: “The Giant Panda of Deli Meats”

I learned a great deal about the late Nathan Kornmehl from the many testimonials that were sent to the memorial page of this blog. By all accounts, he was a generous, kind man, someone who didn’t let the tremendous adversity he faced from the Nazis make him angry or bitter.

Nathan and Frances Kornmehl in front of their kosher butcher shop in Buffalo. Was it the last place in upstate New York to sell rolled beef?

Nathan and Frances Kornmehl in front of their kosher butcher shop in Buffalo. Was it the last place in upstate New York to sell rolled beef?

I also learned that his kosher butcher shop was the source of the best rolled beef in Buffalo, New York. It might well have been the source of the last rolled beef in Buffalo.

Which brings me to some essential questions:

  • What the heck is rolled beef?
  • Where can you find it?
  • Why on earth did I not know about it?

I will attempt to address these essential issues separately.

What the Heck Is Rolled Beef?

According to Nathan’s daughter-in-law, Jill Leibman Kornmehl, this was a much discussed subject among the mourners, with no consensus reached. Typical of the comments is one from Nathan’s nephew David Lilien: “It was delicious, and a great childhood memory. I seem to think that it was closer to corned beef, and not as spicy as pastrami.”

Touching, but not precise enough.

So I turned to Google.

A story on NPR on the death of real Jewish delis calls it “the rare truffle of the Jewish meat,” and claims that knowing about it is “like the secret deli handshake.”

Intriguing — but not informational.

The most definitive — and funniest — article I found on the topic is on the World of Mouth blog, and is the aptly titled: Rolled Beef, an Endangered Deli Meat.

So just what is rolled beef? I was never quite sure, so I did some research to augment my own impressions. First of all, it’s a cold cut. It’s served cold, as opposed to pastrami and corned beef, which are best hot. It’s cured in a way similar to them, seasoned with black pepper and garlic and who knows what else. The meat, when sliced, has a relatively smooth finish, with a nice fat to meat ratio. A whole rolled beef has a circumference larger than most salamis and smaller than most mortadellas (pardon the treyf; it’s only for the size comparison; this you should allow). It has a red color from the curing not unlike pastrami. You might say it’s like a cross between a pastrami and a salami. You might also liken it to a Jewish version of pancetta or perhaps capicola (treyf again–feh!).

A story in New York magazine, which dubs rolled beef “the giant panda of deli meats: all but impossible to find in its native habitat,” says that “the only difference in deli parlance between rolled beef and pastrami is the rolling and the temperature at which it’s served (the former cold, the latter hot).”

But a commenter on a Chowhound thread on rolled beef wrote, “it uses some of the same spices [as pastrami] but has its own spicing.” Which is pretty much what Nathan’s nephew, David, said.

There may be even less consensus on the cut of meat used.

One commenter on the Chowhound thread wrote:  “Some producers used brisket (which was, literally, rolled up); others used different forequarter cuts.” But the New York magazine article claimed to use “navels, the fatty belly cut used to make pastrami.”

So, the only thing we can agree on is that it’s served cold and made from beef that’s been spiced and rolled.

Where Can You Find Rolled Beef?

As you might suspect from the use of terms like “endangered,” it isn’t easy to find rolled beef.

It is available at the Second Avenue Deli as the filling for the most expensive sandwich ($24.95 as opposed to $16.95 for pastrami; sliced steak, the second most expensive, is $22.95). It costs $40.95 a pound, this time tied with tongue for the “most expensive” title.

You can also find it at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, the boutique butcher at Chelsea Market where, as the New York magazine article on the topic notes, it often goes under the alias of pastrami. It may also come with apricot chutney. The deception — and the chutney —  are just wrong. I can’t sanction this version.

Anyway, neither option is particularly useful to me here in Arizona.

No, I needed a place that delivers and, through the helpful folks at Chowhound, discovered that Ben’s Best KosherDeli, in Rego Park, Queens, air ships rolled beef.

I called Ben’s and was told that the rolled beef costs $24.95 a pound — compared to the Second Avenue Deli, a bargain. But here’s the rub: Overnight shipping — the only kind that makes sense — could cost more than twice as much, maybe $60.

I would like to sample rolled beef but not at $85 or more. I will see if I can get some deli-craving friends to chip in. For now, I will have to be satisfied with the picture that Jay Parker of Ben’s Best sent. It’s next to this post’s title.

