Zucky’s Delicatessen

Zucky’s Deli was located out at the corner of Wilshire and 5th Street out in Santa Monica and as I write this, it still is. At least, the building is. It’s been empty since 1993 while the owners of the land and others who consider the place an example of significant historic decor discuss what to do with the place. This strikes me as an odd discussion. I don’t recall the architecture and design being that special and the food certainly wasn’t.

Opened in 1954 by Hy and Frederick Altman, it was named for Hy’s wife, whose maiden name was Wolfine Zuckerman. She was often called “Zucky,” as if it rhymed with “rookie.” I did not know that during the years I dined at Zucky’s but I know that now.

The main (for me, only) appeal of Zucky’s when I used to go there was that it was open 24 hours so it was a great location to take your date for ice cream or a snack after you took her to one of the movie theaters out on Third Street. It was also “the” place for breakfast and sometimes lunch for folks who worked in Santa Monica. It struck me as a restaurant that wasn’t very good but it drew a crowd for lack of alternatives. When better places to eat opened in the neighborhood, Zucky’s floundered. I have some fond memories of going there but because of the people I was with, not because of the business establishment.

73 Responses to Zucky’s Delicatessen

  • Donald Low says:

    I’m Donald Low. I have great and fond memories. In 1970 we used Zucky’s as campaign headquarters for Olive Feifer’s run for Judge and we defeated the incumbent Blair Gibbons.

    I was seated in a booth when one day a kid walks by sporting a “New York Knicks” team jacket. I stopped him and asked where he got it (since I was an avid Knick fan) and he replied “from my Dad who is right behind me.” I stood up and introduced myself to Ernie Vandeweghe, once a star Knicks player, then a renowned physician, and his wife, Colleen Hutchins, a former Miss America and sister of Mel Hutchins, another NBA All-Star.

    Many times I saw Arnie Schwarzenegger in Zucky’s mostly at the take-out counter. He was a monster of a man and we’d watch him stop traffic as he trudged across Wilshire, leaving Gold’s Gym on his way to procure one of Zucky’s famous “liverwurst sandwiches”. Fun to hear him order that delicacy in his heavy Austrian accent, which he miraculously overcame as our splendid Governor.

  • Rob says:

    Zucky’s was one of my go-to places…Sunday breakfast with the “Great White Whale” aka: L.A. Times…I can still taste the awesome corned beef hash with onions and green peppers…two eggs over easy on top…home fries or french fries…toasted bagel and cream cheese and about four cups of hot coffee…about 5 billion calories but oh so delicious…

  • Mark Sanders says:

    My name is Mark Sanders I worked at Zucky’s for 3 years in the early-mid 70’s. What a hoot! I was in my early twenties and I did every job in the restaurant; cook, deli and catering you name it. It was fun to serve some Hollywood legends (i.e. Don Ameche, Vincent Price, Dean Jagger, Richard Widmark, Walter Mathau etc.) and at the time wannabes like Arnold Schnegger, Cindy Williams, Penny Marshall and John Ritter.
    I learned a great deal from the Altman brothers although separately, because they would not sit at the same table together let alone speak to each other, I would have to carry notes from one to the other! What a tragic relationship. Their relationship helped to make me realize at an early age that the burden of hate is great a price to pay for unresolved differences.
    However, I am grateful for my Zucky’s experience it helped me have a fifty year restaurant carrier which continues to this day. As I still run a Jewish Deli in Scottsdale, AZ and I wouldn’t change it for the world! Well, except for a winning lottery ticket! No! Not even then!
    To all of my former customers thanks for the memories!!

  • Ronnie G.. says:

    Hi All…So many memories of zucky’s..from late night hanging w/ my friends after a show..we’d order only a hot chocolate and sit there for hours..and drive the waitress crazy…But mostly breakfasts w/ my dad..He told me the owners who were brothers hated each other.. and never would be in the restaurant at the same time..i thought that was weird..the name came from Hy’s wife..

