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Restaurant > Dining

Legendary deli hangout

Leneta Glenn serves a David's Drip: corned beef, pastrami, Swiss and Russian on an onion roll. (Metro Times Photo / Larry Kaplan)

Lou's Deli

Address:8224 W. McNichols Rd.
Detroit, MI 48221

More on Lou's Deli.


Published 1/19/2000

"Gotta go to Louís," said a visiting expatriate who had fled Detroit after graduating high school. Louís? I hadnít been there for years. Maybe it deserved another look-see.

As I walked in the door, I could see immediately what would appeal to a young person: Itís open until 2 a.m. on weekdays, 4 a.m. on weekends.

I studied the menu on the wall, which includes 41 sandwiches with names such as Sherryís Schtick (triple-decker of salami, coleslaw, Russian dressing – $5.85), Feliciaís Chutzpa (triple-decker of ham, pineapple, cream cheese, lettuce, mayo – $6.30), and Leoís Yolk (two fried eggs, beef bacon, mayo – $5.05).

As I read the menu, I listened to the friendly banter of the counter staff. A young woman was saying, "Iím too old for him."

I couldnít help asking, "How old are you?"

"Twenty-one," she said. "Heís only twenty."

I nodded and ordered Cherylís Dream, a four-decker of corned beef and pastrami for $7.80. I brought along a certified deli expert, born and bred in the Bronx. He ordered Davidís Drip, corned beef and pastrami on an onion roll served with melted Swiss cheese and Russian dressing ($7.85).

As we sat down, he eyed his sandwich, which was packed about 3 inches thick with meat. "I wonder how they would have fit it in if I upgraded to Ďsuper meat,í" he mused.

"Super Meat" adds an extra two-and-a-half ounces for 99 cents, and "Super Duper" adds five ounces for $1.76.

Louís has always been a hangout that mixed cultures. When the restaurant, originally on 12th Street, moved to McNichols more than 50 years ago, the neighborhood was Jewish. Catholic girls from the stately Marygrove campus across the street came to Louís after classes. They learned about chopped liver and knishes.

Students and professors still fill the booths at lunchtime, mixing with the current African-American neighbors. It is a friendly atmosphere where everyone seems comfortable.

Louís menu has evolved to serve its clientele. There is no chopped liver on the menu anymore, no bagels, no lox. Most of the sandwiches are served with Russian dressing, not the pungent mustards youíd find in the Bronx. Louís may be the only deli in America serving sweet potato pie, but when we asked for the apple strudel (which is on the menu), we got a blank stare.

Marty Goodman started as a busboy in the Ď60s, and purchased the restaurant from its original owner, Lou Loewy, who died in 1970. In 1995 Goodman was confronted with the decision to move or remodel. He threw caution to the wind and expanded the space to almost three times its original size. Two satellite locations with scaled-down menus are on Seven Mile and Evergreen in Detroit, and Greenfield south of Nine Mile in Southfield.

The menu features homemade soups and chili. The bean soup was good, with chunks of ham in a tomato base heaped with white beans. The potato salad is another standout.

Desserts are thick slabs of cake with sugary frosting, big enough to serve three, but dry and not especially flavorful. There wasnít a speck of orange in the carrot cake. Go with the sweet potato pie.

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