Which leads me to, in my mind, the most important question.

Why Have I Never Heard of It — or Tried It — Before?

I grew up in the deli-rich Flatbush and Midwood sections of Brooklyn, and lived in equally deli-friendly Manhattan for 14 years before I moved to Arizona.  I hung out with a deli-loving cohort. We ate pastrami, salami, corned beef, hot dogs, and even tongue, but I don’t recall ever hearing about rolled beef, much less sampling it.

How is this possible?

I have no answer. I put the question to my childhood friends and fellow deli noshers. They came up empty too.

So I put the question out there to my readers: Have any of you out there tried rolled beef? What do you think: Is it just another version of pastrami? And can you still find it near you? If so, do you or any of your friends or relatives have plans to fly to Tucson?

Update 2014: I finally went to Rego Park and tasted rolled beef at Ben’s. Here’s the visual proof:

From left: Joanna Sondheim, Ellen Sondheim, me, Colin Douglas, Lydia Davis and baby Felix. Waiting for rolled beef (and other deli sandwiches)

And finally…

It was delicious, a bit fatty but not very spicy. I’m on team “more like corned beef than pastrami.”

Update 2, 2018: Here’s a story I wrote about rolled beef for The Forward on the occasion of a “memorial” rolled beef being created for Nathan Kornmehl.

As you see from the article, I’m still not sure how it’s made. Three Jews, three contradictory opinions. 

Update 3, 2019: Ben’s Best has closed! As far as I know, Sarge’s (nonkosher) deli is the only place that carries it in New York City; it’s not on any other deli menus. I will do further research. Stay tuned.

105 Responses to Rolled Beef: “The Giant Panda of Deli Meats”

  1. Leo says:

    Childhood flashback, I just think you described a “broodje pekelvlees” – the Dutch name. It is not pastrami, but very similar. A popular variation in Holland is a “broofje half-om” which is a sandwich half “pekelvlees” (rolled beef?) and liver. That’s also jewish inspired right?

    Anyway, I live in Denmark now and pretty pissed I can’t get any (unless we visit home and then it is on my list of must haves).

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Interesting! I have even less idea of the version in Holland than I do of the kind in New York, but from the picture you posted on Facebook that looks very promising. Maybe another international meat maven will know: There are some Kornmehl family members in Holland — perhaps I can find out from them.

  2. marilyn says:

    Now I am intrigued! I will ask Lynne and her father, Sol. He’s a deli maven of sorts – will come into Brooklyn to go to the Canarsie Deli. I wish you knew about rolled beef before – we could have had it when we went to the 2nd Ave Deli. You know, considering the price of shipping it, maybe it’s worth flying into NY for a meal!!

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      I was thinking the same thing, Marilyn. I would have ordered the rolled beef sandwich — even at $24.95 — had I known. Let me know what Lynne says. In the meantime, I wrote Ben’s and asked them to send a picture (if not rolled beef)….

  3. Some day I’ll have to tell you about my deli-trauma when I made my first visit to NYC at age 19.
    I assume in your assiduous research, you talked directly to some of the butchers in Tucson?
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Cheap CA- Oregon Hotel Guide for Road TripMy Profile

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      No, I checked the menu of the 5th street deli; no rolled beef. There are no other kosher butchers, I’m afraid.

      I will look forward to your deli-trauma story!

  4. Abe Hirsch says:

    I think it is/was a trussed up specially cured brisket that could be put in the meat slicer like a salami.

  5. Martha says:

    Never had it. Never heard of it. No one I queried (New Yorkers in their 60s) knew of it either. Strange.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Very strange, indeed. If anyone would know, it would be you. But at least you can go to the 2nd Avenue Deli and try it. If you’re inclined to buy a $25 sandwich…

  6. It is strange. The concept you have discussed in this blog is so interesting.

  7. Thanks for the shout out to Word of Mouth. Sarge’s had rolled beef on the menu before they closed due to fire. Hopefully it will be back when they reopen. Their price was about half of what 2nd Avenue Deli charges.



