A New York-Style Jewish Deli Has Actually Opened in DC

Beresovsky's Deli debuts across from Nats Park with Reubens, knishes, and whitefish salad.

Beresovsky's Deli makes its own pastrami, brisket, and corned beef. Photograph by Nina Palazzolo.

About Restaurant Openings Around DC

A guide to the newest places to eat and drink.

Beresovsky’s Deli. 1201 Half St., SE. Open from 11 AM to 8 PM daily.

DC has never really been a deli town. While there are places to find deli-style sandwiches, the few New York-style Jewish delis that exist, like Attman’s or Parkway Deli, are mostly scattered in the suburbs. “For whatever reason, our city is void of this important thing that makes a city a city, in my opinion,” restaurateur Jason Berry says. So, he and Knead Hospitality partner Michael Reginbogin—whose restaurants include Mi Vida, Succotash, Gatsby, and others—sought out to create their own destination for corned beef and knishes. Beresovsky’s Deli opened in Navy Yard across from Nationals Park this week. 

Both Berry and Reginbogin grew up in Jewish families in Los Angeles, where delis were a staple. In fact, Berry’s first restaurant job was serving during the graveyard shift at Jerry’s Famous Deli in LA. Beresovsky’s Deli is an homage to Berry’s great grandfather, Sam Beresovsky, who came from Russia (an area now part of Ukraine) by way of England and Canada in the early 1920s and whose careers ranged from shoe salesman to cattle rancher. When he arrived in the US, immigration officials shortened his name to Berry. Jason Berry says he never met his great-grandfather—he died from car accident injuries a year before Berry was born—but he wanted the place to connect to his namesake and family roots. 

Beresovsky’s Deli’s Reuben with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on grilled marbled rye. Photograph by Nina Palazzolo.

Dishes are also named after after Berry and Reginbogin’s family members: Ruthie’s Reuben, Kim’s Latkes, Abbie’s Pierogies. Sandwiches—dubbed “Sammy’s” after Sam Beresovsky—include pastrami on rye, tuna melt, and a French dip-style brisket sandwich with melted provolone, caramelized onions, and creamy horseradish. You can also build your own sandwich, or order meats like pastrami and corned beef by the half-pound or pound. The restaurant is mainly counter service with several stools for dine in.  

The deli is not Kosher; you can add bacon to a few dishes. “Bacon is my favorite thing, so I don’t know how we could avoid it,” Berry says. But you will find bagels imported from New York with smoked whitefish salad or lox, potato-pastrami knishes, plus a couple salads. For sweet-tooths:  black-and-white cookies, New York cheesecake, egg creams, and milkshakes, which you can make boozy. (Think mint chocolate chip with Chartreuse.)

Beresovsky’s Deli is directly across from Nationals Park. Photograph by Nina Palazzolo

With everything, they’ve tried to stick to tradition and prepare dishes the way they grew up eating them. Take the latkes. Berry says he made his chefs remake them five times; He wanted a version you could pick up and eat without it falling apart. “‘I know you’re not Jewish, but you are a chef. Let’s figure this out, guys,'” he says he told them. “I’m like, ‘Do you really need me to do this? You really want me in the kitchen?'” 

That’s the tricky thing about Jewish deli food—it’s one of those niches, like pizza or bagels, that lives deep in people’s memories, and they’re going to let you know if you don’t do it right. Maybe that’s why few have attempted to open a deli here.

“These things are nostalgic. People grew up eating these items. And if they’re not how you grew up eating this dish, you’re not going to like it, right?” Berry says. “Even if it’s perfectly good, if it’s not the way you visualize that dish, you’re going to have a hard time winning people over.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.