Country-cute Stockton, N.J., just across the Delaware from Solebury Township, Bucks County, is the new location for a Jewish deli.
Nick Liberato, the Yardley-born chef from Netflix’s Restaurants on the Edge, and business partners Michael Dalewitz and Steve Lau have opened The Borscht Belt inside Lau’s Stockton Market.
The name and theme are an ode to the Catskills, where Dalewitz’s family owned and managed resorts back in its heyday.
Dalewitz said the deli was inspired by what he called a need to bring back “an important part of Jewish American culture” — the deli and the feeling of the Catskills. “It was such an iconic part that when you see The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Dirty Dancing, you get a glimpse of that. I thought this could be the right time to really honor that part of it and bring some of the best of New York City deli and bagels and appetizers to the community and [to] a lot of the New York transplants that have been here, especially after the pandemic.”
Dalewitz and Liberato met at Shir Ami Temple in Newtown, to which both families belong. Rabbis Eric Goldberg and Charles Briskin introduced them as both were looking for new business opportunities. They plowed into setting up the deli just as the pandemic shut down the world.
At Borscht Belt, the food hits squarely on area code 212, with house-made corned beef and pastrami from a custom steamer; matzo ball soup; smoked fish from Samaki (though gravlax is cured in-house); a case full of shmears and salads; chopped liver; caviars; bagels trucked in daily from Ess-a-Bagel; products from Streit’s Matzo; babkas from Oneg Bakery; halvah from Seed + Mill; Junior’s cheesecakes; deli-style candies like those sugar-coated fruit slices you get over Passover; and coffee from Paper Plane, a fifth-generation Colombian family-owned coffee company.
They veered outside the Jewish deli canon for a NYC bodega-inspired chopped cheese sandwich, sort of like a Philly cheesesteak hoagie made with ground beef instead of steak.
Keep in mind Borscht Belt is not a kosher deli. The shrimp salad has a kick from Kewpie mayo, masago, togarashi, and sesame oil.
The deli’s planning was accompanied by some Internet tsuris. The landmark New York deli Russ & Daughters saw early designs and came out swinging, contending in an open letter in May to Liberato that he had appropriated elements from Russ & Daughters’ look.
The kerfuffle, which has apparently been resolved (since the back-and-forth posts have been deleted), amounted to pretty much nothing, other than to give Borscht Belt preopening exposure to the New York City crowd that fills the Stockton/New Hope/Lambertville area on weekends.
It’s counter service, both for deli and restaurant purchases, and there’s indoor-outdoor seating.
Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.