  9. Sarge’s Deli has just reopened today, but the website isn’t back up. Hopefully the rolled beef will be back.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      This is very exciting! I will be in New York next week…

      • deb zelcer says:

        my dad had wilmack studio down the street from kornmehls, where I was introduced to rolled beef by our friend mr. kornmehl. a fellow buffalonian sent me this blog in answer to my question, “what the heck is rolled beef”?!

        hey I do great tours of grand central terminal for the municipal art society. join in if you have the time; I am giving the Thursday 12 30 pm tour. no samples of rolled beef tho.

  10. You are leaving out a very important part of the history of rolled beef. Browns kosher meat market 725 kenmore in buffalo ny roughly mid1940,s through 1980. Sherwood brown and his brother Bernie made rolled beef every week and we had rolled beef sandwiches at the bills games a tradition.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      All information about the history of rolled beef is welcome — thank you for adding to it. I am wondering why more people know about rolled beef in Buffalo than know about it in New York City! My friends and I from Brooklyn — and those from the other boroughs that I consulted — never heard of it. But I am planning to change that soon…

      • Marcia Rhodes says:

        Hello! OMG. I miss it so much! My dad used to buy what the lunch meat counter at
        Milo’s Meat Market
        Lewis Avenue
        Toledo, Ohio
        just called “Corned Beef”. Used to be somewhat inexpensive, but they raised the rate. So sorry but my dad is gone now and I don’t have any recollection of what it was. HOWEVER, Milo’s is still there after all these 40+ years and I will call them with fingers crossed and get back you and all of you sliced Corned Beef/Rolled Beef Sandwich lovers. Going to sign with Maiden name I had way when my dad and I shopped at
        Milo’s. Thank you.

    • Larry Meyers says:

      I well remember Browns. My mom Jeannie Meyers was a kosher caterer in buffalo in those days. She shopped there. I also remember the kornmehl family from hertel ave. and from our shul.

  11. DianaID says:

    I ate rolled beef at Irving’s Deli in Brighton Beach throughout my childhood. (I was also fond of tongue and like both of them better than pastrami or brisket.) Irving’s closed in the 1980s sometime and while I had seen it from time to time elsewhere, I haven’t had it in a long while and miss it.

    Vividly remembering this, it was a beef that was a rolled roast, more like roast beef, with seasoning that were similar to but a bit less spicy than pastrami It was sliced very thin, or as thin as they could without it falling apart because it wasn’t the best cut of meat and could be tough. It made a great sandwich on rye.

    It is sort of ironic that it is so expensive a the Second Avenue Deli since it was more or less an inexpensive luncheon meat, but I will give it a try too.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Diana, thanks for writing. I used to go to Brighton Beach Baths every summer when I was a kid but never went to Irving’s — and never had rolled beef. I will write more about this soon but I got some solid information from the owner of Ben’s Deli in Rego Park and he said it was the end piece of a pastrami rolled up and tied. I also learned that all the rolled beef in New York delis these days comes from a single source in Brooklyn. So if you don’t mind schlepping to Queens, I would suggest you go to Ben’s where it is half the price than at the Second Avenue Deli and where it is available more frequently.

  12. Larry Marx says:

    Hi everyone. I used to live in Washington Heights, upper Manhattan, NYC. I read your “rolled beef’ and instantly remembered my Dad buying “roulade” at the kosher butcher in the neighborhood called Bloch and Falk”. This meat was veal slices with chopped veal and onion mix on the inside. The veal was tightly rolled around the mixture and tied with rope. My Dad would put it in the oven as you would cook a roast. When the meat was done, he would cut slices. It was delicious.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Interesting — sounds very “fency” and very yummy! Thanks for sharing this memory.

    • BigGuy says:

      Bloch and Falk was the largest producer in the world of kosher beef and veal processed into meat products that had taste and texture like very specialized pork products. They produced kosher versions of Proscuitto, mortadella, landgerer, lebanon balogna, and on and on. A few kosher butchers in Paris produce similar products, but nowhere near as much as Bloch and Falk did.

      In 1986 or so, the widow of the owner sold the business to the highest bidder — a Russian Jew who paid her a large cash deposit and agreed to pay her monthly for several years for the rest. The new owner kicked out the federal and state meat inspectors who came by to check things out. The firm lost all its licenses and closed. The widow never received full payment for the note.

