Say goodbye to pastrami pizza and Jewish deli on South Beach. All three locations of Buzzy Sklar and Richard Booth’s Hank & Harry’s Deli closed quietly late last week.
The shutterings come four months after opening the third Hank & Harry’s in South Miami in April. It featured a larger menu with pastrami pizza topped with pickles, mustard, Swiss, and mozzarella; deep-fried Reuben egg rolls; a warm Reuben dip and a section dedicated to gourmet French fries, including loaded baked potato fries, Jersey-style disco fries topped with cheese and gravy, jalapeño cheese fries, and shaved pastrami and cheese fries. New Times named the spot best deli earlier this year.
Sklar, who is 53, says this is the end of the road for his 30-year restaurant career that included starting the wildly popular Burger & Beer Joint as well as Sliderz. He’s in the midst of a bid for a seat on the Bal Harbour Village Council. A double-digit percent increase on the rent of his Miami Beach location coupled with the late delivery of the South Miami space forced his company into a bind that proved to be too much to bear. Though he took some of the responsibility for the closure, Sklar also said the absorption of mom-and-pop landlords in the county’s more popular areas into corporate investment behemoths made him realize he wanted out.
“Years ago landlords used to work with you when times were a little tougher, and now landlords are just greedy. You’re not dealing with a person now; you’re dealing with an asset manager,” Sklar says. “Today, it’s virtually impossible for a business that might be a little underfunded to get off that ground, and it’s a shame because you have a lot of talent out there that you’re never going to get to see.”
When its first location opened last year, Miami seemed to be at the start of a deli renaissance. The start coincided with Zak Stern’s decision to transform his original bakery into a Kosher deli. Matt Kuscher, of Kush, LoKal and Vicky’s House, bought the iconic Hialeah deli Stephen’s Restaurant with plans to transform it into a modern day operation without losing any of its old-school charm or its longtime chef Junior Biggers.
While Sklar said there’s demand for Jewish-style deli food in the Miami area, the closure of all three Hank & Harry’s along with Zak’s deli earlier this year seem to point in the opposite direction.
With Hank & Harry’s gone there’s now no Jewish-style deli on South Beach, a stark contrast to generations ago when places like Jerry’s Famous Deli were beacons on the island city.
All hope, however, is not lost. Beaker & Gray‘s Brian Nasajon recently revived the old Gigi’s space with a deli-diner hybrid called Mason Eatery, and hopefully, Matt Kuscher will be able to parlay his Coconut Grove success into some hope in Hialeah.
Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.