Sixth & Rye: A New Deli Rolls Onto the Streets of D.C.

Former “Top Chef”-testant Spike Mendelsohn

By Devra Ferst | Forward.com

Former “Top Chef”-testant Spike Mendelsohn

Let’s face it, the deli is simply not Washington D.C.’s forte. The city, which is increasingly gaining attention for its emphasis on thoughtfully minded food, has always seemed happy to let New York and Montreal have that honor.

But that may change on May 20, when a kosher deli on wheels backed by some serious star power rolls out onto city streets. The food truck, Sixth & Rye, is a project of the non-denominational Sixth & I synagogue. Former “Top Chef”-testant Spike Mendelsohn and personal chef Chef Malcolm Mitchell will be serving up traditional deli fare with a hip twist to customers around the district on Friday afternoons this summer and into the fall.

The truck’s signature dish will be a smoked corned beef sandwich with mustard on rye. The cart will also carry house-made coleslaw and potato chips, which will be prepared in Sixth & I’s kitchen. With a nod to New York’s deli scene, the truck will bring down New York pickles for sale and stock black and white cookies for dessert. Diners can also pick up their Shabbat challahs from the deli. Menu items will range from $2 – $12.

The idea for the food truck came from the synagogue’s “Next Great Idea for the New Year” contest, in which community members sent in potential projects for the congregation. Over 100 entries came in, but the deli-on-wheels concept struck a chord with the synagogue’s team, who had long lamented the lack of good deli close by. “We don’t have wonderful New York or Montreal Jewish delis… And we thought of deli as the essence of Jewish food,” said synagogue director Esther Safron Foer. “We can think of no better way to fuse traditional with contemporary than by bringing classic Jewish fare that has transcended generations to the forefront of the latest local trend,” she also noted.

The truck will be staffed by Mitchell, Sixth and I staff and surprise “local Jewish celebrities,” says Safron Foer. Mendelsohn, who owns two D.C. restaurants — Good Stuff Eatery and We The Pizza — will be working mostly behind the scenes on the project crafting the menu. A “member of the Sixth and I family,” as Safron Foer calls him, this isn’t Mendelsohn’s first foray into the world of Jewish food. He cooked with his mother at synagogue’s Latke Mania Hanukkah event and was the second “Top Chef” contestant from his season to put a spin on Jewish food. The first, Nikki Cascone, opened Octavia’s Porch, a restaurant that serves “global Jewish cuisine” last year in New York.

Sixth and Rye will park itself in different neighborhoods throughout the district. You can track them on twitter @sixthandrye.