      This was a small meat plant on upper Broadway that had licensing for delivery anywhere in the USA and any where in the world. No other small meat plant in the world produced as many unique items with licensing for national and international distribution. Usually only big plants with hundreds of employees that operate 24 hours a day obtain licensing like Bloch and Falk had. Less than 20 people worked on each shift at Bloch and Falk.

  13. Harlan says:

    Just to let you know that in Rego Park Queens there is Ben’s Best Deli. Thankfully, this deli has never been connected to Ben’s Deli located in the NYC area. Ben’s Best Deli has great Rolled Beef. I just had some the other night. From what I can tell Rolled Beef is available at 3 delis in NYC. Besides Ben’s Best it can be had at the 2nd Ave Deli, as well as Sarge’s Deli, both in Manhattan. Sarge’s is not Kosher but Kosher style. Ben’s Deli is a chain. Ben’s Best is owned by Jay Parker. So many great dishes at Ben’s Best. It was even on Diner’s, Drive-In, and Dives.

    Also check out:

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Harlan, thank you so much for writing. As it happens, when I was in New York in March I went to Ben’s Best in Rego Park — and had the rolled beef. I interviewed Jay, who sent me to the source of all rolled beef in New York… a butcher shop in Williamsburg. But I will be writing about that soon! It sometimes takes a while for my experiences to get to the page.

  14. Harvey Feinman says:

    I was taught how to make rolled beef by Sherwood Brown and did so in Buffalo for 16 years. I still remember the formula.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Yet another rolled beef/Buffalo connection! You’d better write down the formula — or maybe sell it. It seems like it might be valuable ;-). Thanks so much for writing.

    • Harvey. Do you have the recipe? I would like to try and make it myself! When I was young I worked as a delivery boy at Sysman’s butcher shop { at least I think it was Sysman’s)on Tacoma in Buffalo. Loved their corned beef and would love to try to make it.


  15. Steve Mazer says:

    I remember getting a rolled beef sandwich at most of the Jewish delis back in the 50’s and 60’s. By the 70’s, you didn’t see rolled beef anymore; they just stopped making it. My inquiries at the delis that used to sell it and serve it was the following: The reason you never see rolled beef anymore is because nobody wants to bother with it in today’s rush-rush world. You see, rolled beef is the one meat that still has to be made by hand. The way it is, you have to cut the lean shoulder part of the pastrami into thin medallion-like slices and then roll the slices all up like a pork loin. Then after they’re rolled up, the roll needs to be tied with a string in order for it to keep its round shape. Then, after being refrigerated overnight, it’s ready to be sliced and served. I don’t know about the spices that are put into it. I didn’t ask about that. But the merchants tell me that there’s really no point in their bothering with rolled beef anymore because few people come in and ask for it anymore. Young folks aren’t going to ask for it because they don’t know what it is. Only older folks know what it is because it hasn’t been around and readily available for so long. So, they tell me, why bother with it! But for myself, I sure miss it and the delicious taste of it. Oh, for the good old days!

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Steve, thanks for writing! There are in fact two places that have kosher rolled beef in New York, Ben’s in Queens and the Second Avenue deli in Manhattan (not as often as Ben’s), provided by one man who still makes it, in Williamsburg… I don’t know where you live but if you ever get a real hankering…

  16. Suzanne Fass says:

    I was at Loeser’s Deli in Kingsbridge today–supposedly one of only two real kosher delis left in the Bronx. They list a combination sandwich that includes rolled beef. But alas, Mr. Loeser said he doesn’t carry it after all, that it’s not being made any more. Maybe not by the bigger manufacturers, and the stuff at Ben’s and Second Ave is made in-house?

    I’m in my middle 60s. My late (long gone) Aunt Molly and Uncle Freddy owned a deli, iirc on or near Tremont Avenue in the Bronx, not far from West Farms Square. They served rolled beef, and I remember it well. My Brooklyn-born-and-raised husband, however, said he’d never heard of it.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thank you so much for this comment! It IS still being made, by Grand Kosher in Williamsburg. Eddie (the owner) sells it to Ben’s in Queens and the Second Avenue Deli in Manhattan; I’m sure he would be happy to send it up to the Bronx. I will do a story on him soon, I promise.