  • Lynn Nance says:

    My dad taught at Santa Monica High School and would take us kids to Zuucky’s often. We would always get the Zuucky’s Special ! Pastrami , Cole slaw,thousand island dressing on rye or onion roll…..to dye for. We make them to this day. We were just looking to see if the recipe was on line. Or if anyone knows the exact recipe .? What we make is great but I remember the original being really really great. And the dill pickles…. Yum

  • Elizabeth says:

    Loved Zucky’s–always bustling. As a kid, had many meals with my folks and grandparents. Loved their soups and baked apples w heavy cream–their patty melts were incredible and thin sliced pastrami w Swiss, grilled on their rye was the best . The business was sold sometime in the eighties, I think. After that change, things began to go downhill. I remember their front glass door/window was broken and stayed boarded for…years?

    Long before it closed, it was really a great restaurant.

  • Kelly says:

    I worked @ Zuckys in 1980/ 81. What a happening place. Loved it! Always interesting people coming and going! Often wonder what happened to the people I worked with; Mark, Debbie, Steve, Joey, Joanne, Leslie, Gail, Lupe’, Sal, Virginia, Mary. Jerry is up in Canada last I heard!Kelly

  • TIM DURHAM says:

    The guy with the arms is Dov Shif, father of my former CO & trainer, Ari, from the IDF (I’m talking pre- desert- storm era). Both, and me, are long-since retired.

    My fav moment is going with my goy sister-in-law & her “liberal” boyfriend Marty Solomon. I ordered a rueben (how stupid you would be to not, I don’t know), Pat ordered ham & cheese on rye, and Marty ordered tongue.

    When the order came Marty ripped into it and obnoxiously declared that this was the best tongue he ever had. Pat said the ham was stringy. I loved how the mustard blended with the sauerkraut.

  • Sean Reilly says:

    I lived in Santa Monica between 1978 and 89. Spent many evenings at Zucky’s. But during the day, I would drive past Zuckys and there was a man in his 60s? 70?, who sold newspapers there. What caught my eye was the way he moved. (I was a personal trainer) He moved like a young man….or a cat. A tough young man. He was all sinew and probably weighed 160lbs. He wore a wash n wear pork pie hat, blue jeans, and white t-shirt. Regular customers would pull up and he’d give them their LA Times. His genes had given him almost ape like arms that would have looked right on someone who was 6′ 4″ even though he was about 5’9″. He had a wide legged stance as he looked for old customers or new ones. I always thought, I’ve got to meet that guy, I’ll bet he has an interesting story. Well, I never did and I feel the poorer for it. Anybody remember that guy?

  • Sue Jackson says:

    Oh how I loved to go there in the wee hours of the morning after a night of dancing at ‘Studio One’ in West Hollywood. I lived on 4th street and it was on the way home and at 2am the only place open. One particular morning (after Studio One ), I was sitting at the counter having breakfast and Donald Sutherland came in and sat down next to me and we talked all through both our meals. No mention of who he was – was discussed between us but a pleasant conversation and a memory I will never forget

  • Daniel Stehura says:

    I Lived on Main and Hill Street in Santa Monica and I use to walk there for a
    Kinish warmed up and a cup of Tea in the mid afternoon. Across the Street was the House of Pies where my GF would give me a Double Slice of fresh Strawberry Pie with a cup of Great Coffee. In Santa Monica you could park any place, this is before some NATZI on city council thought of removing any freedoms we might have visiting or Living in Santa Monica. Now the good Life is just a memory.

  • Kay Divant says:

    correction “apple dumpling with brandy sauce”

  • Kay Divant says:

    Our gang of friends all lived in Santa Monica and we were UCLA undergrads in the late 60s early 70s and invariably after being out till all hours dancing or coming from late film festivals or parties would end up at Zucky’s in the wee hours for the great great pastrami and corned beef deli sandwiches etc etc. At the end–no matter how stuffed– I always ordered the hot apple dumpling with nutmeg sauce! We went to Zucky’s for weekend breakfast or weekend brunch. It was an institution bar none!

