Ziggy Gruber, namesake of the revered Houston deli Kenny & Ziggy's, has but one request from the Jewish community of Dallas: Please, please stop with the calling. In recent days, he's received countless messages at the deli from folks up here who've heard that Kenny & Ziggy's is finally opening a Dallas outpost. But this and only this is all he can say about that, at least for the time being:
"We have a letter of intent with the landlord, a nonbinding letter of intent," he tells Unfair Park this afternoon. "They sent it, we went it back with the terms. We're technically in negotiations now. We haven't sat at the table. This is preliminary stuff. We've expressed interest in the spot, but the ball's in the landlord's corner, and it's up to him. That's all I can tell you. We're waiting for the landlord to tell us."
Funny thing is, his family could have come here 60 years ago. He recounts a story about how his grandfather Max -- who opened the Rialto in 1927, the first deli on Broadway -- came to Dallas in 1950 to collect a debt owed by a fellow deli owner, who was going to have to turn over the keys to square the debt. Stanley Marcus begged Ziggy's grandfather to stay.
"He said, 'Max, I'll get you a car, whatever you need,'" Gruber recounts. "And my grandfather, who'd come to Texas from New York in the middle of summer, his shoes melted on the pavement. He said, 'Screw this, I'm going back to New York, and we'll make a payment plan.' But if he'd made the deal, we would have been in Dallas in 1950."
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For those new to deli talk, Kenny & Ziggy's is the real deal. That's what The New York Times wrote, as a matter of fact: "This one is the real deal." David Sax, who wrote the book Save the Deli, declared it "one of the best delicatessens I would visit in the country ... a delicatessen of the highest order, where quality is the defining factor above all else." Zagat's diners love the place; so too Urbanspoon-ers.
This will reshape the nearly barren Dallas deli landscape. Prayers will be answered; bagels will be schmeared. L'chaim! Mazel tov. Etc.
Now, it all depends upon whether Gruber and a certain landlord who'll certainly do the right thing can knock out a deal. Because Gruber knows Dallas wants him -- no, needs him.
"I am probably the youngest one left in the business who knows what they're doing," says the deliman. "It's a shonda -- a shame -- because I'm three generations in this business and can do this with my eyes closed. But, tell ya what, I'll let you know something as soon as I know something. And I'll bring the pastrami."