      • Shari B says:

        I have been searching for Rolled Beef for YEARS! It was my favorite as a child in New Jersey during the 1970’s. The best combo was Rolled Beef and Spiced Beef – another lost deli meat. My local Kosher deli hasn’t had it in years, although it was still listed on the menu until recently. He said that there may be one purveyor in the Boston area, but that he would never sell the case that might be required. I’ll have to let him know about Grand Kosher in Williamsburg … The 2nd Avenue Deli doesn’t always have it in stock and it’s VERY expensive.

        • Edie Jarolim says:

          Thanks for writing! Yes, do let your local kosher deli know about Grand Kosher. And in the meantime, go to Ben’s Deli in Rego Park — it’s not far from Manhattan on the subway and they always have it. And it’s wonderful.

          Hmmmm…now I’m going to have to research spiced beef….

  17. Don Potito says:

    Had rolled beef at delis in and around Boston are in the 60’s and 70’s and in the 90’s at Reins Deli in Vernon CT have been looking for it for years now trying to arrange having a friends daughter pick up some from the 2nd Ave deli when she next visits Boston can’t wait

  18. Joe Freeman says:

    And yet another Buffalo NY entre as a purveyor of the hybrid deli meat, rolled beef…..Mastman’s Deli on the corner of Hertel and Colvin Ave. Edie, I too grew up in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, and as a youngster often frequented Nathan and Polansky’s deli on Ave J between 14th and 15th streets. They had a rich sumptuous rolled beef that once tried ….never to be forgotten. On to the University of Buffalo for my college education(circa 1959), and for a fortuitous opportunity to find that on Hertel Ave in North Buffalo there were two excellent deli’s were one could savor a delicious portion of that elusive treat….rolled beef. Kornmehl’s Deli and Mastman’s Deli ruled and dominated the quest for wonderful rolled beef for years throughout the Hertel Ave neighborhood in North Buffalo. Sadly…both deli’s, as well as rolled beef, have unfortunately disappeared into the haze of past days.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      My parents didn’t go out to eat — otherwise I’m sure I would have gone to Nathan and Polansky’s deli; we lived on E. 14th Street between Kings Highway and Avenue R. I’ll have to take your word on the Buffalo delis 🙂

  19. Robert Libkind says:

    Rolled beef was always the most expensive of deli meats. In addition to labor, it’s partially dried during smoking so there’s water loss.

    Leo in Denmark: find rollepolse, a Danish cold cut that’s a close equivalent, usually made from lamb breast that’s been rolled with spices, bribed, then simmered, pressed and refrigerated. Not the same, but similar. Sometimes pork, veal or beef flank is used instead or in combination with lamb.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thank you — and especially for your comment on rollepoise. I will tell Leo, in case he hasn’t been following the discussion here.

  20. Barney Agate says:

    I love rolled beef and have gotten it at Ben’s Best in Rego Park, as recently as this past Saturday. Using the information above, I called Grand Kosher this morning and they no longer do rolled beef. The young lady I spoke with was very cordial and noted the same reasons as others stated earlier. So, we’d better hope that Jay and his colleagues keep it up. Best wishes for a Healthy and Happy New Year!

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thanks for writing! This isn’t good news. Ben’s gets its rolled beef from Grand Kosher — they don’t make their own — so if Grand Kosher isn’t making it any more you might have had some of the last rolled beef in New York! The Second Avenue Deli also gets theirs from Grand Kosher. You might find the nonkosher variety, but that’s it.

      • Norma Greenberg says:

        This is the first time i’ve heard anything about rolled beef, other than what I experienced in Utica, New York, and thought it was just a local thing. My cousin had a Kosher Butcher Shop in Utica, and made his own rolled beef, which was great. My children also remember getting scraps of it, when it was sliced. Thanks for an interesting article on it. I see I”m not alone in remembering it.

  21. The big four: pastrami, corned beef, tongue, and rolled beef. It is indeed a rarity. If you come across it in a reputable kosher or kosher style deli, get it. [If you have tried it before, you don’t need any guidance from me.] You may well like it as much as corned beef or pastrami and don’t be too surprised if it is more to your liking than either. I don’t know the cut of meat, but there is the perfect amount of fat [alot] and the flavor is unique and fantastic. Certainly better than prime rib or filet mignon. I had it a few years ago, pleasantly surprised to find it in a deli. But I don’t remember where I was! It is my favorite but fortunately there are plenty of close seconds.