  • AF_Vet says:

    When we lived in Santa Monica in the early 60’s, Dad took me to Zucky’s every Sunday morning after Mass at St Monica’s. Dad grew up in NY and knew of every deli within 5 miles of his house. To him, this was a great restaurant where he could enjoy some of the food he ate as a kid. For me, it was a wonderful restaurant where the waitresses spent time at the table talking to me during slow times.

    I was hooked on their soups and sandwiches; breakfast was always good.

    It was one of the ‘go to’ restaurants along with Sweet Sixteen,The Broken Drum, Ships, Sorrentinos, Forum Cafeteria, and The Pantry. Sadly, I think only The Pantry is still around.

    Sniff …

  • Neal Sevieri says:

    Wow, back in the 70’s i used to go to Zuckys and see many actors and actresses of the day there. Breakfast was so-so but edible even at the cost. I used to work at Greyhound on 5th st. which today is not there. I was a bartender at the Billiard Den and used to go there after i got off work. Used to be a skating rink there too, near the bar where i worked. Good times.

  • Maureen Davidson Umbaugh Decker says:

    Gosh where do I begin… The year was 1968-1969. I went to Saint Monica’s High School. Graduated 1969.My dear friends Ann Hummer, Marie Daspit, Jackie Anderson were all good friends, And we all would go to Zucky’s to have the best food. We were young and after doing what young girls do…. We would always end up at Zucky’s. I remember Ann Hummer’s Dad would for the most part be sitting at the front counter….We would come in and he would say “What have you girls been up to?” Always we would say nothing and go to the back booths and have something we all loved. For me I loved the Hot Pastrami plus I loved Rye toast with lemon juice on top! Still do to this day! But most of all it was a place we could go and feel safe! I will never forget the good times their!

  • bill johnston says:

    used to go to zuckys at about 3am for one of their breakfasts after drinking at all the english pubs in santa monica. all the brit people would head for there on a saturday night…..great days in 1968 till 1975…..

  • John Hurley says:

    I went there several times in the 80’s. Nice place. I remember that a buddy of mine had a taste for one of their sandwich’s late on a Friday night while on a big load. He lived on Westgate, below Santa Monica. He decided to drive over for that sandwich. Turned into the most expensive sandwich he ever had. That was his third, and final, DWI. Took the bus thereafter.

  • John G says:

    In the 80s -chicken in a pot-now that was good!

  • John Hindsill says:

    Re: my last comment–high-rise should really be HIGH DENSITY project, but probably it’s the same thing.

  • John Hindsill says:

    Pretty quickly our moderator can add Billy’s Delicatessen, to his list of reviews RTATA (restaurants that aren’t there anymore. A fixture in downtown Glendale for nearly seventy years closed June 3. It had passed its prime by the time I moved to Glendale thirty years ago, and seldom did I go there. But it retained its 1940s look, and had great murals of a bygone Glendale. I expect that it will be torn down to make way for another high-rise project, a thing the city council seems to want to do with every parcel of land that comes available. Am I bitter? Kinda, yeah.

  • Samuel Janovici says:

    In the 1960’s to the mid 1970’s Zucky’s was the only place still serving food after 9:00 pm in all of West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Iconic? Certainly, it’s from a time when we could drive almost anywhere in L.A. in about a half hour. That the zenith our great city’s car culture. The food was marginal, but it was the one place a person could get a booth and some eats on date night. It’s sad to hear that the property owners are sitting on a great location and leaving it vacant. L.A. is swamped with great chefs and cooks. It is a crime to leave the place empty, when it could be up and going with new recipes and ideas, and the owners could still keep the original look of the place intact.

  • Pat says:

    I remember Zucky’s from the late ’50’s when friends of mine and I used to go there before or sometimes after hitting the beach. Pretty good food, but when you’re in your teens, it really doesn’t matter that much. The thing was having a good time and a good lunch for a reasonable price and that was our usual trip to Zucky’s.
    My friends and I were from three different high schools… Uni, Samohi, and St. Monica’s, but the beach at Santa Monica and Zucky’s were our common grounds.
    If you want that deli atmosphere again and really good food, Izzy’s is a must. It’s right up the road on Wilshire and 15th.

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