Deli Dreams

The city welcomes a classic deli to town

Written by Joe O’Donnell • Photography by Beau Gustafson

Combine the classic Jewish delicatessen with some cuisine highlights from old Montreal and you have a singular new Birmingham restaurant, Mile End, in the Parkside section of the city.

“Mile End Deli offers a different type of cuisine that doesn’t presently exist in Birmingham,” says Chef Adam Grusin. “There aren’t many spots where you can find traditional Jewish comfort foods like matzo ball soup, latkes, or smoked meat pastrami sandwiches.”

Grusin has teamed up with Birmingham restaurant entrepreneur Nick Pihakis as well as partners Max Levine and Joel Tietolman to open Mile End here in Birmingham.

The crowds have responded and the reception has been good, Grusin says.

“So far it’s been great! People are willing to try different menu items that may be a bit out of their comfort zone. And for those who want to stick to the originals, we offer something for them too, like hot dogs and cheeseburgers. I think our diverse menu is appealing. I’ve also heard from those who live or work around this area that they are excited to have something new and different in this particular area.”

Grusin was born in Montgomery and grew up spending time with family in both Montgomery and Atlanta. His interest in cooking began when he was only 14, taking different jobs in restaurants around the Montgomery and Atlanta areas. His culinary talents began to shine while serving as the kitchen manager at a local restaurant while completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Still in school, Grusin began commuting to Birmingham, enduring the 120-mile round trip trek in order to work in the kitchen of James Beard award-winning Chef Frank Stitt’s renowned Bottega Restaurant and Cafe. The ink still wet on his diploma, he made the move to Birmingham where he quickly became the sous chef in the main dining room kitchen at Bottega.

In 2008, Grusin was promoted to Chef de Cuisine of Stitt’s popular French bistro, Chez Fonfon, where he worked side by side with the famed Alabama chef in combining the freshest local and seasonal ingredients with traditional French techniques to create their trademarked bistro fare. In 2017, he left Chez Fonfon to pursue his dream of opening a brasserie unique to Birmingham, one which would put the focus on preparation and cuisine influenced by the old Jewish-American delicatessens of New York.

The menu reflects a true affection for that tradition. “I think our smoked meat is a unique item on our menu. It’s a Montreal-style version of pastrami. And then of course we offer a traditional Reuben. I also believe our wood-fired oven is unique. ‘Mile End’ refers to a neighborhood in Montreal, famous for making bagels in traditional wood-fire ovens. We wanted to remain as traditional as possible, so we bake all our bagels, breads, and desserts here,” Grusin says.

With Stitt and Pihakis as mentors, Grusin says he has learned a lot about both the food and the business of a restaurant.

“At the end of the day, the most important thing is the guest experience. The food has to be great, but the service and overall experience have to be perfect as well.”

Mile End Deli, 1701 First Ave South• (205) 558-8011


Instagram: @mileenddelibham


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