Jake's Deli has been committed to serving the finest and freshest hand-carved sandwiches for over half a century. Jake Levin knew that you can't fake the real thing, and we'll never try. Please enjoy the authentic Jake's experience – simple, delicious food that will always remain true to its roots.
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1634 W North Ave
Jake's Deli Blog
The classic delicatessen was once a thriving enterprise in the United States, but today there are just a handful left that operate in the traditional and time tested ways. You guessed it, Jake’s has stood the test of time.
The original Jake’s building located on the Corner of 17th street and North Avenue in Milwaukee has stood for well over 100 years. It first operated as a butcher shop that opened around 1903, (the exact date is lost to history) and thrived for many years in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood on Milwaukee’s north side. In 1911 the building was purchased by Reuben Cohen and Cohen’s deli was founded.
Reuben Cohen operated a traditional deli, serving old world Jewish food and passing his knowledge down to his apprentice Jake Levin. The deli was extremely popular in the neighborhood, and as you can see in the photo below, the original salami rack and light fixtures along with many other originals are still in use at Jake’s today.
Jake worked with Reuben for over twenty years, learning all of the secrets passed down for generations, and mastered the deli craft. Jake eventually bought the deli from Cohen in 1953, then renamed it Jake’s in 1955, and the tradition was born.
Jake Levin was born in Minsk, Poland (now part of Russia) immigrated to America in 1923, and settled in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Levin served America as an Army veteran of WWII. By all accounts Jake Levin was “A Good Deli Man” and loved the business with a passion for food that can still be tasted in the hand cut meats you find at Jake’s today. Levin was a tireless worker that believed if the deli was open he was supposed to be there, and it was not unusual to see him at the deli from 6 in the morning to 830 or 9 at night. He was known for his fast knife and old world recipes, specializing in making his own Sauerkraut, Pickles and Pickled Herring.
Jake Levin (far right) Irving Kassof (Center) Sam Gershaw (Left) Pictured here on the North Avenue deli line 1963.
In 1969, now famous locally for melt in your mouth Corned Beef and Pastrami the deli was thriving, however the future of Jake’s was in peril. Jake Levin was planning to close the doors and shut down the deli for good. It was not due to a lack of passion or drive, but his failing health that left the days of Jake’s deli numbered. With the threat of their beloved Jake’s ceasing to exist, In stepped a group of local investors from Milwaukee that in their own words, “Simply could not stand to see Jake’s vanish.”
So there it is, the history of Jake’s up until 1969, the men who founded Jakes. Stay tuned for part two, to learn who saved Jake’s and the history from 69′ on.
We want to hear your memories, and your experiences of Jakes, Please leave them in the comments below!
Could you eat this sandwich in 30 Minutes?
Before you say yes (or no for that matter), consider this image:
Okay, so if you still think you can do it, your dreams of challenging the Big Momma Philly Corned Beef sandwich become a reality on Saturday April 20th! We will be kicking off the eating challenge by inviting professional eater Awesomefat (If you have any doubts about his ability, Click here) to come down to Jakes and take on the sandwich. Awesomefat will be the first to attempt to take down the Big Momma on April 20th, but anyone can come into the deli and challenge this soon to be legendary sandwich and earn a place in Jake’s Deli lore!
If you can eat the whole Big Momma in 30 minutes, the sandwich is on the house (you will have earned it) a place on our yet to be created wall of fame will be graced with your likeness, and we throw in a coupon to come on back and get yourself a normal size Jakes sandwich on us, just in case you had not got your fill!
Heres the skinny on how we make it:
We start with a whole loaf of Miller Rye and core out some of the bread to make room for all of the deliciousness that we stuff inside. Next a generous amount of spicy brown mustard and mayo provide the proper accompainment to what is coming next….
Three pounds of our famous corned beef are getting piping on the flat top grill, with 1/2 lb. of sautéed peppers and onions right along side it. Pictured here:
Once we have the star of the sandwich ready we assemble, and smother everything with over 1/2 lb. of aged provolone cheese.
