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Jewish 'Tradition Updated' at Soon-to-Open Stopsky's Delicatessen

Stopsky's will serve traditional Jewish cuisine with a Pacific Northwest flair for locally, sustainably-sourced quality food. The deli plans to open in May.

Celebrating heritage, family and the community through Jewish cuisine is the motivation behind Stopsky’s Delicatessen.

The newest addition to Mercer Island's growing restaurant scene — set to open in May — is owned by two of Mercer Island's newest residents, Jeff Sanderson and his wife, Lara. The couple partnered with Robin Leventhal, former owner of Seattle's Capitol Hill bistro Crave for four years before closing in 2008 and moving into the catering business. A native of Sun Valley, Idaho, Leventhal recently appeared on season six of Bravo’s Top Chef.

Sanderson named the restaurant in honor of his grandfather and great uncles. Stopsky’s Delicatessen will serve Jewish dishes from around the world but with a twist, said Sanderson.

“The majority of these products will be in-house using locally sourced, sustainably grown with organic ingredients whenever possible,” said Leventhal, who will run the deli as general manager and chef. “We call our approach, 'Tradition updated.’”

Leventhal, who is Jewish, will run the show from an open-air kitchen that looks out over the dining room and takeaway deli service area. The delicatessen will feature table service for about 40-50 diners and additional seating outside. Customers can also drop in to the cafe and delicatessen side for coffee, pastries or deli goods and sundries to go.

Leventhal said she was excited about Stopsky’s Delicatessen and said it is about having fun in the kitchen while making everything delicious.

She also likes the fact that the Sandersons have given her the freedom to make traditional food with a twist.

“I am not interested in making the same food everyday,” Leventhal said. “The Sandersons have given us the opportunity to play around with traditional food and not having to stay true to it. “

Matzoh ball soup, Zatar chick peas, kugel, saffron Israeli couscous, knishes, kreplach, matzo brei, rye bread, babka and challah are a few of the items they will be cooking in-house.

“We will serve kugel sweet or savory, knish will be ever changing with seasonality and the kreplach will be filled with what is fresh,” Leventhal said.

The delicatessen will also serve vegetarian food and educate customers on the food they will be serving. The deli will also serve freshly-brewed Stumptown coffee in the restaurant and cafe area.

According to Sanderson, his grandfather Gilbert Stopsky and his three brothers arrived in American from a Jewish village outside Kiev, Ukraine in 1905. In order to pursue the "American Dream", they assimilated by changing their name to Sanderson.

“Part of the notion of naming the deli Stopsky’s Delicatessen is to reclaim that heritage and declare that in the 21st century it is okay to both be a proud American and to celebrate where you came from,” said Sanderson.

Sanderson grew up in Lexington, Mass. and moved to the Seattle area years ago to work at Microsoft, where he stayed for 17 years. He said he'll be a regular presence in the restaurant and is looking forward to "greeting customers and “kibitzing” with them often."

One way the delicatessen will celebrate heritage is with what he called a "Heritage Project". The Sandersons will dedicate an entire wall of the restaurant to family photos, and anyone can submit photos of their family for a space on the entire south wall before the deli opens by emailing the restaurant at heritage@stopskysdelicatessen.com.

“Anyone who wants to submit photos, can — and if we run out of space, we will rotate the photos,” said Sanderson.

Stopsky’s Delicatessen will be located at 3016 78th Ave. SE on Mercer Island, in the Islandia Shopping Center right next to .

