Junior’s Delicatessen I

What?  Why does this list of defunct eateries include Junior’s, a deli located on Westwood Boulevard near Pico which is still operating, still one of the busiest dining establishments on the West Side?  [UPDATE: As explained here, the Junior’s on Westwood closed 12/31/12.]

Because we’re remembering the original Junior’s, which was located a few blocks away on Pico, in a building which is now Maria’s Italian Kitchen.  (It was a couple of different dining establishments between the time it was Junior’s and when it became Maria’s.  For a long time, it was an outlet of Damiano’s, aka Mr. Pizza, and it was very good.  So was the Damiano’s on Robertson, just south of Pico, which isn’t there any more.  The only remaining Damiano’s — for those who want their Italian food as much like “New York style” as possible out here — is over on Fairfax, across from Canter’s.)

The original Junior’s was a two-man operation, owned and run by Marvin Saul and his brother.  Marvin can still be seen often around the current Junior’s, wandering about and asking people if they’re enjoying their corned beef.  Once upon a time, he and his brother were cutting the corned beef.  And the lox and the salami.  It was the friendliest of delis because they seemed to remember every customer (by name, if possible) and they were always throwing in little freebees.  If you ordered and paid for a half-pound of roast beef, they tossed in an extra ounce or two.

On the counter was a little container of shtickels.  A shtickel is like a miniature salami…big enough for two or three bites.  They cost ten cents apiece in the mid-sixties and a hand-lettered sign on the bin said, “It used to be a nickel a shtickel…now it’s a dime, ain’t it a crime?”  Whenever I went into Junior’s with my mother, one of the Saul brothers would treat me to a free shtickel.

Most of their business was Take Out but there were a couple of tables there and if you ordered a sandwich, one of the Sauls would make it, bring it to you at a table and make sure you had silverware, water, etc.  The food was very good and they did a good business, so I guess it didn’t surprise anyone when they bought the larger building on Westwood, moved over there and began expanding.  Eventually, they bought out their neighbors, knocked out walls and had a huge delicatessen with a large staff and a superb on-premises bakery.

The food there is generally pretty good but I miss the personal service and friendliness of the old place.  And I really miss the shtickels.

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