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Where to get your knish fix in the Lowcountry

Where to get your knish fix in the Lowcountry
December 2019
PHOTOGRAPHER: 

Plus latkes, babkas, and Hanukkah eats galore at Charleston Bakery & Deli





Charleston Bakery & Deli owners Kerry Botz and Randy Jarvis

When Randy Jarvis moved to the Lowcountry 15 years ago, one question weighed on his mind: Where in Charleston could anyone find a decent knish?

It might come as a surprise that until 1800, the Holy City was home to the largest Jewish population in the nation. After expulsion from Spain and Portugal, Sephardic Jewish communities relocated to coastal South Carolina in the late 17th century and were later joined by eastern European Ashkenazi Jews. While Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (founded in 1749) is the second oldest synagogue in the States, few culinary cornerstones reflecting this significant chapter of Jewish Lowcountry history remain today.

So in 2011, Randy opened Charleston Bakery & Delicatessen (CB&D) on West Ashley’s Highway 61 with friend and co-owner Kerry Botz, a former gourmet caterer and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. “I’m the gentile; he’s the Jew,” Kerry jokes. Randy, a Brooklyn-born retired cameraman, had helped his father open the first Jewish bagel shops in Miami back in 1967 and aspired to bring old-school appetizing to his newly adopted town. “I missed the food I grew up eating: latkes, matzo brei, and brisket,” Randy says.

(Clockwise from top): Babka, poppy seed hamantaschen, potato latkes, and sufganiyot

Eight years into their business, now located in a larger, newly renovated Summerville space, CB&D has become a beloved go-to for its regulars. “A lot of Northerners know the food and really appreciate what we do,” Kerry affirms. “You have to have a point of reference when it comes to making nostalgic food,” adds Randy. “If you go to a restaurant and the matzo balls are the size of marbles, you know something isn’t right.” At CB&D, the dumplings are appropriately tennis ball-sized, made from meal shipped in from the iconic Streits matzo factory in New York. “I talk to Rabbi Streits all the time,” says Randy.

In addition to Jewish comfort foods, customers can also find a host of traditional holiday eats. On the evening of December 22, when this year’s Hanukkah commences, dishes fried in oil are consumed—an homage to the second century B.C. Maccabean revolt during which one day’s-worth of oil miraculously fueled the reclaimed Holy Temple of Jerusalem’s candelabrum flames for eight nights.

CB&D offers Hanukkah classics such as latkes and sufganiyot (Israeli jelly-filled donuts), as well as cheese and dairy items, which honor a lesser-known heroine of the holiday: Judith. As the tale goes, widower Judith charmed one enemy general—whose troops had besieged her town of Bethulia—and fed him many salty, cheese-filled cakes. The general quenched his thirst with wine until drunkenly passing out; Judith beheaded him, the troops fled, and the Israelites of Bethulia were saved. In honor of Judith’s bravery, rugelach, blintzes, and noodle kugel are often eaten during the rededication festival. These treats, along with a bevy of other sweet and savory favorites, are available seasonally or via pre-order through CB&D’s catering company.

These days, Randy is gut-renovating a second location in Georgetown that will cater to Myrtle Beach-bound tourists. Ever an ideas man, he’s picturing an eye-catching, moveable sign, “maybe a huge coffee cup with smoke coming out of it,” he muses. Along with Kerry, he hopes he has created a local institution with staying power. “A lot of Jews got out of the deli business,” Randy notes. “But we built ours to be around forever.”

Charleston Bakery & Delicatessen Jewish holiday and deli favorites:

Savory

■ Latkes
■ Noodle kugel*
■ Brisket
■ Matzo brei
■ Kasha varnishkes*
■ Knishes (potato, plus a rotation of others), served with Ba-Tampte mustard
■ Corned beef
■ Pastrami

Sweet

■ Sufganiyot (jelly donuts)*
■ Blintzes (with berry compote)
■ Rugelach
■ Babka* (chocolate, cinnamon)
■ Hamantaschen*
■ Challah
■ Egg cream

*Call ahead to order

For catering inquiries, head to charlestondelicatering.com.