Karen Franke March 28, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Will the Deli be Kosher? I hope so.
Jeff Sanderson March 28, 2011 at 06:14 PM
We deeply respect those who keep kosher in their homes and lives. We looked at it very sincerely, but concluded it wouldn't be sustainable given what we're trying to do in the kitchen and the overall clientele. We will not serve pork or shellfish, and all of our ingredients will be impeccably sourced. We view what we're doing as "ethically kosher," but will offer milk and meat at the same meal.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA March 28, 2011 at 06:59 PM
This is the best "Food News" about Mercer Island that I've heard in a long time. Hope it will be like Stalders' was (downtown Seattle many years ago).
Karen Franke March 28, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I'm sorry to hear that the deli will not be kosher. I work at Northwest Yeshiva High School and the Orthodox community would LOVE to have more places to eat and shop. Maybe next time. I understand it would be costly and that there may not be a large enough community to support it. Thank you for your reply and good luck with your new deli. I will, for sure, be dining there!
Diane Medved March 28, 2011 at 08:50 PM
I was so excited to read the article about a new Jewish restaurant--with a Hebrew slogan, even!--here on Mercer Island, but was then very disappointed to discover from the comments above that it won't be kosher. The very large traditionally observant community on Mercer Island--and the many who come for the Yeshiva High School and kosher specialties at Albertsons--would have greatly appreciated a meat restaurant. I do hope you'll make it very clear in signage that the restaurant is NOT kosher, and won't give the misleading impression to our non-Jewish friends that kashrut-observing Jews could eat there. I also should mention that I do think you're missing a big opportunity to reach a large local community hungry for fresh, creatively-prepared kosher food.
Ken Glass March 28, 2011 at 10:13 PM
I'm excited about the deli! To the comments about a kosher meat restaurant, I would think if the market is there, it will come!
Terri Schneeweiss March 28, 2011 at 10:29 PM
I agree with the comments posted by Ms. Medved above. Membership continues to grow at our traditionally Orthodox synagogue Congregation Shevet Achim. Along with Island Crust's dairy options, I'm sure many of us would welcome the complement of a kosher meat restaurant here on the Island. May I suggest you ask the management of Albertson's if it's "worthwhile" to explore getting a kosher certification for your new enterprise - I'm sure the answer will be a resounding YES! Please research the possibility of opening your restaurant with this certification and giving it a reasonable trial run as a kosher restaurant when all the equipment will be brand-new and kosher rules can be observed from the outset. We urge you to give us a chance to prove that this is the right choice and that if you make it kosher, we WILL come!
Jeff Sanderson March 29, 2011 at 03:43 PM
Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments. Your passion and your sincerity are clearly heartfelt. All of us involved at Stopsky's deeply respect those who have chosen to keep kosher. We considered this for some time. Restaurants, however, are a very tight financial proposition. Many don't make it. To be a kosher meat restaurant, we would have had to foregone having our espresso bar, our in-house bakery, a number of local organic meat purveyors, and had to buy all new equipment. You have my commitment that we will be clear in our communication that we are kosher-style, not kosher. I am more than happy to meet with anyone from your community and share our lessons if it's of help.
Stephanie St. Mary March 29, 2011 at 08:35 PM
My family and friends are excited to have a new restaurant on the island with new choices for food. Thank you!
Nilki Benitez March 30, 2011 at 01:14 AM
This sounds really great, and a fantastic location next to Island Books to boot-Can't wait!
KC Thompson March 30, 2011 at 10:44 PM
I'm in Colorado but am planning to fly up to Mercer Island over Memorial Day weekend just to check you all out. What a wonderful idea and I understand the your baking team of chefs are simply the best ever.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA March 30, 2011 at 10:53 PM
As these many comments above attest to- Jews & Gentiles alike are looking forward to what should be a realy great addition to our Mercer Island Community.
Ken Glass March 30, 2011 at 11:00 PM
Check out the postings on their facebook page (don't need to be a member), including some cool comments from the chef: http://www.facebook.com/StopskysDelicatessen
Barbara M Fragione March 31, 2011 at 06:11 AM
Barbara Fragione Will you also be able to buy deli meats there as well?
Jeff Sanderson March 31, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Yes, we will have a deli counter where you will be able to get a wide range of both Stopsky's products (meats, breads and pastries, soups, salads, pickles, etc.) and other specially-selected items. As we announced on our Facebook page yesterday, we will feature Stumptown coffee at our espresso stand. So: in addition to sit-down dining, you can come in for coffee and rugelach or babka, get a loaf of rye bread, order a quarter-pound of pastrami, or have us make the sandwich for you to go. Lots of options!
Kathryn Daniels May 11, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Will be driving to Mercer Island just to give you a try. Wonderful addition to the Island. Kay Daniels, Corvallis, Oregon
Karen Franke May 12, 2011 at 05:28 PM
It is May 12th today. Are you open, yet?

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