When DGS Delicatessen opened in Dupont Circle four-plus years ago, it made waves as part of a new generation of delis helmed by pedigreed chefs (then Barry Koslow) who championed a from-scratch approach to everything from smoked meats to mustard. Now, co-owner Nick Wiseman says the scene is evolving again—thanks, in part, to NYC hotspots like Sadelle’s and Russ & Daughters Cafe, which have taken the evolution of Jewish cuisine in America a step further with ambitious, more refined fare.
“There’s a new renaissance around the food,” says Wiseman. “It’s deeply routed in immigrant cuisine that’s come to America, and it’s cool to see the second and third generation cooking the food but also embossing it with their roots.”
Nick and co-owner/cousin David Wiseman are themselves third generation Washingtonians of Eastern European origin (grandfather Leon Wiseman pioneered the District Grocery Stores after which the deli is named). As part of a new direction for DGS, the cousins brought on former Mintwood Place executive chef Eric McKamey to lead the kitchen. McKamey comes from a fine dining background (his resume includes now-closed Palena and CityZen), though DGS maintains a neighborhood approach. Dinner entrees are kept at $25 and under—and those house-made pastrami and corned beef sandwiches aren’t going anywhere.
The biggest changes come with the evening menu. New dishes reflect the culinary influence of immigrants from Eastern Europe with a modern twist, such as braised lamb shank and ricotta blintzes with tomato jus and olives, or smoked salmon rillettes with whitefish caviar and rye toasts.
Diners can also order whimsical snacks like latke “poutine” with cheese curds and liver gravy. “The Feast,” a family-style meal offered nightly for $25 per person, is what Nick calls “Korean barbecue meets delicatessens.” Tables will be heaped with a variety of pickles, little salads, condiments, and smoked meats.
Diners looking to take a spread home will find an expanded to-go menu of all DGS’s house-made items, including corned beef, pastrami, and cold-smoked salmon by the pound, hot sauce, deli-style sides, and more.
Accompanying the new menus is an art instillation from photographer Jared Soares and A Creative DC founder Morgan West. Titled “City of Magnificent People,” the collection of photographs features DGS employees and regular customers, family and friends—all immigrants.
“It’s like the star wall in classic Jewish delis, but instead of the C-List celebrities, we try to tell the immigrant story,” says Nick. “The restaurant community is tied to that story, and it’s important to celebrate it given the political moment.”