  22. Alan says:

    I worked at the Colony Kosher Deli in Queens, NY around 1970. They sold tons of Rolled Beef and I certainly ate my share. More similar to pastrami than any other deli meat. Milder flavor but very delicious and it had to be sliced thin.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thank you very much for coming by and commenting! I finally had some rolled beef at Ben’s Deli in Queens. It was delicious indeed.

  23. N.levin says:

    I grew up working in my parents deli.My parents cooked their own cornbeefs and tongues.wonderful memories.They bought their other meats from distribitors that came once a week.Rolled beef wasnt as popular as coenbeef or brisket pastrami..I loved the rolled beef.covered in grounded pepper and chopped pepercorns..we had to clean the blades on the slicers often after slicing rolled beef..It had a unique flavor and texture..Unfortunetly for me where i live the supermarkets havent the good stuff.Oh well great memories

  24. Bruce Thurlby says:

    I grew up in Rochester, NY in the 50-s – 60’s. I took a rolled beef sandwich to school every day for years. I’m thinking there must be some sort of western New York thing (like white hot dogs)because I’ve never been able to find it again. We bought it at Louis Wolf’s, our neighborhood grocery store. Like lots of childhood things, I never knew how good I had it until I couldn’t have it anymore! I live in Atlanta, GA now and the best kosher deli in town only vaguely remembers hearing about it.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      See comment by Katie Fischer, above. Until recently Ben’s Deli in New York had it too. I think it’s a northwest thing, with strong Buffalo/upstate NY roots.

  25. I work at Forager’s Market in DUMBO and we are bringing rolled beef back! It’s been a rotating special every couple of weeks (it requires a lot of prep time). You should check us out—it’s delicious!
    Also, side note: I’m from Buffalo and grew up hearing about it, but never tasted it until recently.

  26. BArt Weiner says:

    I remember rolled beef from my childhood in Philadelphia. In the predominantly Jewish section of Oxford Circle in the Northeast section of the city there were half a dozen or so delis in walking distance and I remember most of the them to carry rolled beef. I remember that it was less expensive than corned beef or pastrami so it was often a choice for our family. It was also had more fat and less spice and flavor than either corned beef or pastrami.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thanks for commenting and sorry it took me so long to approve it! How interesting that rolled beef was less expensive. Now it’s so rare that I’d bet it’s worth its weight in gold 🙂

  27. Steve says:

    Well I remember going with my grandfather to delis in NY and having roll beef sandwiches. T was indeed a pleasure. One I missed so taught myself to make it. If I’d known before how much it sells for I’d have opened a damn stand!

  28. Gary Fish says:

    Growing up in Spring Valley NY, we used to frequent the Crest Hill Deli. I even had my first job as a bus boy there. My favorite meal was a triple decker sandwich with turkey, rolled beef lettuce and tomato on rye. With thousand island dressing. Just amazing. I found a kosher deli in Altamonte Springs FL north of Orlando. They featured spiced beef which I was told was another name for rolled beef. It was equally as delicious.

  29. I remember that it was not in every deli but it was not that hard to find either. I also recall that it was not something our family would eat so I don’t know what finally prompted me to try it when I was already grown, in my 20’s. But when I did, I can report that it was just fantastic. The flavor is not describable as there is really nothing to compare it to except to say that it is more mildly spiced than pastrami and very tender with a high fat content- yet certainly not too much. I have no idea how it is fabricated but it is as close to perfection as we will find on this mortal plane. I have never seen it prepared or served other than cold. I could see making a trip to Ben’s on Queens Blvd next time I am in NY. Or 2d Ave Deli [assuming I can find it.]

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      I’m a little worried about the future of rolled beef in NYC since the prime creator of it seems not to be making it any more — that’s another story — but if you do end up getting it, please write back and let me know!