All total this sandwich weighs in at well over 5 lbs! Good luck….
Here are the details on how and when you can challenge the Big Momma Philly Corned Beef Sandwich!
- Sandwich is for Dine in Only, and challenge must be attempted between the hours of 10am – 2pm Monday- Saturday
- Challenge can only be attempted at our North Avenue Location.
- Entire sandwich must be eaten by one challenger in 30 minutes and challenger is not allowed to go to restroom or leave the deli during the entire 30 minutes of the challenge.
- Winner will recieve the sandwich for free, picture on the wall of Fame, and a coupon to come back into Jakes and get a normal size sandwich.
- Menu Price of the Big Momma Sandwich is $29.99, if the challenger is defeated by the Big Momma.
- Every sandwich comes with a pickle, and you gotta eat that too!
If you want be a part of Jake’s Deli history, make sure you come to Jake’s on April 20th @ 11am to see Awesomefat take on the Big Momma for the first time!
If you think you can defeat the Big Momma challenge let us know in the comments below…and we look forward to seeing you at the deli, The Big Momma is waiting for you.
Meet Gary Plassmeyer, the managing owner of Jakes for nearly 4 years, time we get to know him right?
Q: Gary, Tell us about your background in the food industry
A: I started in restaurants as a bus boy in 1994. My first promotion was to server at Cheddars in 1996, and then moved to the same position with the Texas Roadhouse in 1999. My career advanced quickly with Texas Roadhouse and I was moved into corporate server training with the Roadhouse in 2000 and opened 7 stores in this position. From there I moved into the back of the house and joined the kitchen crew in 2001 and then became Service Manager in 2002. Promoted to Kitchen Manager in 2003 (Kitchen Manager of the year in 2004) and opened 5 new Texas Roadhouses as a Manager. I was promoted to Managing Partner (GM) of the Roadhouse in New Berlin WI in 2006, and remained in that position until 2009 when I left the Roadhouse and bought a portion of Jakes.
Q: Wow, you have done just about everything a restaurant has to offer! Why did you decide to move on and become an owner at Jake’s Deli?
A: I became an owner at Jakes because the Texas Roadhouse was just too corporate, and I felt constraints there on my personal growth and also the ability to grow the business itself. I felt like I had to make a change, and I knew there was something better out there where I could drive the growth and take something that was already great, and bring it to more people. I found exactly that at Jake’s Deli in Milwaukee.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Well, excluding corned beef, I would have to say lasagna.
Q: Do You have a favorite sports team?
A: My home town is St. Louis MO, so I am a die hard Cardinals fan and baseball is definitely my favorite sport. I am also a big hockey fan and I love watching the Blues play. Plus, I’m also a Rams fan that lives in Packers country, so that is difficult especially since the Rams are not very good.
Q: Where do you see Jake’s Deli in the next 5 years?
A: The home of Jake’s is and will always be at 1634 W. North Ave, and that will never change so we see our home location growing and thriving over the next 5 years. Outside of that we see Jakes growing with three additional local restaurants, and five regional restaurants in the next 5 years and we have recently renovated our kitchen here on North to help facilitate the growth. More people deserve to to experience Jake’s, and we want to bring that tradition to as many as possible.
Q: If you were an animal, Which one would you be and why?
A: A Shark, they are always moving, always on the attack. I feel like the moment we stop moving forward we are falling behind.
Q: Favorite Song?
A: Bite the Hand that Feeds – Nine Inch Nails
Q: Favorite Movie?
A: Dumb & Dumber
Q: What do you love most about Jake’s?
A: Jake’s is a tradition in Milwaukee, and I am proud to put on the Jake’s shirt every day and go to work protecting and growing that tradition. It’s so unique for a restaurant like Jake’s to be woven into the fabric of the community like this, and I love the diverse customer base along with the great sense of pride Milwaukee has about Jake’s Deli.
Q: Any Final thoughts?
A: Go Cardinals!
If you have a question for Gary you can almost always find him at Jake’s on North Ave, or you could leave a comment here and we will try to get an answer!
1634 W North Ave