  30. Beth says:

    Rolled meat has always been on my favorites list 🙂 You can never forget this taste

  31. Sandy Meyers says:

    I grew up in Baltimore, which had loads of Kosher delis and bakeries. Roll(ed) beef was not uncommon. It was my favorite, next to pastrami. I have not seen it in Baltimore since the 70s, and strangely, not many people my age have heard of it.
    I did finally go to Ben’s. It was as magical as I remember, considering that it looks so fatty. The deli counter guy said that only one 90 year old Hungarian guy makes it, and when he dies, it’s gone forever, since the guy won’t reveal the recipe. Sounds like Grand Kosher in Williamsburg, since that is where the Satmar/Hungarian community lives in NYC.
    BTW, why doesn’t pastrami look like the pastrami of the old days? It used to be a very thin brisket cut with a streak of gristle and fat running through it. Another thing I haven’t been able to find since the 90s.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thanks for coming by and commenting. You are absolutely right that Grand Kosher in Williamsburg is the place that makes it but the guy is not 90 years old — he’s maybe 40. I heard last year he stopped making it. When did you go to Ben’s? I’ve been wondering if the supply was indeed cut off, leaving the deli rolled beef free.

    • Mike says:

      Rolled beef and the best — in my opinion — pastrami is made from the beef navel. That’s the thin “brisket” that you are describing. It’s tougher and fattier than brisket. I think the heart heath consciousness beginning in the 1970s was one of the forces behind the deli demise as pastramis became leaner and were made more and more from brisket, and rolled beef was perceived to be too fatty and salty for an aging clientele. I’ve had some pastrami sandwiches made from navel at Artie’s and Pastrami Queen — both in Manhattan, the former has its pastrami made to spec, the latter uses Hebrew National.

  32. Mike says:

    When I was at summer camp in the late 1960s and 1970S my parent always brought up a picnic on visiting day that included corned beef, pastrami, and rolled beef. At home in Brooklyn we seldom got rolled beef as take out; I don’t know why. I have since had rolled beef at the aforementioned Ben’s and 2nd Avenue Deli. Add to that list Buddy’s Kosher Deli in Bayside Queens. From my experience rolled beef was alway made from beef navel, was seasoned with salt, pepper, and coriander seed, but was not cured with salt peter like corned beef and pastrami. In this way it best conforms to Edie’s analogy of pancetta. Corned beef and pastrami were served from the steam trays where they were kept hot and juicy. Rolled beef was always kept in the cold case next to the salami and bologna and sliced cold. As such it did not melt in your mouth or flake apart like corned beef and pastrami. Still, I prefer to warm my rolled beef to melt some of the fat. It is also great fried crisp like kosher bacon (my favorite deli sandwich is chicken salad and fried rolled beef on rye with Russian dressing and a slice sweet red pepper.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      That’s so interesting. One of my friends who grew up in Brooklyn remembered rolled beef as one of her deli favorites; none of my other Brooklyn friends do. So how do you order rolled beef from one of the delis that you mentioned and make the sandwich you describe? I can’t tell you how much I want such a sandwich now 🙂

  33. Jeff Feuerstein says:

    Nothing better than fresh rolled beef fresh out of the pot.
    It’s made out of a whole trimmed plate that is seasond with garlic. Then any left over beef that the butcher could not sell that week is added and it is rolled up and tied with a rope.
    Then, into the pickle for 3-4 weeks.
    Then it would go into the largest pot known to mankind and boil until soft.

  34. Joe says:

    My parents would buy Rolled Beef, Pastrami and Corned Beef from Mastman’s Deli in Buffalo, NY. The Rolled Beef was my favorite. This was in the 1970’s.

  35. Jliss says:

    Bernsteins deli on Flatbush caton, long gone sold rolled beef. It was, good but full of fat. I remember being told it was poor man’s pastrami.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      That is not far from where I grew up but I don’t remember Bernstein’s! I only had it once and it wasn’t especially fatty (a few years ago, at Ben’s in Queens); it only seemed less “spicy” than pastrami. Since it takes a long time to prepare, it’s also more expensive than corned beef and pastrami but that could be only now, since it’s hard to find.

  36. Alex Kleyman says:

    This coming Purim in Buffalo the Chabad of Buffalo and it’s Knesset Center Shul, where Mr. Kornmehl OBM was a congregant, are having a “Purim at the delicatessen” themed party. We are honoring Mr. and Mrs. Kornmehl. The highlight of the party will G-d willing be the roll beef that we made last Sunday. We found a former kosher butcher who attempted to recreate it. It is now curing in brine and we are praying that it comes out at least somewhat similar to the real deal.
    Anyone that wants to taste this amazing treat should join us for purim in Buffalo.

  37. Frank Chille says:

    The deli’s I used to attend when living in West Philly severed the best Rolled Beef sandwiches – would watch them being prepared.

    Two briskets that were cured were then rolled in coarse ground black pepper & generous amounts of garlic. The two briskets were then hand sewn together and then rolled up and tied so it could be sliced on a slicing machine.

    Can still remember the taste of that amazing meat treat on seeded rye with just a hint of mustard so it wouldn’t take away from the taste of the coarse ground black pepper & garlic goodness with the masterfully sewn and sliced brisket.

    Just wonderful taste with a cold Dr. Bronner’s Celery Soda or an Egg Cream Soda. Deliciousness to the hilt.

    Was told that the deli’s in Philly stopped serving it as the cost of preparing was too expensive, that it could still be found in NYCC deli’s but was selling for $40/lb for that delicacy!

  38. Joe says:

    I’ve long been searching for rolled beef. My Dad and I used to go to Schwartz’ Deli in Revere, MA when I was a boy to get a bulkie loaded with rolled beef. I would find it periodically in the Boston area into the ’70s, but then it disappeared. I will definitely check if Ben’s still makes it.

  39. Neil Skolky says:

    I used to live in Brooklyn. There was a kosher deli on Ave M that served triple-decker sandwiches with a combination of your choice of 3 meats, one of which could be rolled beef. They closed around 1978. I really enjoyed the rolled beef but it’s impossible to find in New Jersey. There are only a few kosher delis left in Bergen County and fading fast.

    I’ll have to get into New York to get a taste of those cherished dishes that we are losing.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      I’m afraid you’ll find no kosher rolled beef in New York City or anywhere else anymore now that Ben’s Best has closed, but yes, New York deli is still to be savored before it’s too late.

  40. Mona says:

    Check out Sarge’s Facebook post today promoting their Rolled Beef!!!

  41. Sharon says:

    Hmmm this is interesting. I would like to try it. Thanks for the information

  42. Helene says:

    My father in law owned a deli in Brookline, Massachusetts. My very favorite deli meat was rolled beef and spiced beef. I miss those two meats. When making a sandwich with the rolled beef it would fall apart with its layers of beef and fat. I did love pastrami, but in no way can I compare the two. Rolled beef was a smooth beef with a good mix of fat rolled in like your photo. Pastrami was much fattier.

    Today my son owns restaurants in Atlanta. He tells me the recipe for the two meats I mentioned died with the old timers that made it. Could be he is correct. I keep begging him to try and reproduce these loved meats .

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thank you for writing; wonderful memories! Let me know if you ever reproduce those meats in Atlanta. Several members of my family live there.

  43. Ernest M Kraus says:

    I grew up in North Arlington, NJ with a very small Jewish population which was shared with Arlington and Kearney, NJ. There was a kosher style deli(long gone) on Ridge Road a few door north of the Bellville Pike. Saturday my father would take me there for the weekend food supplies. They had rolled beef. It was great; just take off the cord holding it in its rolled shape before eating. When I went to college in Indianapolis, the Jewish deli there had never heard of it. Come to thing of it, they had never heard of a fresh sliced, Jewish rye ( like Pechters) either. There rye bread resembled what I referred to as Jennie Grosinger’s Goyasha rye.

  44. Er Krausnest M says:

    Further comment on Jewish delis in the North Arlington area. The best were in the Jewish area of Newark on Prince Street which is off Springfield Avenue. They too are long gone.

  45. Kilroyjc says:

    The last time this goy was able to find rolled beef was in Highland Park NJ. Circa 2000. Rolled beef was always a treat!

    Last year my wife got me a pellet smoker for an anniversary gift. One of the things we really miss since we moved out of Jersey City Six years ago for the snowbird life between NC and FL is good Deli Meat. So I have been making my own pastrami (I haven’t been brave enough to brine my own corned beef yet) from store-bought corned beef.

    There is a Katz’s Deli about 90 minutes away, allegedly a distant relative of THE Katz, the pastrami is very tasty, but it isn’t the same (machine cut and about an inch thick).

    I picked up some nitrate a couple weeks ago, in anticipation of trying corned beef, but now I think I will have to find some navel beef —- WOW DO I MISS IT! Thank you for the memory!

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thanks for writing in! Good luck with the corned beef project, should you feel brave enough to brine, and with the rolled beef, should you attempt that.

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